Drimoleague man Denzil Fernandes is preparing for the new League of Ireland First Division season with a brand-new club in Limerick’s Treaty United. Fernandes has previously played for the Cork City u19 side, Cobh Ramblers and Shelbourne, but will never forget his roots, the West Cork Schoolboys League he tells Matthew Hurley.
“Yeah with (the) schoolboys obviously, I started when I was like 12 or 13 and then I went to Kennedy Cup twice and it was some experience.
“I actually couldn’t wait to go when I was 13 from my second year there and it’s just a top-class experience because you have scouts like coming all over the place, especially from England,” Fernandes said.
“You just want to impress as much as you can and the coaches there really did help me a lot, especially Martin Henwood and all (of) them but it was (a) great setup and that definitely furthered my development over the course of my career.”
The next big break for Fernandes was a well-earned move to the Cork City academy.
“I was there for like two half seasons. In my first half-season there, I won the u19 National League and that was some experience, great coaches there as well.
“Especially going to the UEFA Youth League as well, having that experience under my belt, playing in Rome and Helsinki, that was some experience and I’ll never forget that I’d do anything to do that again.”
His next move was to another Cork-based League of Ireland club, Cobh Ramblers.
“I guess I needed to go somewhere else to further my development and play at senior level because that’s obviously a different ball game and when Cobh came knocking, I couldn’t say no,” Fernandes added.
“I was playing week in, week out. I really loved my time there with great coaches and great people, especially the fans. I couldn’t say a bad word about them because I felt at ease playing at Cobh cause there wasn’t much pressure.
“They just told you to go out and play and that brought the best out of me. I was very happy about how things went there.”
Next for Fernandes came an interesting transfer to Dublin side Shelbourne in 2019. Then manager Ian Morris kept a close eye on him and gave him a call during the mid-season break, expressing his interest in Fernandes.
“I was really happy to take up on the offer because they were top of the table, and I couldn’t say no to that either because there was a prospect in playing in the Premier Division.
“I was really happy to get the move over and done with, but I was a bit sad in a way because I was leaving Cobh.
“I was leaving a great club and all that and when the move got finalised, I moved up to Dublin and I played as much games as they could there, obviously with injuries, (it) didn’t help at all.”
Some young athletes would find it hard moving away from their county, never mind their province, and the Drimoleague native was no different.
“I would say it (the move to Dublin) was very difficult because I’m actually a home person, I’m close to my family like but I actually did come home nearly every weekend,” he said.
“Moving away from (the) family for the first time can be tough, especially when you have nothing much else to do, apart from playing football.
“You’re only training every day only for a few hours and all that, do your own bits and stuff but I could tell you it’s very difficult and it was hard for me mentally as well, but I told myself that I’d just keep going and see where it takes me.”
The new Shelbourne manager happens to be Premier League and Irish Legend Damien Duff, who spoke to Fernandes briefly before the move to Treaty United.
“So, when last season finished, he actually gave me a call two to three weeks later because when we finish our season with Shels, the sporting director Alan Caffrey said that he (Duff) would get onto each one of us individually.
“I guess last season didn’t really justify (him staying) that’s because I was actually injured for most of it, and it didn’t help at all. When Damien called me, he was full of praise for me actually.
“He said he seen videos of me and all that. I would’ve loved to play for him, but I only think he said those things just to be nice and just say you’re not really wanted at the club in a nice way, so I just took it on board, and I guess that was that was it really.
“I wish them all the best and yeah it wasn’t really that much of a conversation. He just seen videos of me and thought that another club would come for me straight away.”
Alas, another club, Treaty, did pick him up almost straight away, although former clubs Cork and Cobh expressed their interest too.
“When I announced my departure from Shels, Cork, Cobh and Treaty were on to me straight away. Cobh were actually very keen on getting me, I actually met with their manager twice and the Cork manager Colin Healy actually called me a few times, but it never really materialised and that’s when Treaty came in.
“They were interested in me week in week out when I announced my departure and I guess that really brought the decision then because I met up with Tommy (Barrett, the manager) and what he said really did help me a lot.
“When Tommy told me the good things about the club, as well as the game time that I’d get, I was just happy to take his offer on bored and I was pretty happy with that.”
Fernandes was also full of praise in talking about Barrett’s management skills.
“Look at Treaty last season. He built a team and probably less than a week. I’m not too sure how many days, I was only reading an article there on the BBC.
“Tommy is a great person like when I spoke with him. I could feel like I’d be comfortable with him. I feel like he will bring the best out of me and the fact that he’s a social worker as well. He tells me how he works with people that have lack of services for them and for their families and all that.
“I’m just really eager to show him what I can do from him and hopefully they’ll be a great achievement accomplished at the end of the season.
The young West Cork player is excited going into the 2022 season both personally and on a team level.
“I feel like it’s like a fresh start for me right now. I need to get my name back in the limelight not only for myself for the team as well.
“I feel like Treaty deserves a chance at the Premier Division again after what has happened to Limerick football in general over the past few years. I feel like playing games week in week out will definitely help me and get my confidence back to the top again.
“I feel like Treaty do deserve a chance at the top again cause whenever we (Shelbourne) played them last season, I feel like they were the only team that actually gave us a great game every time we played them so let’s see what happens this season. They kept most of the team, which is a good thing so it could only get better from here.”
While excited for the new challenge, Fernandes will have to wait a few more weeks until he makes his debut.
“I haven’t met up with the players (in person) yet because I’m actually recovering from injury at the moment. I’m going for surgery on my ACL. I think it’s not a full tear, thank god, I think it’s only an impartial tear.
“I’ll be back probably end of March. I think so if we get the surgery over and done with, it can only be positive things from there.”
If he does return for March, he could potentially make his debut against none other than Cork City (March 18).
“I actually can’t wait to play Cork and Cobh to be honest, because I feel like I have a point to prove, especially against Cork because I never played for the first team, only training with the first team.
“I was only like 18 or 19 and never really got a chance so it’s definitely a point to prove for myself.
The Irish Government recently lifted nearly all COVID-19 restrictions, including attendance caps at sports grounds. The prospect of a full house at Markets Fields excites Fernandes.
“I feel like the fans will be 12th man. Basically, (it) gives you a big lift because playing without fans is nothing in football.
“It definitely adds to the atmosphere. Playing in front of no crowd, it just doesn’t add extra to the atmosphere so I feel like the fans will definitely play a big part and I heard the fans down in Limerick are meant to be top class as well.”
The move to Treaty United will hopefully be the start of good things for Denzil Fernandes, who is relishing the challenge for 2022.
“I just feel like I have a point to prove for sure. At the start of 2020 to 2022, I didn’t really help myself in any way with injuries.
“I feel like I still have potential to play in the Premier Division. Hopefully, I get over this injury now and show what I can do and hopefully, we can just go from there and be positive,” Fernandes concluded.