INTERVIEW: Beattie's long way to the top

23rd November 2023

“Can I admit that I was a Shelbourne supporter growing up to Cork City fans?” asked a cautious Steven Beattie. “I’m very much a Cork man now even though the accents different, but yeah I was a Shels fan, I had to be.” It’s not something the Cork fa

“Can I admit that I was a Shelbourne supporter growing up to Cork City fans?” asked a cautious Steven Beattie.
“I’m very much a Cork man now even though the accents different, but yeah I was a Shels fan, I had to be.”
It’s not something the Cork faithful will hold against Beattie as it was a natural progression for the Skerries native who had family ties to the club a half an hour drive from his Dublin home. Uncle and League great Mick Neville was captain of the Tolka Park club during the early 90’s and helped a young Beattie discover his love of football.
“Mick captained them for years and my mam would bring me to all the games. I went training with him at Shelbourne as a young lad. I was brought up in the good times at Shels and I remember being in that environment of professional football. Once I saw that I always wanted to kick on and make that my career.”
Beattie made his first steps towards a professional career in football when he signed for the Shelbourne youths before receiving the opportunity of his dreams.
Manchester United offered him the chance to join their prestigious academy at the tender age of 15 but it didn’t work out as planned as he was later cut by coach and former Republic of Ireland international John Devine.
“I got released from the United academy because I was too small and I probably still am, I haven’t really grown much since then,” joked Beattie.
But it proved to be just a temporary setback as at 18 years of age the ambitious playmaker made the move to the United States of America after accepting a football scholarship from the Northern Kentucky University.
“The best way to describe it is it’s exactly like the films, its madness,” enthused Beattie. “There was 18,500 in my college and that would be mid-size. I was living the dream over there.
“Standard wise it was average enough but I got the experience of something different. A lot of lads at 18 or 19 stay at home and if they don’t go to England that’s it, they’re done but I was determined to grind it out and make something happen.
“I developed as a footballer and as a man there. I was still living at home at 18 and didn’t have to do the washing and I couldn’t cook but soon as you go over there your ma’s not there, your da’s not there, its reality.
“Your first week you’re doing your on laundry, doing your own cooking, looking at buying cars yourself and stuff. I figured if I stayed at home during those years I wouldn’t have grown up as a person so it’s a move I would recommend to anyone. I’m 100 per cent happy with what I’ve done, it was the experience of a life-time.”
77 goals in 93 games for the attacking midfielder during his time as a student saw him claim the National Player of the Year award twice whilst also helping his side claim the National Championship in his final year.
His form hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Major League Soccer clubs as he became the first Irish player to earn a spot in the MLS Supplemental draft. But unfortunately for Beattie, the draft didn’t go as well as he would have hoped.
“It was such a great thing to be drafted but in the end I was sick. LA Galaxy had rang and they were going to take me 17th pick in the first round of the supplemental draft so I was sitting there waiting," he explained.
“(David) Beckham was there at the time, (Robbie) Keane was there, two of my idols and then I saw my name flash up to go to Toronto at 14th pick, three before L.A.
“The way the draft works as soon as you’re name comes you’re gone. I got a phone call an hour later saying I have a flight tomorrow, as quick as that. I was delighted to be drafted, to kick start my pro career but at the same time I was gutted I didn’t have the chance to go to Los Angeles.
“Even if I went there and got released after two days, to say I got the chance to train with David Beckham would have been something to tell the kids about but that’s football.”
Despite his eagerness to make the most of the opportunity he was given at the Canadian club a swift change in management quickly made the task all the more arduous.
“I went to Toronto and between the draft and the start of pre-season they changed their manager, it was just a disaster. When I went up there they didn’t even know my name or what position I played whereas LA had a real interest, I could have done alright there," he stated.
“Aron Winter (former Ajax player) was the coach at the time and I could tell from talking to him that he had no interest in me so I ended up going to Puerto Rico (Islanders) a month later."
After swapping to cold of Toronto for the sun of the Caribbean, his spell at the picturesque holiday destination was all too brief as he suffered a serious knee injury which threatened to end his career before it truly began.
“I signed on the Monday and done my knee on the Wednesday, quick pro career wasn’t it?
“I sat myself down and was in the middle of Puerto Rico by myself because the lads had gone to North Carolina for pre-season. So I said I have two options here. I either throw the towel in or fight my way back up.
“I’ve been fighting my whole way really, there was obstacles but that was nothing new here so I just said drive on.”
That Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury led to a brief hiatus in Beattie’s pro career as he was forced to buy out his contract before returning to Dublin for surgery.
Beattie was afforded the opportunity to finish his degree in Public Relations in the U.S. during his nine-month rehabilitation before the chance to return to football came in the unlikely form of Icelandic first division club Tindastoll.
