Dara O’Shea said his maiden season in the first-team at The Hawthorns was “surreal” as he reflected on the promotion-winning 2019/20 campaign in an interview with WBA TV.
The Irish defender discussed a wide range of topics including the run-in, emotional celebrations after QPR, what it’s like working under Slaven Bilić and his international aspirations, and you can watch the whole chat here .
Alternatively there’s a full transcript below.
It’s been just over three weeks since we won promotion back to the Premier League. What have those three weeks been like for you?
“It’s been mental to be fair. The celebrations were good. I went back home and saw my family and friends and managed to relax a little bit. It’s been great to have some time to take everything in and finally realise what has actually been done.”
Has it sunk in properly yet?
“Now it has, yeah. It definitely took me a while at the start. The first few days were quite surreal and emotional. I was just looking back and thinking about what we were able to achieve as a team. It’s nice now to be able to sit back and relax and realise what we’ve done, but there’s a big season coming up now.”
Big celebrations on the night we secured promotion with that point against QPR?
“Yeah the celebrations at the end of the game on the pitch with all the lads and all the staff was really special. The whole experience of that night was incredible and one I’ll always remember.”
What has the support from back home in Ireland been like?
“I’ve spoken to plenty of people home. It’s been so nice. I see the support from family and friends all the time and then also the support from Ireland. The fans here are amazing but I think when you get that support from home, it just kicks you on that little bit more.”
What were those final few weeks like for the players? It was such a tense time for the fans and the staff, especially with Brentford and Fulham hot on our heels. What was that pressure like for the players playing the games?
“I think it was just mental the way the season ended. It was certainly nerve-wracking. I don’t think many of the players had a good night’s sleep during the last few games. It was crazy. We knew Brentford and Fulham were hot on our heels. We knew we had to keep on going. That point at the end against QPR which sealed promotion was a relief but I think we deserved it. We were up there all season and it wasn’t just a case of us getting lucky. We deserved it. The Championship is a long season. The two teams that are there in the top two at the end of the season, they deserve to go up.”
Promotion capped off a truly remarkable first season for you in the senior side. You’ve had success out on loan but this was your first year in the first team. If you were to rewind 12 months, could you have ever imagined sitting here as a Premier League player having played such a key role in the side?
“It’s honestly been crazy. If you’d have said that to me last pre-season before the season started I probably would have laughed at you. I suppose I was looking to go out on loan again and get some more senior experience, but it’s been great to have been involved here. The gaffer’s brought me in and he’s been great with me. He’s made me feel part of the group and he gave me so much confidence to go out and play football and deliver good performances.”
How key has Slaven Bilic been in your development and how you’ve come on as a player?
“He’s been great. I couldn’t speak highly enough of him. Again, the confidence he gives you to go out and just play is amazing. I think lots of the players would do anything for him, even run through brick walls. I don’t think anyone has a bad word to say about him, even those who were left out of the team which is great. He brings the team together. The football he has brought to this football club is not something we’ve had in recent seasons so it’s great for everyone.”
In your opinion Dara, how much have you developed from the player you were 12 months ago? Do you see a massive difference or did you always believe you had those types of performances in you?
“I suppose I always believed if I was given my chance I could perform and I could get in the team. It’s just been surreal. I suppose looking back on it, I kind of find myself lucky and very fortunate to be given the opportunity that I’ve been given.”
In terms of your team-mates, was there anyone in particular who really helped you and offered you support this year?
“Everyone has been great but Chris Brunt has been amazing since I signed here. He’s always been here and has been the captain and someone who I have looked up to. To have been part of a team when he’s been involved, that’s been really special for me. It was special to be involved in his last season here. He’s given me so much help and guidance both on and off the pitch. He helped me settle in really well.”
We’re sure you’ll stay in touch with him?
“Yeah, of course. He’s a great lad. Having that Irish connection there too is nice.”
The majority of your appearances this season came at full-back. It’s not a position you’ve played in too much in your career as a central defender by trade. What has that transition been like going from centre-half to full-back?
“It’s actually been exciting for me. It’s a learning curve. It’s not a position I’ve played in too many times in my career. I played a few games there while I was on loan at Hereford but nothing to the extent of playing in the Championship. It’s been great. Every game and training session I have been learning. It’s something that I have taken to and I enjoy playing in that position. It’s nice to add different aspects to your game and I think it will only improve me as a player.”
All those things which you have just spoken about, the help from players, your own development, the help from Slaven and so on, they all culminated in you picking up the Young Player of the Season award. What was it like to win that award in your first season at The Hawthorns?
“It was amazing. It’s great to be recognised for your performances and what you’ve done. I was just proud more than anything that I’ve managed to achieve the award at such a big club with such great young players. To be given that accolade is amazing.”
And on the international stage, you’ve played a key role for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side. Have you got aspirations to go on and earn your first senior cap this season?
“Definitely, yeah. That would be a dream come true to play for my country. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid. I’m just looking forward to playing my games here and if I do well enough then maybe I might get a call, but if not I’ll just keep on working hard.”
Just under a month to go until the Premier League starts. What have your own personal preparations been like?
“I took a bit of time off after the QPR game and went home and spent a bit of time with friends and family. Now I’ve started to get back into it and I’ve been doing some training so I’m ready for a big season.”
How much has the thought of playing in the Premier League been on your mind?
“It comes up in your mind every now and then. You don’t realise what you’ve done and then all of a sudden it hits you and you realise what you are about to step into. The Premier League. It’s the greatest league in the world. It’s one you’ve dreamed of playing in since you were a kid. Playing out on the field pretending to be your favourite players and now you’re coming up against them is great.”
Any teams or players you are looking forward to coming up against in particular?
“I suppose United away. I was a United fan when I was younger so Old Trafford will be one I’ll be looking forward to.”
Just finally, it’s a big season coming up on a personal level and also for the Club. What would you like to achieve this year?
“I would like to try and play regularly again and play as much as possible. Last season was great because I got a run of games and I hope the same thing happens again this season. As a team, I’d like us to finish as high up as possible and put on some good performances and give teams a good game.”