The 1% Podcast

Karl Sheppard


  • 01

    Karl Sheppard

    The Triumphs and Challenges of Building a Professional Football Career


Our guest today has a footballing life story that may be familiar in some senses and unique in others. His passage through the various tiers of the UK footballing world can tell us a lot about the pressures and dynamics on players during their short sporting career.


He has tasted ambition, excitement, dejection and success across both sides of the Irish Sea. This wide range of experience has left him with great insight into the beautiful game and in high performance, with some wisdom on the trials and tribulations of professional sport.


Joining us today is League of Ireland and Football Association of Ireland Cup Winner, Europa League goalscorer – and now gracefully retired footballer – Karl Sheppard.


Tune as we reflect over his sporting career, and discuss dealing with homesickness, working with great managers, transitioning into retirement and dealing with team tensions.


Show Summary


6:09 Growing up playing football in Portmarnock

  • Playing for both the Soccer Club and the GAA Club
  • He always had the internal drive to be a professional football player
  • At age 14, The Kennedy Cup helped showcase his talent to the community


8:34 Getting scouted

  • His coach had contacts with Everton
  • Playing for your country at a young age gives you a big platform
  • He driven by his focus to get in to the UK – he ended up with a choice between Everton and Portsmouth
  • On choosing Everton because it provided the best training


10:55 Being a striker

  • He’s always been a striker or a winger
  • “There’s no better feeling than scoring a goal”
  • The art of regaining confidence as an elite striker


13:20 The greatest challenges for Karl when moving to the UK

  • Moving away from home aged 16 was difficult to adjust without family
  • It hindered his performance at first: “I was a shell of myself”
  • “If you’re unhappy off the pitch, it shows it on the pitch”
  • The benefit today is that there is more awareness about mental health and emotional wellbeing compared to ten years ago


20:31 What young players need in a coach

  • It’s about development, not the results of the match
  • Have a culture of enjoyment as opposed to fear
  • Ensure everyone gets equal access to good quality training


25:15 Large-club academies far away from home versus small-club academies nearby: which is most important for developing young players?

  • Nowadays there are much better underage structures in Ireland
  • On what the large-club academies don’t tell you when you move away from home
  • Consider the mental and emotional factors when moving
  • Jason Donohoe’s view on there being more consistent systems across the board today


31:15 Transitioning back to Ireland

  • Having Sean Connor as a manager
  • People being confident in your performance


32:50 The impact of cash flow problems on players

  • The pressure isn’t so high when you’re young
  • Money problems snowball
  • Moving to Shamrock Rovers for an extra £50


37:10 Playing for Shamrock Rovers when they were the first side to qualify for the Europa League

  • Releasing pent up anger on the pitch after recovering from a heart operation and experiencing Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • “When you play in Europe you get extra eyes on you”
  • It lead to his transfer to Europe


47:30 Becoming accustomed to Premier League money

  • Homesickness drives you to buy material comforts
  • “When I was with Reading, I had the most money I ever earned, but it was the lowest I ever had in my bank account”


52:05 Playing with household names

  • Jack Rodwell, Andy Stevens, Sean Maguire
  • “Players at the Premier League level are unbelievably talented, but it’s the small details that set them apart from other players”


56:02 Moving back to Ireland after Reading and Accrington

  • Feeling embarrassed and disappointed in himself
  • Taking time to regain confidence
  • Seeking new challenges


59:52 The level of training and high performance compared to a leading English club at that time

  • Gym training, diet and analysis needed to be better during his first year with Cork
  • John Caulfield reviewed their strategy


1:02:21 Big influences from the Cork team

  • The players who were 100% dedicated to their training
  • He is still great friends with players from the team
  • “When you click with your teammates, you play confidently”


1:10:22 John Caufield leaving the club in 2019

  • Looking back, he was his own worst enemy


1:12:53 Karl’s experience of retiring from his career because of the arthritis diagnosis

  • Experiencing excruciating back pain aged 27 and his physio gave him the diagnosis
  • The job demands 100% training, which is damaging to the injury


1:16:38 Transitioning into retirement from an elite career

  • Karl still had fire in his belly to express himself through other ways, e.g. business and podcasting
  • It’s important to be driven outside of sport too


1:23:18 Lessons Karl takes from the sporting world into the business world

  • Embrace rejection
  • “Your attitude is what’s going to take you to places”


Karl’s latest business venture: