FIRST there was a trip to the Gorillas in the Mist in Rwanda.
Then it was to South Africa to swim with the Great White Sharks. His latest expedition was to Iceland to scale an active volcano, see the Northern Lights and do a bit of Whale Watching.
By EAMON SCOTT
Drimnagh Celtic’s Eddie O’Neill doesn’t do package holidays or things by half-measure – rather it’s a quest to commune with nature at its best and distance or climate is no hindrance to the former Irish army man.
Eddie’s love affair with the game of association football is legendary but pushing him close is his love of animals – be it dogs or those of the exotic kind.
Eddie has taken in many rescue dogs and has a fondness for huskies, malamutes and samoyed although sadly his last rescue Angel was only with him a short period as the dog was diagnosed with cancer. Eddie ensured that Angel’s last few weeks were filled with love and kindness.
His recent trip to Iceland last month, taking holidays from his work with An Post, witnessed a severe drop in temperatures and the nine hour day which saw him hike up the 5714 foot Eyjafjallajökull which is just one of several active volcanoes
His planned whale watching trip fell through because of heavy seas but Eddie is far from finished with his travelling and is now planning a trip to North America where he wants to go tracking Wolves and bears in Yellowstone Park and the Canadian wilderness.
“It’s something I’ve been planning for sometime but Covid-19 messed up my arrangements,” said Eddie. ” I’m actively looking at tracking companies which hopefully will get me up close to these wild animals in their own environment. I have a great passion for wolves and bears and hopefully with the right conditions I’ll be able to fulfill my dreams.”
O’Neill is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award from the DDSL for his services to schoolboy football and is the driving force behind Drimnagh Celtic where he has masterminded a vault full of trophies for the club working off local resources and he’s extremely proud of the achievement of the teams from the locality.
“We simply tried to provide football for the youth of Drimnagh. There are lots of talented footballers in the area and Drimnagh Celtic simply wanted to allow players to play to their full potential.”
Over the years the likes of DDSL 18 Premier League and Cup doubles have been secured although the age group is now proving more and more difficult and this season the makings of an excellent side disappeared as players were lured to other clubs.
“It was disappointing because I really thought we would do well but players had offers elsewhere but some of those players are now out of the game and not playing football and that’s a bigger disappointment for me.”
“We’ll look to run younger age groups next season and try to build from there. The kids of the area still need an outlet and Drimnagh Celtic will strive to ensure that the best talent – if they want to play for the club will be looked after in terms of facilities, coaching and kit,” said Eddie who has maintained a sponsorship arrangement with O’Neills going back over five decades.
“Without O’Neills Sports this club would really have struggled to survive and I will be eternally grateful to the company for their wholehearted support over so many years – going back to 1977. It must be one of the longest sponsorships in the history of Irish soccer and to Cormac Farrell, Mick Byrne and going back to Joe Edge a sincere thanks for helping so many kids over the years who were proud to wear the Drimnagh Celtic kit provided by O’Neills.
“O’Neills have been so loyal to us and we are profoundly grateful to everyone over the years who has helped us continue to provide structured football for the youth of the area.” added Eddie
Apart from his own trips Eddie has organized several successful cross-channel trips for the players of Drimnagh Celtic going back to the Solar Cup in Pwllheli or to Manchester City or to Stoke City, Eddie has pulled the finances and help together and ensure the players will have memories to last a lifetime.
Eddie is far from finished his own travelling and the world is still his oyster and he’s comfortable in his own company. He is extremely focused and independent minded to head off and chase his own dreams.
His first trip to the mountains of Rwanda to commune with silverback gorillas simply whetted his appetite for more and he followed that up with a trip that saw him go overboard a surface vessel in a cage to get up close to the Great White Shark in the seas off the tip end of the continent of Africa.
Covid-19 put his travels on hold but with the easing of restrictions Iceland was next up and although bitterly cold, Eddie fully enjoyed the experiences which also included a thermal bath heated by underground steam.
With a long career in the military, Eddie is a stickler for arrangements and planning and you just know that things will work out just right for him; he too will have a chest of stories to tell from his own adventures around the planet.
Bon Voyage Eddie wherever you go!