“Football is a fun game and sometimes if you’re confident enough, you just hit the ball and it goes into the back net,” O’Neill said.
“I think it was a big load off my shoulders when the first goal was scored.
“The future that lies ahead of me looks pretty good.”
But O’Neill has endured some setbacks in his young career, which began with the privilege of playing minutes for English Premier League club Burnley in 2016 as an 18-year-old before falling down the pecking order and back to the senior team changed. League.
He’s found his game and has stayed fit since moving to City for the 2020-2021 season, starting in Sydney on his debut for the Socceroos against Ecuador last month.
“Being at the Socceroos camp was a very special moment for me as I missed that [Tokyo] Olympics after I got involved all the way,” O’Neill said.
“But that’s football sometimes, you don’t always get that chance or get selected. Life is like that too.
“I just used it as motivation. I’ve been healthy, fit and I’ve been playing soccer consistently, which I haven’t done since COVID. I’m really enjoying it.”
His Socceroos start surprised him but he more than held his own against Ecuadorian star Moises Caicedo.
“To be honest, I didn’t really expect to start, but when I found out I was totally on trend,” O’Neill said.
“I was just trying to think about my childhood. Imagine telling a 12-year-old Aiden that you were playing and starting your debut for the Socceroos?
“There’s a team photo before the game and you see me, I just had a big grin on my face.
“My family was there when I made my debut, and the win rounded it all off.”
Just as football is an equaliser, so was City striker Jamie Maclaren when O’Neill missed scoring his goal on Wednesday night.
“It was very quick, I saw myself in this room and I had a really good first contact, it just opens things up for me,” O’Neill said.
“I saw on replay that I wasn’t aware of how outspoken Jamie Maclaren was and he let me know about that.
“I can’t say what he said, but in other words, thank god you achieved that.”
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/a-big-weight-off-my-shoulders-how-an-a-league-star-emerged-from-the-interrupted-melbourne-derby-20230405-p5cyid.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport How an A-League star emerged from the suspended Melbourne Derby; Melbourne city; Aiden O’Neill