O'Keeffe Finds Success in Pro Ranks
Former Ocean City Goalkeeper grateful for experience at club

Monday, January 5, 2014

Ocean City, NJ – Four-time All-MAAC selection (Fairfield University), 2011 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, London 2012 Olympian (New Zealand Oly-Whites), 2013 PDL Eastern Conference Champion and former-Nor’easter goalie Michael O’Keeffe is the most successful player to take the Carey Stadium pitch in recent years.

O'Keeffe concedes against Egypt's
Mohammed Salah of Chelsea FC

Ranking highly among O’Keeffe’s accolades was the unparalleled opportunity for the goalkeeper to represent his home-nation, New Zealand, in the 2012 London Olympic Games. As a 21-year-old, Michael started in goal for three Olympic matches when an injury to starting Kiwi stopper Jake Gleeson (Portland Timbers) sidelined the MLS keeper. The Oly-Whites led off with a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Belarus before forging a positive result at Old Trafford against Egypt, drawing 1-1. New Zealand bowed out of the tournament after a 3-0 loss to Brazil, but Michael O’Keeffe had experienced an opportunity that most athletes can only dream of.

Now playing professionally for Team Wellington in the ASB Premiership, New Zealand’s top professional soccer league, O’Keeffe and his mates are preparing for a clash against the nation of Qatar in a friendly to be played in Australia on January 5th. Qatar is the 98th-ranked team in the world and Team Wellington sit atop the ASB Premiership table. The match will be a tune-up for both sides as Qatar looks ahead to the Asian Cup tournament kicking off at the end of the week, and Team Wellington prepares for the second half of the ASB Premiership season.

As O’Keeffe geared up for Qatar, the former Nor’easter touched upon approaching the beautiful game with a combination of hard work and joy, and the fondness with which he remembers his 2013 season in Ocean City, a crucial time in his transition to professional soccer, in an interview with the Club.

Michael showcased his work ethic in Ocean City

Ocean City Nor’easters: Based on your profiles and interviews during your collegiate career at Fairfield, and your outstanding 2013 season at the shore, it seems as though two character traits distinguish you as a soccer player: your work ethic and a tangible joy that you bring to the game. Would you agree? 

Michael O’Keeffe: Definitely. My work ethic is something I pride myself on. I've always been someone that has understood that natural talent can only get you so far and that the best players have gotten [to the professional level] with an incredible amount of hard work and dedication. If I were to leave somewhere I would want to be known as the person who worked the hardest.
 

OCN: How would you describe your approach to the game?

MO: A relaxed focus. The older you get the more wise you become. I’ve screwed up a lot of times, but it is from those mistakes where I have been able to learn and hone my approach to find the perfect level.
 


 
O'Keeffe faced off against stars Neymar, Thiago Silva,
Oscar, Pato, Rafael & Marcelo

OCN: Can you share a memorable moment from your PDL National Championship run with the Nor'easters? 

MO: Hosting the regional playoffs without a doubt. Playing in the semi-final and winning on penalties when we were under the pump for a lot of the game,  and then beating Ottawa convincingly in the [PDL Eastern Conference] final at home. It was so great to win in such a great way and in front of our home fans.
 
OCN:  Is there something special about the atmosphere surrounding the Nor'easters players/fans/organization? 

MO: Like Ocean City, the club has a great family culture about it. I loved every moment living in the accommodation with the best players from around the country, players whom you would usually only play against. It’s great getting to know them and to live on the beach during the summer, you can’t ask for anything more. Also, the way in which we were looked after, especially by El Presidente [Giancarlo Granese, Club President] was fantastic.
 
OCN: What kind of an opportunity does playing in the PDL, specifically for Ocean City, create for a top collegiate player looking to play professionally? 

Four year All-MAAC selection at
Fairfield University

MO: Because [The Nor’easters] are one of the best PDL teams, the assurance that you will play at the highest level during summer, with the country’s best players is the best possible preparation not only for your next collegiate season, but for higher honours as well.

Michael O’Keeffe was named to All-MAAC squads in all four years during his collegiate career at Fairfield University, in addition to being named to the MAAC All-Rookie team and earning the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year award. He represented New Zealand, in the 2012 Summer Olympics before seeing action in four matches for the Nor’easters during the 2013 campaign, making 25 saves and posting two shut-outs. The keeper’s current club, Team Wellington, sits atop the ASB Premiership table.  

O’Keeffe and Team Wellington square off against the nation of Qatar in a friendly on January 5th.