By Liam Carson
GATESHEAD Under-19s secured a point over the weekend as they secured a 1-1 draw with Shankhouse.
The Heed’s only goal of the game came through a familiar face from the first team, as JJ O’Donnell found the back of the net on Saturday afternoon.
O’Donnell hasn’t appeared for the first team since December but took the opportunity to rack up some minutes against the Hoose.
Speaking to Gateshead-FC.com following the game, O’Donnell commented: “Yeah, it was great. I really enjoyed it.
“It was just nice to play again as it’s been quite a while for me. As soon as Ben Clark mentioned the game, I asked straight away if I could play.
“It was just the case of playing a game of football. Obviously, I’ve missed quite a lot of years so just to play in any game of football means a lot to me.”
The midfielder was happy that he could get on the score sheet but the former Luton Town man was just happy to get minutes under his belt.
“It was one of those where I’ve gone to cross it and it’s gone straight in but I suppose it counts for me so I’ll take it,” O’Donnell continued.
“It was just an enjoyable game, enjoyable to be out there.
“It made for an enjoyable afternoon and to play 90 minutes when you haven’t played in a long time, it was good for me.”
O’Donnell, with being more used to the competitive nature of the National League, admitted that he was surprised by the high quality of football in the game but believes that playing in a senior league will only help the Under-19’s to develop.
“The standard was better than I thought it would be and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way to Clark’s team or the league, but Shankhouse were not too bad at all,” the midfielder added.
“It’s good for the young boys to play in a senior league against senior players to try and get to that toughness and physicality of it because playing under-19s football going into men’s football is a big difference really.
“It’s something that they’ll benefit greatly from.”
Having come through the youth set-up at Luton Town, O’Donnell knows what it takes to make the step up to the first team and 26-year-old feels like a few of the team have exactly what it takes.
“They did well, ” he admitted. “They’re some great footballers in the side.
“There are a few individuals which I think will do alright for themselves in the game.
“It [will be] tough because our level of football is totally different to what they’re playing but if they keep learning and keep trying to improve week in, week out, they’ve all got a chance to do well for themselves.”
On a personal note however, O’Donnell admitted that he hopes his performance for the under-19’s won’t have gone unnoticed as he looks at getting back into the first team.
“All I want to do is play football,” said the Heed number 14.
“I’ve said it ever since I arrived, I just want to play every week. It’s been frustrating for me.
“Hopefully the gaffer will have heard that I’ve done alright as like I say, I will always play with a good attitude so I worked hard, got on the score sheet and tried my best.
“Obviously Ben Clark will report to the gaffer and hopefully he’ll recognise that and I’ll be able to get back in the team that way.”
Gateshead XI: Macleod; Lee, Butler, MacDougall, Hastings, Bennett, Hailes, McArdle, Halliday, Studholme. O’Donnell
Subs: Barnaby, Mitchell, Bruton
Not used: Lam, Anderson