Eamon to score
From MAAC Rookie of the Year to an injury-riddled season, junior Eamon Whelan is back and ready to prove himself again
There is not much more Quinnipiac men’s soccer forward Eamon Whelan could have asked for his freshman year.
The local from New Fairfield, Connecticut racked up a team-high 11 goals and was honored as the 2016 MAAC Rookie of the Year.
“It was what I dreamed of as a kid, getting an accolade like that,” Whelan said. “I didn’t really think about it much until the season was over, everything was game by game. So at the end it was nice to be rewarded.”
His sophomore season? Far from what he experienced in his first year.
It was not a case of underperforming or anything by those means. Whelan was fighting through a groin and leg injury for most of the season. While Whelan was able to get in for 14 games, he was not completely in any of those games.
It was evident that the Eamon Whelan who won the MAAC Rookie of the Year was not the same Eamon Whelan that was playing in for the Bobcats in 2017. As much as he tried, his body was fighting against him.
“To be honest, it was tough,” Whelan said. “I’ve never had injuries like that, basically being out all year.”
Whelan finished the year registering only two goals. It was a disappointing season for him, as he saw his minutes cut down for a good portion of the games. Despite being forced to sit out with the injuries, Da Costa felt at times Whelan still had to be put on the field, in hopes of sparking the lacking offense.
“We don’t want to be in a position maybe we were in a year ago, where we needed goals and even with [Whelan] only at 50-60 percent, we had to do it. We had to put him on the field.”
In 2016, with Whelan fully healthy and leading the way, the team averaged 1.60 goals per game, good for third in the MAAC. In addition, the team made it all the way to the MAAC Championship, before falling to Rider.
Flash forward to 2017, and it was…well, not the same. Quinnipiac averaged less than a goal per game (0.95), which put them at ninth out of 11 MAAC teams. You can’t say that this was all because of Whelan’s absence, but it sure had an impact.
While it was disappointing, time on the sidelines had its benefits. The changed perspective of the game gave Whelan a new mindset to go into the 2018 season with.
“It was different seeing the games from the sidelines,” Whelan said. “Coming in this year, I realized that how important and how much I liked being on the field. It motivated me, it stunk [being injured], but it motivated me to come in and prepare this year. There was more on mind, like I needed to come in and prove myself again.”
After working hard throughout the offseason, Whelan is back and has wasted no time making his presence felt. In the Bobcats first three games, he has registered four goals already, the only Bobcat to have found the back of the net. In addition, his dominance earned him the MAAC Offensive Player of the Week honors, announced on Sept. 3.
“I’m feeling good out on the field and teammates are getting me the ball,” Whelan said. “Everything’s blending and I think we’re going to do well going forward.”
Not only does he have four goals, but two of those goals have been with under eight minutes remaining in the game, with the Bobcats down and in need of a score. It showcases the kind of player that Quinnipiac has in Whelan.
“In a big moment, when the game is on the line and the team needs a goal, he’s certainly the go-to guy. I think he’s best suited for those moments, late in the game,” Da Costa said.
It’s no coincidence that Da Costa sees the kind of player he has in Whelan. He coached Whelan at the youth level and saw him play in high school for New Fairfield. The knack for scoring late is just one of many talents Da Costa notices in that No. 7 in the blue and gold.
“Eamon is a special player that doesn’t come around too often,” Da Costa said. “He has the things that you can’t really teach a player, the instincts, and his ability to see plays develop before they do. He can calculate his position and see his position two or three passes before the ball actually get there.”
The dynamic of the 2018 team is one that Whelan has not experienced in the past. The team has more depth this year than the previous two, where, according to Da Costa, he “doesn’t have to always be the goal-scorer.”
With Whelan back, there is now a number of options for Da Costa at the forward position. Sophomore Salah Oumorou, a transfer from Albertus Magnus, and senior standout Rashawn Dally are the other two forwards that round out that position.
“It gives us the ability to spread that out a little,” Da Costa said. “We’ve been rotating guys at that forward position. Whelan is definitely one of the key players for that role. This year, we’re able to give him more rest.”
Whelan is not only seeing the difference at his position, but a change in the team that he has not seen in his first two years.
“More last year and a couple years prior, once we conceded one or two goals and we’re down, we kind of bend down on our knees and kind of give up,” Whelan said. “But this year, as you can see from the first three games, we keep battling. You never want to just quit because that’s not who we are as players and that’s not who we are as teammates. Everybody sticks together.”
Those three games include a 2-1 loss to Boston College, a 1-1 tie to UMass Lowell and a 4-2 loss against St. Joseph’s.
Even though the schedule is just getting underway and MAAC play is still to come, Whelan is doing all he can to play his role, in hopes of achieving something he has yet to get in his Quinnipiac career – a bid to the national tournament.
“I think we’re very dynamic, but I also think we’re very integrated,” Whelan said. “Even though everyone has different roles, we all have one goal and that is to get to the NCAA tournament.”