Carlton Ubaezuonu is a 22-year-old winger who plays for Galway United in the League of Ireland First Division. He is from Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo.
Carlton discussed how he went from playing youth football in the Roscommon with Lough Harps to League of Ireland first team player.
However, it has not been an easy ride for Carlton, as he detailed his own experience with racist abuse growing up in sport.
“As a young lad I experienced racism, but it was an isolated incident, it happened in a GAA match when I was 15. Me and my marker collided in a tackle, he called me a certain name and I reacted very aggressively because it was so shocking, I was so angry,” said Carlton.
“A teammate of mine heard it as well so it was dealt with, the whole game was stopped, and the guy was sent off. I was told at the time he was given a suspension by his club but I’m not sure if he was, it was a long time ago, but he was sent off at the time and that was enough for me, that he was off the field”.
“Don’t get me wrong, racism isn’t a GAA thing, or a soccer thing, it’s a people problem”.
Despite this terrible event, it has remained as he said himself, an isolated incident in the Mayo man’s young career.
“In all my time as a League of Ireland player I’ve never experienced racism and I haven’t heard anything about it from teammates either, it has never been an issue” said Carlton.
Carlton’s first break into Ireland’s topflight came under current Ireland manager Stephen Kenny in his time in charge of Dundalk.
“Stephen was brilliant, he had done great with work with the wingers in the first team and they have gone on to have great careers. I was incredibly lucky to get that experience with him because he taught me so much about football” said Carlton.
One of the wingers being referred to is Galway man Daryl Horgan. Horgan played under Stephen Kenny at Dundalk and the winger now plays for Wycombe Wanderers in the English Championship.
“He was always encouraging but he is extremely direct about what he wanted and expected of you, but I prefer that in a manager” said Carlton.
“Off the pitch, he would notice if you were struggling or if you needed a chat, he always asked about your family and about things outside of football, he’s a really caring person in that sense”.
Following the first year of his professional contract with Dundalk, Carlton wanted to seek out regular first team football by going out on loan. That opportunity arose while on duty with Dundalk Institute of Technology.
“I played a college game for DkIT in Galway and the manager happened to be at it and he contacted the club from there and that’s how the move came about” said Carlton.
Carlton now plays under John Caulfied at Eamonn Deacy Park. He has not looked back since his initial loan move in 2018 that brought him back to the west of Ireland.
“I enjoyed my first spell on loan here, played decent for the season and then last year I moved here permanently after that” said Carlton.
“It’s been great, it was an easy decision to sign because I love the city. On the playing side of things, the management team and the players are all excellent and it’s a brilliant atmosphere to be a part of”.
“Pre-season has been really strong, and we are looking to really kick on this year and get promoted up to the top division”.
Carlton and the entire Galway United squad now look ahead to their first league game of the new season on 26th March against recently relegated Shelbourne.