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East alum Konopka headed back to Ireland – Asbury Park Press
September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009
Asbury Park Press

East alum Konopka headed back to Ireland

Staff Writer

TOMS RIVER — Chris Konopka, the former Toms River High School East and Providence College standout, will continue his professional soccer career in Ireland for the second straight year.

Konopka, a former Jersey Shore Boca star, has joined the Dublin-based Sporting Fingal Football Club of the Irish First Division until the end of the 2009 season.

Sporting Fingal was established in late 2007 as part of the Fingal County Council Football Development Plan and became licensed to compete in the League of Ireland First Division in 2008.

Fingal finished third in the club’s first season in senior football and on Aug. 28 wa six points adrift of the top spot in the First Division and challenging for promotion to the Premiere Division. Sporting has also secured a berth in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Football Association of Ireland Ford Cup and will host the Shamrock Rovers early this month.

Former Republic of Ireland international Liam Buckley, who was on the books of Spanish giant Racing de Santander early in his playing career, is the first team manager while John Devine, capped 30 times for the Republic of Ireland who also appeared in 111 matches for the Arsenal of the English Premiership from 1974-83, is Fingal’s first team coach.

League of Ireland veteran goalkeeper and former Shamrock Rovers standout Robbie Horgan directs the Fingal goalkeepers.

The club’s home venue is Morton Stadium in the Northern suburbs of Dublin.

Konopka, a goalkeeper who was recently cleared by the FAI to join the club, made his debut Aug 23 in a League of Ireland A-Championship match at Shamrock Rovers in a windswept Tallaght Stadium which North Dublin lost, 2-1, in a hard fought 90 minutes of play.

“Robbie contacted me a few weeks ago and explained his keeper situation to me,” said Konopka, 24. “It all sounded very interesting. We finalized the details on July 25 and I landed in Dublin July 28. I signed my contract that afternoon. My deal is until the end of this season, but has the potential to be extended into the future. Everything has been done first class.

“Sporting Fingal is a well-run club with a tremendous upside. My first training sessions with Liam, John and Robbie were no-nonsense and all of the players here have a great attitude. The facilities and surroundings are excellent.

“The team is challenging for a spot at the top of the table and promotion to the Premiere Division next year. This is a very good environment for me to be in right now. I am very proud to be a part of Sporting Fingal and will try to help the team win promotion for next year anyway I can. It also feels very good to be back in Ireland.”

Sporting Fingal’s new shot-stopper spent last year with the Bohemians of Dublin, winning two medals with the 2008 League of Ireland Premiere Division and FAI Cup champions.

It is believed Konopka is the first American born soccer player in history to ever win the Irish Double.

The 6-foot-5 Konopka dressed for all but one match during the Gypsies’ double title run and was the Bohs’ steady number two keeper last year behind first choice and two-time back-to-back Goalkeeper of the Year Brian Murphy.

Konopka made his Bohemian firs-team debut July 1, 2008 at Derry City, going the distance in the quarterfinals of the League of Ireland Cup.

He also impressed with the Bohemians’ reserve squad, leading it to the League of Ireland A-Shield Championship game against Cork City and the League of Ireland A-League Championship final match against UCD last season.

Konopka spent his first professional season in 2007 with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. He starred from 2003-06 at Providence and won second-team All-Big East Conference honors as a senior. He was the second keeper in school history to win all-conference honors.

A 2003 East graduate, he was the first Providence player drafted by an MLS team.