Passion and pride; Eddies longtime fan Jack O’Brien bleeds blue
July 20, 2022
FC Edmonton Communications
EDMONTON — When you tune into FC Edmonton matches on the One Soccer network, or if you’re anywhere around Clarke Stadium during a FC Edmonton match, you’ve certainly heard the beat of a big blue drum, and some FC Edmonton chants being sang at a high decibel rate. Most recently, that drummer has been Jack O’Brien, and he is one of the Eddies biggest and most passionate fans.
Sadly, O’Brien attended his last Eddies match on July 9 for the foreseeable future, as he’s moving back to Ireland to be with his family later this month.
“Edmonton never really felt like home until I saw my first game at Clarke Stadium. Supporting local football has been my passion for as long as I can remember,” said O’Brien, who moved to Edmonton six years ago, just 11 days after graduating high school at 17.
“Back home, I was always going to Cork City games. I love to support guys that aren’t playing for the big money or the fame. They’re playing for their city. The pride of the sport, that’s what football is about to me.”
That first match experience was all he needed to fall in love with the Eddies.
Once he had reliable transportation, he became a season seat holder for the 2017 season when FC Edmonton was part of the North American Soccer League.
“Once I got my first car and could drive, I became a season ticket holder,” smiled O’Brien. “But right after I could start supporting, the club disappeared when the NASL folded, and we had no club anymore.”
But O’Brien wasn’t going to let his passion for soccer, and the love for the Eddies die after the NASL folded.
He joined a small group of big soccer supporters and they worked on ways to try and get professional soccer back in Edmonton.
When the Eddies joined the Canadian Premier League for their inaugural season in 2019, O’Brien wasn’t just a passionate fan, he started working for the organization as a ticket executive.
“The day we were announced as a founding member of the CPL was so special. Myself and our supporters group (River Valley Vanguard) did a march down Jasper Avenue,” said O’Brien. “Our first game in the CPL, meant so much to me. I was part of the staff at that time, and I was in the office every day, and we worked so hard to get everything off the ground.”
O’Brien doesn’t just cheer for the Eddies from his seat at Clarke Stadium. He’s travelled across the country to almost every CPL city to cheer on the Eddies with pride.
This year, he had his cousin from Ireland come visit him in Edmonton, and they drove to Vancouver Island to cheer on the Eddies in May when they battled Pacific FC.
“He got in at 8 p.m. on the Thursday and at 5 a.m. on Friday we left for Victoria. We got in just a couple hours before the game,” smiled O’Brien.
There are many fond Eddies memories for O’Brien. The club’s first game in the CPL, the many road trips he’s gone on to support the club.
But one sticks out the most.
“My fondest memory was when Prince Amanda signed with FC Edmonton and he scored a goal and an assist in his first game. I never screamed so loud,” recalled O’Brien.
“I wear his jersey all the time. His debut will always be my high point.”
It may have been a bittersweet day for O’Brien, but the club made sure to make his last home game a special one.
O’Brien was invited down on to the pitch to watch warm-up. He then got to be part of the pre-match team huddle in the locker room, as well as the final team huddle on the sidelines before the Eddies ran on to the pitch to start the match.
After the match, he was presented with a team-signed jersey as well as the coin used for the match’s official coin toss.
“It’s inspirational to see the love and support that Jack has for our Eddies. We hear him every match at Clarke Stadium, and have seen him at multiple away stadiums,” said FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“His personal commitment to support the squad is greatly appreciated. We look forward to continued interaction with himfrom afar and know that he will be behind us as we continue to move this project forward.”
On the pitch, the Eddies fell short in their comeback attempt with a 3-2 loss to Pacific FC, but O’Brien’s final match as a fan was one he will certainly remember, and O’Brien admits it was a pretty emotional experience for him.
“This club honestly means so much to me. To get invited into the huddles with the players, and to be presented with this jersey… it meant so much. It shows they care about their fans,” said O’Brien.
“I’ve been a fan of this club since the beginning. FC Edmonton is what made Edmonton my home. It’s my religion. Clarke Stadium is my happy place, and today was very emotional.
“I made sure to take it all in, and after the match, I sat in my seat and took some time to reflect on all the memories, and I had a bit of a cry.”
With O’Brien moving back to Ireland, the Eddies supporters group will have to find someone else to take over the drumming duties, just like Jack took over when the group’s original drummer Gordon Walker moved away to Halifax. But you know the chants and FC Edmonton songs that O’Brien sing at the top of his lungs won’t stop, they’ll just be sang all the way back in Ireland.
“This team, and supporters group and community really became my family here in Canada, and I’m really going to miss them,” said O’Brien.
“You know I’ll be watching on One Soccer. It may be 2 o’clock in the morning, but I will be watching. No matter how far I go, my love for this team will never die.”