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American Wins Irish Double at Bohs – Irish Voice
December 17, 2008

American Wins Irish Double at Bohs

Irish Voice

In the midst of Bohemians celebrations, after completing the league and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) cup double was a tall American rapping on stage to applause from the club’s fans at Dalymount Park.

It wasn’t some exchange student who happened upon a party, but rather New Jersey native Chris Konopka, the Bohs number two keeper who is believed to be the first American-born player to win league and cup honors in the eircom League, the Irish domestic soccer league.

The Toms River man recently finished a one-year contract with the famous Dublin club and has nothing but good memories of that time. After high school he played at Providence College and was then drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in 2007.

One of four keepers there, he spent one year with the club before Kansas decided not to exercise the option to extend his contract.

Now a free agent, Konopka was keen to get over to Europe, and after trials with Cardiff City and Charlton Athletic, Dublin native and former Providence College assistant coach Kempes Corbally helped Konopka get a trial with Bohemians. The keeper made an immediate impression and signed a one-year contract in January.

For Konopka, the move has vastly improved him as a professional.

“The difference from Kansas to Bohs is that Bohs showed me a lot more attention when it came to developing my game and really getting everything out of me that I was able to (give),” Konopka told the Irish Voice.

At Bohemians, the 23-year-old had a chance to learn from the league’s best. Chief scout Dave Henderson and goalkeeping coach Dermot O’Neill are two of the best goalkeepers ever produced by the League of Ireland, and current number one Brian Murphy is back-to-back eircom goalkeeper of the year.

Having experienced Major League Soccer for a year, Konopka, who is of Polish heritage, compares the eircom League favorably.

“The standard I felt was as good at Bohs as it was in the MLS, and I feel that on any given day our team would be able to compete with any of the teams over here and vice versa,” Konopka said, adding that the number of Eircom players who made moves to big clubs in England and Scotland was indicative of the standard in Ireland.

Though they have just won the double, things are not all rosy at Bohemians. The economic recession in Ireland has hit eircom League hard and Bohs, like other clubs Cork City and Finn Harps, have had financial problems.

The club recently lost a court case over the prospective sale of their ground that could have serious consequences for its future. Things are so tight that the double winners have asked players to take a wage cut.

Bohs recently hired a new CEO, Jim Roddy, to try and steer the club out of these difficult waters. Konopka is one of nine Bohemians players out of contract, and is hopeful of things working out so he can get back to Dublin.

“Right now we are re-negotiating. I have been talking to the coaching staff and they have no complaints, but with the financial situation it is going to be up in the air for a bit,” said Konopka.

“I would love to go back because I had such a great time working with the coaching staff and players there. That is where I should be as a young goalkeeper.”

After only making three reserve appearances for Kansas in 2007, Konopka appeared in the League Cup for Bohemians and played 18 times this season, mostly in the A-league (reserve team) championship.

Developmental players in the MLS earn a pittance and some give up because they cannot survive on the low wages, but that was not the case for the 6’5″ keeper in Dublin.

“Everything was taken care of, the club treated me great, I couldn’t have been in a better situation,” he said, adding that he shared an apartment in Malahide by the sea with two other club players.

The keeper is staying in shape in the off-season and doing things he cannot in Ireland (Konopka spoke to the Irish Voice en route to the Monday night Eagles/Bears NFL game, and admitted that the pizza in Ireland is not quite the same as at home).

With fellow Americans Ryan Guy and Lance Friesz at St. Patrick’s Athletic, Konopka hopes that he can continue his Irish adventure and keep the U.S. flag flying high in the eircom League.

Bohs fans may not have heard the last of this American rapper yet.

Irish Voice