Ronnie O Brien (born 5 January 1979 in Bray, Republic of Ireland) is a retired Irish footballer who last played for the San Jose Earthquakes.
O Brien s footballing career began very promisingly, when at the age of 18 he signed a contract with Middlesbrough of the FA Premier League. Although he played little at Middlesbrough, he had great success with Irish national team youth sides, winning the European U-16 championship alongside players like Damien Duff and Robbie Keane. After two years with Middlesbrough, O Brien was released on a free transfer. Incredibly, Italian giants Juventus offered 20-year-old O Brien a five-year contract; however, he had trouble getting playing time on such a talented side and was loaned out to Lugano of Switzerland, Dundee United of Scotland, and lower league Italian sides Crotone and Lecco. After several years of disappointment and three Inter-Toto Cup appearances, O Brien was released from his contract with Juventus in 2002.
In search of consistent playing time, O Brien, made the unconventional decision to move to America to join the Dallas Burn. O Brien made an immediate impact, scoring on his debut for the club in a US Open Cup match. He finished the 2002 season with two goals and two assists in 11 games but had proven himself one of the more dynamic players on the team. O Brien entered the 2003 season with great expectations, but these were cut short early in the season. In the Burns third game of the season, a tackle from D.C. Uniteds Dema Kovalenko broke O Briens tibia, effectively ending his season. O Brien returned to the team in 2004 and was one of the teams offensive leaders – he started 29 games, registering two goals and 10 assists, was named to the MLS Best XI, and helped revitalise a Burn team that had recorded one of the leagues worst records ever in the previous season.
In 2005, O Brien repeated his Best XI form, finishing the year with six goals and 12 assists. During the 2006 season, O Brien clashed with FC Dallas head coach Colin Clarke all season. His form was poor and he finished with only one goal in 27 games. At the conclusion of the season, O Brien was traded to the expansion club Toronto FC with a gentlemens agreement that Toronto FC would not draft any other FC Dallas players.
Due to a knee injury during a training session, which was later aggravated during a friendly match, O Brien was limited to 13 games in the 2007 season.
In 2008, O Brien was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes. In return, Toronto FC received San Joses first round pick in the 2009 draft plus an undisclosed amount of money.
He made 28 appearances, scoring 4 goals (his 16th in the MLS). His 6 assists brought his MLS career assist total to 45 (from 142 total appearances).
Following O Briens strong performance and evident leadership in 2008, the San Jose Earthquakes stunned their fans by failing to pick up his contract option for the 2009 season. Instead, Earthquakes GM John Doyle was hoping that he would accept a substantial pay cut. In January 2009, O Brien made it known that he would not be returning to the San Jose Earthquakes.Without O Briens leadership and strong play, the Earthquakes struggled early in 2009. Despite a favourable schedule in which San Jose played five of their seven games at home, the Quakes managed just one win, leading many San Jose fans to call for O Briens return.
O Brien keeps an off-season residence in Dallas and is an avid Dallas Mavericks fan. His profile page on the MLS site stated that he had retired.
He is now a coach of FC Dallas youth teams.
Despite having played multiple times for the Irish underage sides, O Brien only received one callup to the senior side. Steve Staunton contacted Toronto FC about his availability for a short tour of the US in June 2007. However, O Brien turned down the chance to play for his country again, as he had just returned from injury, while adding he was happy playing club football.
Time magazine stunt
In August 1999, e-mails circulated urging Irish people to vote for Ronnie O Brien in Times Person of the Century Internet poll, causing O Brien to lead the poll, above those such as Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. After the poll crashed due to attracting too much traffic, Time removed O Brien from the running, restating the rule that "whimsical candidates will not be counted."