Owen Elding Interview


That would be an apt description for 17-year-old Owen Elding, writes Conall Collier.

The talented teenager made his senior first team debut for the Bit O’Red against Shelbourne here at the Showgrounds on Saturday 13th May.

That was as an 88th minute replacement for Frank LiIvak, but at that stage the outcome of the Premier League encounter was already determined with Shelbourne leading by 3-0.

The next opportunity for the young Sligo Rovers player came during the last home game at the beginning of June when manager John Russell sent Owen into the fray with 81 minutes on the clock against Shamrock Rovers.

“To make my senior debut for Sligo Rovers at the age of 17, that was a dream come true for me, it’s what I always wanted and it was a very proud moment for me and for my parents also,” said Owen when I spoke to him earlier this week.

“My dad was there and so was my mum (Laura), I also have an older sister (Chelsea) and a younger brother (Conor), they were both delighted for me as well.

“I’ve been working towards making my debut on the first team for the last few years and it was fantastic that I got the chance.

“My Dad is always giving me good advice about how to deal with certain situations as they arise in games, all that is very helpful,” he added.

And Dad is the legendary Anthony Elding.

That Owen Elding would be keen to pursue a career in football was never in doubt.

Owen is the eldest son of a player who achieved legendary status with Sligo Rovers in 2013 with the sensational winning goal in the FAI Cup final of that year at the Aviva Stadium as the Bit O’Red edged out Drogheda Utd 3-2 in a thriller.

Owen was at the game, he was seven, with his mum and sister Chelsea who was a little older (without giving her age away) while younger brother Conor would have been about two-years-old.

“I don’t remember too much about the actual game, but I do remember the celebrations after my dad scored the winning goal,” said Owen.

“I remember the celebrations in the stadium, I think I might have tried to get on to the pitch.

“That goal was really important for the club and it was great at school the next day, Ardkeeran Primary School in Riverstown, Johnny Kenny was a pupil in the school as well,” added Owen referring to his good friend as he recalled winning some GAA medals.

“I actually won some GAA medals when I was in primary school, there was the Cumann na mBunScol competition and also the Mini-Sevens,” he said.

“Ardkeeran won finals in both competitions and I was playing, but while I enjoyed the Gaelic football, it wasn’t really what I wanted and I didn’t join any club or anything like that,” he added.

Displaying lots of maturity when questioned about those games against Shelbourne, where he made his debut, and against Shamrock Rovers a few weeks later, and also about last Friday night’s defeat at the Belfield Bowl, Owen highlighted the hard work and determination of the current panel in training.

“John (Russell) is putting in so much work with the players, we aren’t just getting the results that we deserve, that we should be getting, at the moment,” he suggested.

“I was on the bench last weekend and I thought we were okay in the first-half against UCD, we got the lead, but it was a bit bizarre after that.

“It means the game tonight is huge, I hope we can make a statement with our performance, that would be the best response,” he added.

Between school and Sligo Rovers commitments, Owen has a busy schedule at the moment and he outlined the background to his joining Sligo Rovers a few years ago.

“Next year I will be doing the Leaving Certificate and once I get that completed, I’d be hopeful that I can pursue football on a full-time basis,” he said.

“There is a great interest around the school (Coola PPS) in Sligo Rovers, the teachers all congratulated me after I made my debut on the senior team and the students are all big supporters of the club.

“At the moment I train on a Tuesday and Thursday evening with the 19s and then also whenever I get called in to train with the first team.

“I want to be a professional footballer and Sligo Rovers has one of the best Academy structures in the League of Ireland, Conor O’Grady is great at progressing players through the various age groups.

“When we first moved to Ireland, after md Dad signed for Sligo Rovers, I played under-age with Arrow Harps, that was my first club I suppose and then I went to play in Mayo with Maunulla FC, I got to play for the Mayo League representative team while I was there,

“I came back to Arrow Harps and got a chance with the Sligo / Leitrim League team and then I got the chance to go into Sligo Rovers for trials, it was for the u-13 squad and I was lucky enough to get selected.

“I signed, that was in 2019, my dad was the manager at the time with Alan Farry.

“I played for two years with Sligo Rovers and then got the chance to move to Longford Town for two seasons.

“My dad got a role with the Longford club and it meant it was actually a bit difficult to get into Sligo from Riverstown, but he was going to Longford and it was a matter of convenience I suppose.

“I enjoyed my time at Longford, the people involved with the club were very nice and helpful, I played two years at u-17 level but I really wanted to get back to Sligo, that’s where my friends were.

“I was delighted when I got the chance and I was put up an age group to the u-19.

“I still have another year (this year) that I could play u-17, my dad is the manager, but I’m happy once I’m playing and I’ve managed to score nine goals so far this season for the 19s, Declan Boyle and Barry Mullen are the men in charge.

“I was involved in assessments a few years ago for the international teams at various age levels and I’m hopeful that I might get back involved again, playing in the first team for Sligo Rovers will be a big help on that front anyway,” he said.

Looking ahead to the rest of this season, Owen is really looking forward to one game in particular.

“What I’d really like would be a chance to play in the FAI Cup this year against Drogheda Utd in the first round, seeing as my dad scored the winner against them in the 2013 final, that would be memorable for me, hopefully I’ll be in the squad for the game anyway.

“Senior football is a lot quicker and a lot more physical than the under-age, even the 19s, you just can’t switch off at all.

“Players like David Cawley and Greg Bolger are very helpful when I’m training with the first team and hopefully, I will continue to learn from them and get more opportunities to play as well,” he concluded.