Ever since he was a child, junior Stephen Donnelly has wanted to leave his home in Dublin, Ireland and move the United States.
When Slippery Rock University’s men’s soccer head coach Michael Bonelli offered him a chance to play in 2011, he jumped at the opportunity.
Donnelly’s journey across the Atlantic required two plane rides, one from Dublin to New York, and then another from New York into Pittsburgh.
He travels over 3,000 miles, spent nearly eight hours in the air, and managed to fit all of his things into two suitcases and a backpack with him.
Being so far away from home has been hard for Donnelly, but the distance has caused him to push himself even more and has brought him closer to his parents.
“Missing my family and the lads has to be the hardest part,” Donnelly said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to my ma.”
Donnelly’s parents, Sandra and Patrick, have supported him ever since he was a child. He credits his success so far to them.
“I started playing soccer when I was able to walk,” Donnelly said. “My dad and mum have supported me all through my life. They continue to do so and that’s why I continue to play.”
In his freshman year, Donnelly made seven starts, scored two goals, and earned two assists. He finished fifth on the team in total goals.
Last season, Donnelly tied for leading scorer on the team with former teammate Chris Davis.
Donnelly also made 11 starts, 20 game appearances, and earned two assists.
Donnelly is currently a starting forward for the men’s soccer team at SRU and is pursuing a degree in physical education.
Throughout his two years with the team, Donnelly has become a key part of the Rock offense.
He has scored three game-winning goals in his SRU career.
Last season, in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference semi-final game against West Chester University, Donnelly scored the game-winner with just 6:45 left to play.
The win pushed the team into the PSAC title game against Mercyhurst.
Even though the team didn’t win the championship game, Donnelly said that he will always remember that game-winning moment in the semi-finals.
“I scored the game-winner that threw us into the finals,” Donnelly said. “I’ll never forget that.”
Donnelly also finds inspiration in his favorite professional player, Christiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo currently plays for Real Madrid in Spain and is the team’s captain.
“He’s an amazing talent and his ability to score goals is brilliant,” Donnelly said. “I admire him so much.”
Donnelly also looks up to several of his current and former Slippery Rock teammates.
“The likes of Josh Gray (current captain), Drew Donoghue, Patrick Conley and Clayton Master are and were great leaders,” Donnelly said.
As a junior on the team and one of the Rock’s top scorers, Donnelly is starting to take on more responsibility with the team.
“I don’t consider myself a leader, but I try to set a good example for the younger players,” Donnelly said.
Looking back on his time with the team so far, Donnelly is sure that he made the right decision to come to Slippery Rock and play soccer.
He hopes to continue contributing to the team and making the most of his time at SRU.
“Coach Bonelli believed in me and gave me the chance to play,” Donnelly said. “Playing for this team is something I’ll never forget. It’s a great program.”