Ebbe leads the way as Bluebell march on Tallaght
LSL side confident of Rovers scalp in FAI Cup clash
In the very unlikely event that some of their players would be star-struck when they take on Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium tonight, the prize on offer a place in the last four of the FAI Cup, one Bluebell United man who won't be fazed is Dean Ebbe.
Not only has he already played in Tallaght, for Rovers, under current Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, he's played on bigger stages. Only a few months ago he was lining out away to Celtic, in front of 25,000 fans, one of four appearances he made for SPL side Inverness Caledonian Thistle earlier this year.
His move from Bluebell to Caley Thistle in January caused something of a stir, as few players make the leap from the non-league scene here to the professional game across the water.
His subsequent transfer, back to Bluebell after his exit from a Caley side relegated to the second tier, went under the radar, but Ebbe still has the same aims: play well, score goals, help his team go as far as they can and then see how far his own career can go.
"I'm really looking forward to tonight, playing Rovers in Tallaght was a great draw for us and we're not going to be in awe of them," says Ebbe, who made one league appearance (2011) in his time at Rovers.
"We have a really good squad here and a really good management team, we have lads who know the League of Ireland inside out. Keith Quinn and Andy McNulty have played in the league," added Ebbe, though Bluebell's cause is hampered by the fact that their marquee name, Keith Fahey, is suspended.
Still only 23, Ebbe has been around the block in this game: Lourdes Celtic, St Francis, Shamrock Rovers, Longford, Athlone, Cabinteely, Collinstown, Bluebell, Inverness and Bluebell again, the Clondalkin lad denied a cross-channel move early on as a proposed deal with Crystal Palace, when he was just 15, fell through.
This time last year he was working as a bricklayer and playing for Bluebell but a scout from SPL side Caley, then managed by Dubliner Richie Foran, saw him in a trial, offered a short-term deal, and in January of this year, he made his SPL debut in a 3-0 league defeat at Hamilton, though the biggest occasion he tasted in Scotland was playing in a Cup loss (0-6) away to Celtic.
"It was a great experience, I learned a lot and really came on as a player," he says.
Caley were relegated, Foran was sacked and Ebbe returned to Dublin. "I had a few offers from League of Ireland clubs but nothing really appealed to me, there were only a few games left in the League of Ireland season so there was no real point," he says. "So I came back to Bluebell."
He scored in the first game of their FAI Cup run, a 3-0 win over Sheriff, helped them beat Cabinteely in the last round and now he eyes up Rovers and a possible place in the semi-final. After that?
"I'm not thinking too far ahead," he says when asked of a move back to the UK. "For now I am just happy here, the club has come on even in the few months I was away." And how long can they stay in the Cup?
"We feel we can beat Rovers," he says, Bluebell (technically the home side in the draw) getting their bearings with a training session in Tallaght yesterday.
"Rovers have a young side, they are missing a few players and we have the experience to get us through."