ROY O’Donovan produced one of the most spectacular debuts in Newcastle history – against none other than his former team and the Jets arch enemy – but the firebrand Irishman is adamant the best is yet to come.
In a performance he “couldn’t imagine” in the lead up to the A-League opener, O’Donovan scored three goals in 38 minutes to power the Jets to a 5-1 demolition over the Central Coast Mariners in a pulsating F3 derby in Gosford on Saturday.
O’Donovan, who defected from the Mariners this season, is the first player to score a hat-trick on debut for the club and fourth overall.
The win was the biggest in an F3 derby and only the third time the Jets have scored five goals in a game.
Although happy to make a “statement” and “put your flag in the sand” O’Donovan warned the Jets needed to “back it up”.
“It is all well and good getting one great result in a blue moon, but we need to back it up,” the 32-year-old said. “We need to back it up when Perth Glory come to town, when Sydney come to town, when Melbourne City come to town … that was a great start and something to build on, but it’s not the end product.”
Coach Ernie Merrick was also cautious of “getting carried away”.
“To win 5-1 in the opening match of the season away from home after going down a goal was just an outstanding performance and I sign of the character of the team,” Merrick said. “But on reflection of the game, a don’t think the 5-1 scoreline was a fair refection. We didn’t get going until 25 minutes of the game. We are not going to get carried away with it. It was a good start, a good performance for two-thirds of the match. Training will be as normal this week. But it is satisfying to know that all the work we have done with our strikers has paid off at least for this game.”
O’Donovan scored four goals in a game during the pre-season but Saturday was his first “proper hat-trick” since he played for Brunei in the Singapore League.
“They are always nice, always special,” he said. “The game ball [for the hat-trick] will certainly go on the mantelpiece.”
Andrew Nabbout delivered the pass for two of O’Donovan’s goals and was a constant threat. Replacement Joe Champness and winger Dimi Petratos also marked their Jets debut with goals.
“Andrew was terrific, his pace, his power,” O’Donovan said. “I won;t say we are perfect with combinations, but things clicked very well today. We are probably at about 75 per cent of where we want to be. That is exciting me.”
More than 2000 Jets supporters made the trip to the Central Coast to help swell the crowd to 12,044 and O’Donovan “can’t wait” for the opening home game against Perth on Sunday.
“When I first came up to Newcastle, I could sense it was a real sporting capital,” he said. “They just want a little bit of success. It is similar to where I’m from, Cork. A little bit of success and people really buy into the dream. There are reasons to buy into things and start coming to the games.”