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Republic of Ireland international and former Arsenal defender Joe O’Cearuill ready to kick-start his career at Dover Athletic

The renaissance of Joe O’Cearuill may start with Dover Athletic.

That’s what the two-time Republic of Ireland international and former Arsenal defender is hoping for after he signed for Whites until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old centre-back has drifted from one non-league club to another since being released without playing a league game by Arsenal in 2007.

He’s turned out for a host of clubs, including Barnet, St Patrick’s Athletic (Dublin), Harlow Town, Borehamwood, Forest Green Rovers, Bishop’s Stortford, Tooting & Mitcham United, Haringey Borough, Enfield and Heybridge Swifts.

Not that the north Londoner has got any complaints about playing here, there and everywhere.

New Dover signing Joe O’Cearuill
New Dover signing Joe O’Cearuill

O’Cearuill said he had learned so much along the way.

“It’s certainly been a journey. From getting everything on a plate at Arsenal and then for Ireland, to then be washing your own kit and boots.

“I took being a professional for granted and I wasn’t really ready for it – I was too young (he was 20 when he played for Ireland) to take it all in.

“When Arsenal released me, I discovered there was a lot more to life than playing football and I lost the motivation to play at a decent level. I even gave the game up for a while.

“I was then happy to play wherever and go with the flow. I had a couple of great years playing with my mates at Haringey Borough. But that’s all in the past now. The days for playing for fun are behind me.

“I am ready for the next chapter in my life because I’ve got the hunger and desire back to play the game at a level I know I am capable of.”

And that means O’Cearuill, who played in the first game at the Emirates – striker Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial against Ajax in July 2006 – is determined to make the most of his opportunity with Dover.

The primary school PE teacher said: “This is a fresh start and am happy to be here. Now I’ve got to work hard and earn my place in the side and that won’t be easy because they’ve done so well this season.

“All I can do is work hard in training and hope I get a chance to show the manager what I can do and see what happens.”

But what is manager Chris Kinnear likely to see in O’Cearuill, who will wear the No.18

He said: “My strong point has always been my pace and because I play where I do, you must be able to read the game well.”

His brief international career saw O’Cearuill win his first senior cap as a substitute against Ecuador before starting the next game against Bolivia on an end of season tour of America.

During his time with the Gunners, O’Cearuill also played eight times while on loan at Brighton.

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