Name: Oisin Hand
Team: Under 17s
Position: Centre half
Previous club: KDUL
How long are you with Rovers?
This is my third full season coming up now; I had a half-season (at the start) as well.
How do you feel you have progressed since joining?
I think every year I have been getting stronger, learning more from all the coaches, I have had a different manager every year and I have learned stuff from them so I feel I have developed with every manager and become a better player over the time.
Who have been your coaches?
I had Damien (Duff) for the half-season and then the next full season then Tony (Cousins) for a year and now I’ve got Thomas (Morgan) this year.
Does it affect you in any way playing under different managers?
No, I have learned little things from everybody. I’ve learned a lot in the years from Damien and all his coaches were brilliant and the same with Tony and Davy (McAllister) last year and then again with Thomas and Ed (Saul) and even when you go up with Aido (Price) and ‘Grayser’ you learn a lot from them as well. A lot of us have been lucky enough to go and train with the B team and play friendlies with them.
Have you trained along with the First Division team?
Yeah, I have been lucky enough to go and train with the B team and I have played a couple of friendlies with them.
Are you happy with your progress?
Yeah, I’m happy. Just developing and learning a lot from the coaches and the players as well so I’m really happy.
Have you had the opportunity to train with the first team?
I came on in two pre-season games against Bray Wanderers and the Irish Army team and that was a really good experience playing with them and even just being in the dressing room learning little things off them like how they treat a game. It was a friendly for all the younger players and a massive deal for us but for them although it was just a pre-season game they still wanted to win that. Their attitude and stuff were really good to see.
Do you model yourself on any player anywhere in the world?
Anywhere around the world would be Van Dijk because of how powerful and how calm he is when he is on the ball. At Rovers it would be Pico Lopes for his defending, for when he’s on the ball as well – I think he is a really good role model.
Would you actually study these players?
Yeah, even when we were on the lockdown we would be sent stuff every week. We would watch a game and we would watch a good few Rovers’ games. You would have to pick out a player in your position. I watched a lot of Pico Lopes and it’s brilliant to watch him, how he defends, how he leads the back four, it was really good to see.
You have travelled around the country for games to places such as Kerry, Galway, Donegal, Waterford and Cork. How do you prepare yourself when you are going on such a long journey?
I go to bed a good bit early the night before and wake up a good bit earlier as well so when I am getting onto the bus I am not tired and I’m fully ready for the game on the travels. I think on the long journeys that’s when you really become a team where you are going to have to dig in at places like Finn Harps, Cork and Galway where the weather is not great most of the time, teams are going to sit in or sometimes really come at you and put you under pressure early on. I think that’s where we’ve got some of our best results and gave some of our best performances and where you develop more as a player going to places like those.
Do you find that going on long journeys also helps you to bond as a squad?
Being on the bus going to places like Donegal, it’s four hours going up and again back home, you get a good team spirit and you bond well with all your teammates and the coaches.
How did you cope when you were all ready to go and then heard that the football had been shut down?
Obviously, it was a big disappointment. We had our first game due that weekend, I was with the U19s against Cabinteely and then everything was shut down. To be fair, all the coaches were brilliant with us over the whole three months. Every day we were kept busy, we had different stuff to do. It was good fun as well. The stuff they gave us was very tough but really good to do and good craic as well.
You have played in Tallaght Stadium a number of times. What’s that experience like for you?
I’m a Rovers’ fan and it means everything going playing in Tallaght. You’re up there on a Friday night and then you might be playing there yourself on Saturday. The first time we were there it was brilliant; when I was the captain and leading the boys out was some feeling.
Do you have any other favourite venue in Ireland that you like to go to?
For the Euro qualifiers with Ireland, we played all the games at Turner’s Cross. The pitch there was really nice and we had a good crowd at all the games, I liked it there.
You mentioned Ireland there, at what ages have you played for them?
I’ve played at Under 15s, Under 16s and Under 17s.
How has the experience of playing for Ireland differed from playing for Rovers?
International football is a lot quicker. You are playing different styles of football, it’s really high tempo against physical players. You learn a lot about yourself and what you could take off other players in your position from other countries. I’ve learned a lot from playing international football.
How great is the feeling of having played for your country?
It’s an unbelievable feeling and I have been lucky also to have captained Ireland a few times as well. That’s the proudest thing for you and your family when you are playing for your country, especially the European qualifiers when we qualified. The tournament was cancelled but there is no better feeling than playing for your country.
Did you keep your Ireland jerseys?
Yeah, I have my Under 15s and Under 16s jersey; we get that at the end of every season. Hopefully, they might send us out the 17s jersey!
Have you framed them?
I have two of them framed on the wall in my bedroom so it’s a nice little memento and I have my caps as well.
Is there anyone in particular who has been a particularly big influence on you?
My mam and dad make a lot of sacrifices bringing me up to training and that. They don’t have to do it. They do it because they want me to be the best I can. I have learnt off every single coach at Rovers as well and every coach has been brilliant to me since I came here.
Have you any idea of what you want to do in the future apart from football?
The number one goal is to be a footballer but that’s obviously very tough (to achieve) so next year I will be going to Carlow IT and doing Sports Business and Management so I can get into coaching and the business side of football as well.
Is this your final year in school?
I will be going into sixth year in September (at Naas CBS) and after that, I will go on to Carlow IT.
Final question Oisin. As a young person do you ever worry about the future?
No, not really. I don’t look too far ahead. Especially with my football, I keep my head down every single day and just keep working hard. There’s no point looking too far ahead or else you’ll lose track of where you are.