Nor'easters Alum Leads Wellington in the OFC Champion's League
|O'Keeffe in action in action with Team Wellington|
Ocean City, N.J. – Ocean City Nor’easters Alum goalkeeper, Michael O’Keeffe has been making strides in the the ASB Premiership, New Zealand’s first division of soccer. After signing with Team Wellington last year, O’Keeffe secured the starting role and is leading his club to new heights.
In the ASB Premiership semi-final first leg with Hawke’s Bay United, O’Keeffe and Team Wellington traveled away to Bluewater stadium. O’Keeffe had the task of shutting down league-leading goal scorer, Sean Livermore. The young shot stopper was up to the challenge. On two separate occasions late in the first half, O’Keeffe turned Livermore’s efforts away keeping the score level heading into the break. Team Wellington found the winner in the 77th minute and would hang on for the win. With a 2-1 triumph away from home in the first of the two-legs, Team Wellington looked to be in good shape.
An unfortunate ending to the second leg semi-final match up against Hawke’s Bay United forced Team Wellington’s attention to shift. Due to their previous season’s results, Team Wellington had already qualified for the coveted Oceania Football Confederation Champions League. And for the first time in club history, would be heading to the O-League, with O’Keeffe leading the way.
“We had quite a lot of disturbances in the second part of the season and that stunted our progress and to lose in the second leg of the semi-final was bitterly disappointing,” said O’Keeffe, a 24 year-old Christchurch, New Zealand native. “But sometimes that is football and luckily we have the opportunity to put that aside and start afresh in the winner takes all O-League tournament.”
|Click on any logo for more information about the OFC Champion's League and the 12 competing clubs|
Fellow New Zealand First Division club, Auckland City FC will be joining Team Wellington in the O-League. After winning the O-League for a staggering sixth time in 2014, Auckland City FC represents a formidable opponent if they were to match up with Team Wellington in the latter stages of the tournament.
Auckland City is not only accustomed to success in the O-League but also in the FIFA Club World Cup. The winner of the O-League automatically qualifies for the Club World Cup, and last season’s semi-final run from Auckland City drew some global attention.
“With Auckland City doing so well at the last FIFA Club World Cup, the tournament has really been put on the map and these island teams are now signing some top professional and semi-professional players,” said O’Keeffe. “It will be extremely difficult, especially as this is the first time competing as a club at the tournament.”
O’Keeffe and Team Wellington will be facing some of their toughest competition all season as the O-League kicks off. A.S. Tefana of the Tahitian First Division is up first for Team Wellington on Sunday, April 12th in Fiji at ANZ Stadium. Tefana is no stranger to success in the O-League. The 2015 installment of the O-League marks Tefana’s third appearance in the tournament with their last in 2012 ending in the finals to New Zealand giants, Auckland City FC.
Following their tournament opener, Team Wellington will square off with Papa New Guinea club, Hekari United on Wednesday, April 15th. Hekari has enjoyed similar success to Tefana. Although Hekari has only appeared once in the O-League in previous years, take nothing away from their achievements. In their first and only appearance in the O-League in the 2009-2010 edition, Hekari came out victorious. The Papa New Guinea side defeated New Zealand power, Waitakere United in the final and won the O-League representing the first South Pacific Island club, excluding New Zealand and Australia, to reach the FIFA Club World Cup.
Concluding their preliminary round fixtures is Vanuatu’s, Tafea FC on April 17th. Tafea will be recording their 9th appearance in the O-League in the clubs history after qualifying for the 2015 tournament. With experience on their side, Tafea FC will be a tall order for Team Wellington.
|O'Keeffe helped lead the Nor'easters to the 2013 PDL National Semifinals|
“We know it is going to be an extremely tough task,” said O’Keeffe. “Playing in the islands adds a different element where the teams from New Zealand are significantly more disadvantaged. The humidity is oppressive. So playing against the island nations in conditions they are more familiar with will be an added challenge.”
After finishing as the regular season runner’s up in the ASB Premiership, Team Wellington has already booked their ticket to the 2015-2016 O-League tournament. There is no denying O’Keeffe and Team Wellington have their hands full with this year’s tournament right around the corner. To follow Team Wellington in their O-League exploits, all group stage matches will be aired on Sky Sports.
“It’s about minimizing mistakes and focusing on the basics during the games,” said O’Keeffe. “Do the small things well and I like to think the rest will take care of itself.”
Keep up with Michael and Team Wellington throughout the entire 2015 OFC Champion's League via the OFC's Official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ofcfootball.
2015 Individual Match and Season ticket packages are on sale now. For more information, call (609) 432-8271 to speak with a Nor'easters ticket representative, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.oceancityfc.com/tickets for ticket package information.
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