“I just wanted to play,” admitted Beattie. “I had few phone calls from League of Ireland clubs but I didn’t think I was recovered well enough to jump back into the Premier League in Ireland, I don’t think I would have done myself justice.
“The opportunity rose out there and I took it. I lived in a town two hours from Reykjavik, in middle of nowhere but the football was similar to Ireland, a lot of hustle and bustle.”
During his very first training session back from injury, the new signing was determined to prove that his injury woes were behind him.
“After I got the all clear with my knee I just said I’m going all into my first 50/50 and if my knee goes it goes, I gave it a good shot but if its grand I’ll never think about it again.
“And that’s what happened. I said to the lads before training ‘don’t go easy on me, don’t protect me, you’re only going to do me damage.’
“Anyway, straight away I went into some lad 50/50. Boom. He put me in the air and I came back down planted on the knee. I was grand and that was it, done. I didn’t think about it again and that was seven years ago.”
After a positive year and a half in Iceland, a return to the SSE Airtricity League followed with a reinvigorated Beattie ready to prove himself.
Following a season close to home with Bohemians, the midfielder followed manager Owen Heary to Sligo Rovers but problems off the pitch soon took its toll on the club.
In the summer of 2015, John Caulfield finally convinced him to join a resurgent Cork City thanks a number of impressive displays, and goals, against The Leesiders.
“Bohs was a great experience, playing part time with lots of honest lads who love their football and were not just there for the money and Sligo had issues behind the scenes,” explained Beattie.
“John (Caulfield) had come in for me two or three times before so as soon as he heard what was going on in Sligo he phoned me and I thought, 'Jesus John I should have come with you at the start of the year but thanks for another opportunity, where do I sign?
“John always said I was a pain in the side. I scored at Dalymount against Cork which I still give Nults (Mark McNulty) stick about, he should have saved it, it was a header.
“I scored in the first game of the season for Sligo against Cork as well and Caulfield said it to me after the game ‘first you don’t sign for me and now you score against me.’
“That’s how I knew he was a nice fella, he took it well and when June or July rolled around we made the move. I was lucky John was still interested and we got that move done.
“I knew how hard it would be for a Dub coming into Cork, I was thinking I have to be decent here.
“There’s a certain expectation in Cork a few lads can’t live with. It’s tough to come into an environment where you’re expected to win every game and playing in front of the most passionate fans in the league.
“I remember thinking if I don’t hit the ground running I could be out the door because I’ve only signed till the end of the season so I was playing for a contract, I was playing for everything.”
A man of the match performance and a debut goal against Longford Town helped settle any early nerves but a strong end to the season saw Beattie earn a new two-year deal.
Disappointment followed in the following league season as City again finished second behind Dundalk but they were to exact revenge in the FAI Cup final with Beattie playing a key role in the last minute winner.
“The lads give me stick because the highlight of my career is that throw in,” claimed Beattie.
“But it’s funny in my whole career I had never tried to throw the ball long, I don’t know how it came about. I was just running to the ball and John said try and hit Mark (O’Sullivan), I just launched it and it went over Marky’s head and I just remember seeing the ball trickle in, the rest is history.
“But just the experience seeing the people grown men in floods of tears in the stand, what it meant to the players and staff afterwards. This club has been through tough times, it was on its knees then saved by the fans and that’s what makes the club so unique. Its fan based, its fan driven and we try to give back.
“I won’t play for any other club in this country now, I’ll always be a Cork City player if I stay in Ireland.”
That Cup success has been the catalyst for the clubs form this season and they are now eight points away from claiming their first league title in 12 years, the third in the clubs history.
Securing the league crown will mean a lot to the club as a whole but for the now 28 year old Beattie it will be just reward for everything that’s gone before.
“It would make everything that I’ve sacrificed worthwhile,” insisted Beattie. “From how my careers gone, the ups, the downs, the very, very lows to the very, very highs, it would mean absolutely everything to me.
“This club deserves it to no end and to say you were part of it and made a big contribution to it would be massive. I try not to let myself think about it too much though.
“I don’t want to start drifting but it would mean a lot to me. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices from leaving family, to leaving friends, relationships, there’s a lot that’s gone into it, and it would be the highlight of my career.
“Winning the FAI Cup was an amazing experience but with the league you will always be a league winner. It’s something you can tell the kids about. Yes I won the FAI cup but I won the league where I was a part of the best team in Ireland in 2017.”
It been a long and difficult journeyie, it' away but foro end hs career before it truly began.for everything that'rom claiming thhas been a long journey for former Shelbourne fan Beattie but he may now be just weeks away from his crowning glory.