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August 9, 2016

An Inspiring Underdog Story: Isle of Man Footballer Sets Sights on the Big Leagues

“Every underdog has its day” has been the inspiring and hopeful mantra of CONIFA since day one. Back in 2013, different teams’ heads created the Confederation of Independent Football Associations in order to give athletes of unrecognised states, stateless citizens, and micronations a chance to show their love for the game.

In other words, it presents various minorities a platform where they can develop their skills and grow their love for football, with the hopes of someday making it to the big leagues. One such member is the self-governing Crown dependency in the Irish Sea known as Isle of Man, which includes its proud native Seamus Sharkey.

In the first quarter of 2016, Seamus Sharkey successfully carved his place in CONIFA’s history books by debuting as Limerick FC‘s new centre-back. The 26-year-old was signed until the end of the season in October to the League of Ireland Division One club following an impressive 45-minute trial and workout.

Seamus Sharkey quickly became a crowd favourite after starting and scoring in his first big league match. Dave Crennell, an influential man in Ellan Vannin’s sports scene, recommended the Isle of Man footballer to Limerick. It also seemed like the stars aligned at the perfect time as the club’s owner, Pat Sullivan, needed a defender and called Crennell just one day before this momentous debut.

Carrying a Manx lineage himself, Dave Crennell didn’t hesitate to handpick his countryman Seamus Sharkey. In a statement last March during the signing announcement, Crennell couldn’t be any happier and prouder of Seamus’ success. With this, they both hope that it’s a step in the right direction and will lead to more opportunities not just for Manx football, but also for CONIFA athletes in general.

Even though Limerick FC is on the verge of promotion, they are far from once again challenging the Irish Premier Division leaders, Dundalk. The club, however, still has high hopes for the future. As a side note, both clubs were expected to put on a show in last year’s David versus Goliath match, with Limerick fighting relegation and Dundalk enjoying another rousing run, based on a Betfair Football piece by Kevin Hatchard.

All things considered, whether he comes back 100 per cent healthy after a recent concussion and continues to impress folks overseas, CONIFA’s mantra resonates deeply in Seamus Sharkey. He has proven time and again that even a lad from a small island nation can make it big. Who knows, if everything goes well, he may one day make it to the Premier League. Of course there will always be doubters, challenges, and hardships along the way. It will certainly be hard, but at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a true underdog story?

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By Robin Toal

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