Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Family Affair: The O'Briens

28 March 2013

Growing up in Yorkshire, youngsters have the opportunity to tread various sporting career paths - if they are good enough. Aspiring to play top class rugby, cricket or football is an ambition many will share at a young age but few are fortunate enough to achieve.

The odds of two brothers both making the grade, in two different sports, are therefore even slimmer, but step forward the O'Briens who are currently enjoying life in the professional ranks of the Super League and The Football League.

24-year-old Luke O'Brien started his career in Bradford City's centre of excellence and the left-back went on to break into the first team at Valley Parade at the age of 18, making over 150 appearances for the club.

His brother Adam had other ideas, though, preferring to go down the route of Rugby League with Bradford Bulls, rather than football with the Bantams.

"He's doing really well at the moment, with Bradford Bulls," Luke spoke proudly of his brother in his broad Yorkshire accent.

"He had played a handful of games up to this season, but he's currently the third-placed hooker.

"In rugby they do dual registration so he's been playing for Dewsbury Rams. For the first couple of weeks of the season, which started in February, he played for Dewsbury and he scored two tries on his debut for them.

"He scored again the week after and one of the hookers at Bradford got injured so he was called back to the Bulls.

"He then made his season-debut for Bradford and scored straight away, against Huddersfield Giants."

Luke may not have chosen Rugby League as a career, like his younger, 19-year-old sibling, but he was known to get involved in the rough and tumble of rugby during his school days.

That said, deep down, he's a footballer and has always known that.

"At school there was a few head cases who played rugby and because I was pretty quick they all said, 'we'll pass you the ball and you can run around'.

"The first game I played in I got my nose broke and when I went home my mum was mortified because my nose was smashed across my face.

"I wasn't hard enough. I'm too soft for that. It was always fun and I enjoyed playing, but that's all it was - fun."

While Adam impresses in the Super League with the Bulls, Luke is currently in npower League 2 with Oxford United.

But he still lives up north with his family - fiance Kerchella and his two children - so gets to see his brother, who he describes as his "best mate", often.

"My brother is still at my mum and dad's and they only live 10 minutes away from where I live, so I go and see them as much as I can. Obviously my parents want to see their grandchildren, too, so they see them as much as they can.

"We do like to go out and catch up but it's kind of difficult because of me having two kids. I just want to spend the night with them when I go back home.

"When I moved to Oxford nobody knew about him so I tell everyone at work that my brother is a professional rugby player, showing them pictures and stuff.

"I try and go and watch him when I can, too, as he sometimes plays on a Sunday, like recently when they played Hull KR."

With only five years separating the O'Brien brothers, and with them having similar sporting careers, they often share their experiences and give each other a helping hand, if need be.

There is that expected brotherly competition, though - there always has been, and continues to be, even when 180 or so miles sits between them on a weekly basis.

"We talk over the phone every day and see how we've both got on at training and what we've done.

"We do confide in each other with quite a few things. I've been in his shoes, when I was 17 or 18, in the Bradford youth team trying to get into the first-team.

"There was all those lads in front of me and I thought I was better and wanted to play, and he's been in the same boat.

"He's rang me a few times and said, 'what shall I do? Shall I knock on the gaffer's door? Should I do this, should I do that?' We do talk a lot with regards to things on the field, and off the field as well.

"There was always a bit of competition growing up between us. Even now, playing on computer games, we go online and play against each other and there's that competition.

"He's a big lad, and weighs a bit, so I can't bully him like I used to. At the end of the day, it's all brotherly love - we get on really well."

The two kept their parents busy at weekends when they were young, with mum and dad taking them to and from training and matches as they took their first steps into their respective sporting careers.

And their parents continue to go along and support their sons week-in, week-out. Although they do have a preference as to which sport they would rather watch, according to Luke.

"With regards to our teams and when we played, it worked out well. When I was in the centre of excellence I played on a Saturday morning and Adam, played for a local team on the Sunday morning. We always watched each other.

"It does sometimes fall so we play on the same days and if that happens either my mum will come to me and me dad will go and watch my brother, or vice versa.

"I think deep down, they prefer watching Adam because rugby can be a bit more exciting than football.

"They are proud parents, everyone always says to them, 'you must be the proudest parents because both sons are playing sports that they both love'.

"And that's professional sport, too, both at a high level. My brother is playing Super League first-team rugby at 19 years of age. And I was doing the same, playing in Bradford City's first team at 18 or 19.

"So yeah, they are both very proud parents, and they show it. I don't know what they'd do if we weren't in sport to be honest, I don't think they would be happy if we both stayed at home on the computer all day."

Despite his parents arguably favouring the oval shaped ball, Luke's passion and love for football is obvious as he talks about his career in the game.

It's clear that things haven't all gone perfectly for him, however, since his release from Bradford, his boyhood club, in early 2012, but he continues to work hard and take any opportunities that come his way.

"I was eight-years-old when I started at Bradford and left when I was 24, so I was there a very long time.

"When Phil Parkinson took over he didn't fall out with me, or have anything against me, he just didn't fancy me as a player.

"All you want to do as a player is play. I got the chance to go down to Exeter City, last January, and I was there until the end of the season, but it didn't work out.

"I got a chance in early September to come down to Oxford. The gaffer [Chris Wilder] told me I was going to be the back-up left-back and I would be in and out, but if I got in the team I should try and cement myself.

"I signed on the dotted line because I had been without a club for about three months so it was hard for me.

"I was trialing here and there; I was going up to Scotland, to the middle of England - literally I had a week here and a week there, I must have gone to about five or six clubs during the off-season trying to get somewhere.

"I think I've played about 15 or 16 times for Oxford now and every time I've played, the gaffer has said I've done a job. That's all I can do, go out there and give 100 per cent.

"If things aren't going quite right I think about if I was a fan watching the game, and I would just like to see the players putting the effort in, even if things aren't going right for them. That's all that matters.

"With the three clubs I've been at, I've always done that and given 100 per cent. I've enjoyed it when I've got my chance."

And he's been given his chance in recent weeks with the U's, starting in the wins against both Torquay United and Barnet.

After getting a few more games under his belt in Wilder's Oxford team, the defender remains very positive for the future - his footballing future and his young family's future.

"It's been tough coming down here to Oxford, moving away from my family, but I've loved it.

"It is hard but my fiance understands, it's my job at the end of the day. As long as I'm bringing an income in, that's all that matters, even if it is 180 miles away.

"It has to be done, if I didn't have a job we'd be struggling. I have two children - one is two-years-old and the other is six-weeks-old - and I try and get home as much as I can to see them.

"If it came to the off-season and Oxford sat me down and were willing to offer me another year or two I'd be over the moon, grateful, and sign it straight away."

For all the latest news on Oxford United please click here

Advertisement block