U’s double-winning stars of 1991-92, Part Five: Mark Kinsella

In part five of our seven-part series, we talk to Mark Kinsella, whose early career flourished under Roy McDonough

MARK Kinsella had only intended to visit Colchester United for a “look-a-round,” during a short trip from his native Dublin, during the summer of 1989.

But he ended up staying for seven years!

Eight members of his Home Farm club came over to England to try and break into the professional game, and seven of them returned to the Irish capital disappointed – only Kinsella made the grade.

The cultured midfielder’s story is well-known. He went on to play for Charlton, Aston Villa and West Brom, and earned 48 caps for Republic of Ireland, including appearances in the 2002 World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea.

But before he made the big-time, Kinsella became arguably the most popular player in the U’s history – a few years ago, East Anglian Daily Times readers voted him as No. 1 in the Top 100 Colchester United players of all-time.

Now the manager of Daventry Town, in the Southern League Premier, Kinsella recalls his early days at Layer Road, and the big impact that player-manager Roy McDonough was to have on his career.

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“I came over from Ireland as a 16 year old,” explained Kinsella.

“I was just over here to have a look at the place, but I ended up signing that week! (May, 1989). I jumped at the chance, even though I didn’t even know where Colchester were in the league!

“Jock Wallace signed me and the first few months were tough.

“I had signed a three-year deal, and the plan was to start playing in the youth team, then up move to the reserves the second year, and eventually the first team in the third season.

“But Steve Foley (caretaker manager) threw me into the squad before Christmas (1989). It was great being ahead of schedule, training with the first team rather than the youths, with experienced players like Wes Taylor and Ian Allinson,” added Kinsella.

Although teenager Kinsella featured at the start of the U’s first season in the Conference, it was not until the appointment of McDonough as the new boss for the 1991-92 campaign that the Irishman’s career really took off.

“It was Roy who gave me my real opportunity,” insisted Kinsella.

“I’ll always be indebted to him, because he threw me in from the word go.

“I think Ian Atkins (previous manager) thought I was too slightly built and couldn’t hack it week in, week out, so I only played 10 or so games.

“But Roy got me involved straight away, and that was a massive boost to my confidence. He just told me to enjoy myself, and I never looked back.”

Kinsella played in all 42 games of the U’s Conference title-winning campaign, and was also ever-present in the triumphant FA Trophy run.

“We were a decent team. We had a solid back four, good midfield and plenty of goalscorers,” continued Kinsella.

“We could concede two goals, but then score three ourselves. It was only Wycombe who could compete with us.

“One of my favourite moments was (keeper Scott Barrett) scoring our 89th minute winner to beat Wycombe 2-1 away (September 28, 1991), and also Tony English netting a late equaliser against Kingstonian in our first match in the FA Trophy, to force a replay.

“If we hadn’t scored that goal, then we would have never got to Wembley!” added Kinsella, who loved every minute of his first visit to the twin towers.

Kinsella was to return to Wembley in 1998 for Charlton’s sensational Division One play-off final victory over Sunderland. He scored in the successful penalty shoot-out, after a dramatic 4-4 draw.

But that was all in the future. Kinsella was to rattle up more than 280 first team games for the U’s before his switch to the Addicks in 1996.

He said: “We all loved Layer Road. I don’t think the club has quite been the same since they moved.

“The Layer Road pitch was always magnificent, and the dressing rooms were always terrible. But we didn’t mind about that. It affected the visitors more.

“A crowd of 3,000 or 4,000 at Layer Road and the place seemed full.

“In my early days, Eamonn Collins (fellow Irishman) looked after me.

“I would go out for the night with �5, and come back with �10 in my pocket!

“It also helped to have Martin Grainger coming through from the youth team at the same time,” concluded Kinsella.

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