From Coventry to Dubai to Norway to Sweden and now back in Dubai , Sean O’Shea has had quite an hectic post playing career in the coaching world.
Sean is current head coach of Dubai Irish FC and has coached in England, Norway and most famously with AIK in Sweden. He also is a private coach in Dubai and has worked with some of the games biggest stars.
Born in Huddersfield to Irish parents from Cork and Mayo, O’Shea has felt Irish from day dot. But despite never representing Ireland in his playing days he achieved one of his finest accomplishments in football when he was awarded with a Uefa Pro licence by the FAI in 2022.
In an exclusive interview with The Lansdowne Roar, Sean stated how much it meant to him to receive the Pro Licence and to do so in Ireland.
He said, “Leaving England at 21 with the FA coach certificate as it was back then I think I did that at 17 or 18 and you never know where your career is going to go and get on the pro licence course is tough, so you have to be working at senior level with pro players just to get on the course so to get on it was great. I was in Sweden with AIK and it was the next progression for me to go into management.”
On receiving the Pro License in Ireland he stated, “To get it in Ireland was really sweet. I mean look you know my background is with Ireland you can’t hide that, my family is Irish with my mother being from Mayo and my father is from Bantry in Cork. When I made that switch from doing English FA to Irish I was happy about it, I think it’s a very good Association for education.”
He also stated, “The tutors are really good and I built a really good network with people I watched play football and now work in the league of Ireland as managers and directors. So to be friends with them is really good and yeah it was a really proud moment in Ireland with the passion I have for the country.”
Despite Sean having a very successful coaching career despite and absolutely loving it, it wasn’t something he always wanted to do.
O’Shea stated, “It wasn’t something that I knew I would go into. When I was younger all I wanted to do was play football. I made a decision to come out of playing and then move to Dubai and I was 21 years old and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.
“It was my parents really who got me coaching and when you’re young and you always focus on being a player you never really think about the other aspects of being involved in football or how to stay in football and they put me onto my first coaching course.”
O’Shea moved to Norway after seven years in Dubai where he took up the role as under 19’s manager of Tromso and also made a return to playing in the country’s third division then eventually fulfilling a dream of playing in the Champions League.
Sean stated, “Playing in the champions league qualifiers was a big one (career standout moment) you watch the champions league as a kid as a football fan and going out to the Champions League music playing and knowing that you’re competing in that competition even just the two qualifying rounds is a big thing to say you’ve done, the same with the Europa League.
Once O’Shea’s contract expired in Norway, Sean decided to head back to the Uk were he became a coach at Huddersfield Town’s academy.
It was after a two year spell in England, a job offer from the Crown Prince of Dubai as the Head of Football, enticed him to move back to the UAE. Sean has since worked with some of the greatest names in football.
“Working with players like Virgil Van Dijk and Patrice Evra they’re top pros and there’s obviously a lot of Premier League players, if you go from your Burnley’s and even Sheffield United’s all the way up to you man City’s and Man United and Liverpool’s there are they are all Premier League standard players.”
“But to work with Van Dijk and Evra was amazing, it was just everything about them. Their effort levels that they put into training and their commitment to it, how hard they worked in training, turning up on time. Really high standards and that was everyday, every moment of every session so that was always quite inspiring to me to work with those kinds of players because they would listen and they would work hard and would go over and beyond what maybe other players did.”
“Their attitude was great, the technical ability was fantastic and their understanding of the game was obviously really high.”
It was then after five years in Dubai working under the Sheikh , O’Shea got the opportunity of a lifetime to move to Sweden, after the assistant at the time left the club for the Swedish national team which lead to a phone call from the Sporting Director, who offered him the chance to come in as a second assistant and an individual coach. An opportunity that Sean couldn’t turn down.
Sean’s time at AIK lasted just over three years from 2019-2022 were he experienced some unforgettable moments, working with some top players including former Ireland under 21 captain Zak Elbouzedi.
One player that was a huge standout was ex Premier League player Seb Larsson.
On him he said, “Working at AIK for example you work with players like Seb Larsson and the career he’s had at Arsenal, Hull, Birmingham and Sunderland and then coming back to AIK winning the league was special . Being the captain of the national team, Seb’s an incredible guy, he knows how to manage people in the dressing room and is great with the young players. The standards he sets himself are absolutely phenomenal.”
One of his favourite times as a coach came against Celtic in the Europa League,
“I think playing at Celtic Park against Celtic over two legs was special, going there as an assistant manager and knowing Celtic as a club and the fan base playing them and playing them in a Europa League playoff game was a massive standout moment. It was really special to be there.”
The Stockholm derbies also created some special times for O’Shea.
“Winning the derbies was amazing. We played Djurgården and Hammarby many times over the time I was in Sweden and the Friends Arena had 50,000 people in it. The noise of the people winning those games, celebrating with the players, celebrating with the fans and going out in Stockholm afterwards were big moments.”
“European nights in general were special and I remember the game against Maribor in the Champions League and you know the atmosphere was just electric but the noise, the speed of the game was top. The players that we had playing, it was a big moment.”
Once his time in Sweden came to an end in 2022 he went back to Dubai to become the Director of Football at Cognita Middle East and more notably the head coach of Dubai Irish, a role he absolutely loves.
On Dubai Irish he said, “It was great to become the head coach and obviously it’s my first head coach role and being with the Irish it’s quite funny in a way. When I lived here before and I was still playing when I was younger, I played for Dubai Irish in the amaetur leagues and so when I came back the club had grown.”
“There’s an academy there from four years old all the way to pro now and we just signed a deal back in September that secured our own venue, we have four football pictures now where the Academy players and the pro team are also there and there’s a hotel on site and swimming pool, paddle courts and everything.”
“It’s a great experience for me to be a head coach and cut my teeth if you like as a head coach. Since I’ve left AIK as an assistant manager, I’ve been in for you know different jobs in Ireland and in England and not quite got over the line so the next thing was to get a head coach job and luckily we found that here in the UAE.”
“I’m really enjoying being a head coach in the Pro League, which is fantastic, so I’m really thankful to the club for that and it’s a really well supported club. Before it started as one team of Irish exports and developed into a club that now has over a thousand members and a really good community club that includes the mainly Irish people or of Irish descent.”
Sean grew up as a child playing GAA in Huddersfield and is a sport he remembers fondly. He even started playing Gaelic before football.
On the sport he proclaimed, “I played for Brothers Pearse in Huddersfield. I played GAA before I started playing football to be honest, having that Irish background we were very much brought up around Irish culture and I spent a lot of time at a community centre for the Irish in Huddersfield.”
Although Sean’s career in Gaelic Football didn’t last long, he still watches it to this day.
“I stopped playing because I damaged my shoulder playing football and had an operation on it which put an end to my short lived Gaelic career.”
“I do enjoy watching it following mostly Mayo and Cork. I do watch the All Ireland championships and whenever I’m home we’d always sit down and watch it in the Irish centre. I think everybody admires it because of the following it has and the support it gets , also how it runs communities in Ireland is absolutely unbelievable.”