EXCLUSIVE: Roy O'Donovan on facing the Premier League's best

Roy O’Donovan has been a revelation in the Hyundai A-League.

A shining light at the Central Coast Mariners during an otherwise difficult two seasons, the Irishman has gone up another gear since joining rivals Newcastle Jets.

The striker has fired his new side to the top of the table with seven goals in his first six matches, the latest chapter in a fascinating career.

Given his senior start by hometown team Cork City, O’Donovan netted remarkable 29 times in his first 24 games for the club to earn a fairytale move to English Premier League outfit Sunderland in July 2007.

The then 22-year-old debuted away to Birmingham a month later and opened up in the latest of our “Extra Time” series about the “special” experiences of playing at the pinnacle.

Watch our full chat with Roy in the video above!

“It does make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, being involved in the moment you’ve been watching your whole life on the big screen,” O’Donovan told www.a-league.com.au.

“Looking over at the other side of the tunnel at these big stars that you’ve only watched on Fox Sports or Match of the Day previously.

“Just coming out and lining up against Rooney, Ronaldo, Torres, Gerrard or whoever you’re playing against, shaking hands in the warm up and thinking I’ve got to go and play against these guys now.

“I played against John Terry and Rio Ferdinand and they were probably at that time at the peak of their powers.

Roy O'Donovan and John Terry
Battling with former Chelsea and England captain John Terry.

“They were difficult opponents. You weren’t getting let off the hook lightly there.”

Playing under boyhood hero Roy Keane – who was then in charge of the Black Cats – was a particular thrill for the lifelong Manchester United fan.

“As a kid I loved Roy Keane and Eric Cantona,” he said.

“Roy Keane being Irish and what he did for us in qualifiers for World Cups was immense. And he captained Man United when they were so successful.

“Eric Cantona for a completely different reason.

“He was my first idol when I got into football, he oozed charisma and scored all the goals for Man United when we were winning all the trophies. Those things stick in your head growing up.”

Roy Keane
O'Donovan played under Manchester United legend Roy Keane at Sunderland.

O’Donovan had further spells with a host of English and Scottish clubs before a chance move to Asia, and a bagful of goals, led him Down Under.

His time playing in Singapore and Malaysia helped prepare the former Republic of Ireland youth international for life in the Hyundai A-League.

“I had a year in Asia so that kind of got me used to a different style of football,” he said.

“But I find here [in Australia] it’s a good balance between the physicality and technical football.

“I think it’s based obviously on the Dutch and Spanish model of football so that kind of suits my style and physique as a player.

“I think there’s great quality here, really good foreign players and a lot of Socceroos playing in various teams in the league, so it’s a strong competition and it’s getting stronger.”