Karl O’ Sullivan Interview


Karl O’Sullivan took the long road from Limerick to get to Sligo as he travelled via Ballybofey.

Once the Donegal town is mentioned in relation to the League of Ireland, it’s safe to suggest that a certain individual by the name of Ollie Horgan can’t be too far removed from the equation.

And Karl certainly credits the legendary figure that is Ollie Horgan with rescuing his, what could only be described as fledgling, League of Ireland career.

That career in the League of Ireland began with the now defunct Limerick FC and it was there that Karl relished the opportunities handed to him by manager Tommy Barrett before the demise of what then was the latest incarnation of the club.

“When I started with Limerick FC, I made my debut in 2017, I was only 17 and the manager at the time, Neil McDonald, had just left, but that was of no real concern to me, I just wanted to play football and what was going on sort of worked in my favour in as much as I got to play,” said Karl.

“The cracks just started to appear, Tommy Barrett took over as manager and it was probably a blessing in disguise for me in one sense, I got the opportunity to play in the League of Ireland.

“Tommy had been the manager of the u-19 team I had played on for Limerick, so he knew me, he was always willing to give young players a chance and he gave myself and Will (Fitzgerald) a chance – we both made it into the first team at the same time,

“I didn’t mind too much playing with a ‘Townie’ like Will as he wasn’t a bad footballer, I suppose I have to say that anyway, but he wasn’t as good as me,” added Karl.

Taking him back to his early days in Glin, his home town, Karl has great appreciation for the efforts his parents made to get him involved in sport.

“My parents, Joe and Jackie, gave me tremendous support when I was growing up in Glin,” said Karl.

 “I can certainly say that I wouldn’t have achieved as much as I have so far without that backing.

“Glin is a small town on the border of west Limerick and north Kerry, my family would have been steeped in the GAA for starters, Glin GAA club and Limerick GAA as well.

“My uncles would have played football and hurling for Limerick over the years, my mother also played football for Limerick.

“She is a real sports enthusiast and also played some camogie, she was a very good player and she’ll probably ‘kill me’ for mentioning that,” suggested Karl as he tried to adjust to the current circumstances where he is supposed to use the crutches for the injury he picked up in Derry two weeks ago.

“I have two brothers and two sisters, Gerardine is the eldest, then there is David, Shane and Jane, I’m the second youngest in the family.

“I suppose it was a typical family in relation to sport, the GAA with the local club and soccer with the local club (Glin Rovers) in the Limerick Desmond League.

“We would have been regarded as the ‘culchies’ by the more ‘refined’ players in the Limerick & District League, at least that’s what Will Fitzgerald tells me, he claims that he is a real Limerick man, but I won’t say too much more about that,” he added.

Getting back to the turmoil in Limerick and how he was resigned to giving up League of Ireland football.

“It was a bit all over the place in the club (Limerick), no one knew what was going to happen, but at least now there is a team (Treaty Utd) and it seems to be going well.

“It’s also great to see a team now from Kerry, that’s good for the League of Ireland in the long-term.

“However, to get back to your question,  my time at Limerick, the way things worked out in 2019, it wasn’t very encouraging,  I was kind of fed up with football by the end of that season and was ready to pack it in, not bother anymore with the League of Ireland.

“I was after dropping out of college also and wasn’t getting paid at Limerick either.

“I was doing business and sports management in LIT (Limerick), but after a year or so I realised that it wasn’t really for me, I had just picked it as an option after the Leaving Certificate, I really hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do at the time.

“I found out that it wasn’t what I wanted so I can take a positive of some sort out of that, what I really wanted was to play football and that’s what I’ve done now for a few years and I want to continue that for the moment anyway.

 “But at that time, back in 2019, I was finished with football, frustrated with everything I suppose, I was determined to pack it in and then one evening I got a phone call.

“It was from a number that I didn’t recognise, I thought it might be one of those scam calls, but I answered it anyway.

“It was Ollie Horgan, he was looking for me, he had driven all the way down to Glin from Ballybofey, that’s a long journey and that got my attention straight away, he wanted to sign me for Finn Harps.

“It was what I really wanted, to play football and I didn’t mind where it was so I decided that I wouldn’t pack in the football just yet and for 2020 was on my way to Finn Park.

“Ollie did a great job at Finn Harps, he didn’t get the credit he deserves, when you go out to play for Ollie at Finn Harps you know exactly what you have to do.

“I lived in Ballybofey for two years, Covid made it difficult in 2020 but the people running the club are great people and made sure that the players were well looked after.

“One thing is certain, there were no egos in Finn Harps, it’s a fan-owned club and I can say at this stage that Ollie Horgan revived my interest in playing in the League of Ireland, if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be with Sligo Rovers now.

“I suppose my time at Harps was successful in as much as Premier Division status was secured each season and it’s a club I have great time for.

“Not unlike Sligo Rovers in a sense, great people, great supporters, great determination to keep the flag flying and it’s not easy, but it’s important that the players are aware of that,” he added.

And what about the journey back down the road from Ballybofey that was brought to a halt at the Showgrounds. How did that materialise?

“I arrived in Sligo after another random phone call at the end of the 2021 season, this time it was Liam Buckley,” said Karl.

“I was out of contract with Finn Harps and was delighted to get the chance to join Sligo Rovers, the prospects of playing in Europe in 2022 was too good of an opportunity to miss out on and as it turned out it was a brilliant experience.

“There was a downside though, I think the exertions in Europe had an impact on our finishing position last season, we just missed out on fourth place, but our goal this year is to achieve better than fourth and get back into Europe.

“Liam was a bit unlucky in the way that results panned out. For me, his man-management skills were top class.

“It was another new manager, it seems to be the way in the League of Ireland, constant change, John Russell is the boss now and I’m really enjoying my football, well I was until last week anyway.

“The injury I picked up against Derry City, it’s an ankle problem and it will keep me out for for a while.

“I had a boot and crutches, myself and Johan (Brannefalk), we looked like twins going around with the same injury.

“We could nearly pick a team of injured players at this stage, a lot of the injuries appear to be related to playing on the Astro pitches.

“My own opinion is that all games in the League of Ireland should be on grass pitches, but I’m not going to get into that debate, it’s for other people to resolve.

The immediate goal is to recover from the injury and get back playing, I love it here in Sligo, playing full-time football is what I want and when you have people like Greg Bolger around the place, it’s a great bonus.

“Greg brings a competitive edge, that’s the best way I can describe it, I’ll leave it at that, probably the safest thing to do,” concluded Karl.