Born in the rainy city of Sligo, Ireland to his parents Catriona and Andy Kerrigan, Michigan State junior midfielder Sean Kerrigan always knew soccer was his path, no matter where he would go.
In Ireland, soccer culture was everywhere and young Sean Kerrigan was always enthralled in anything soccer.
“As a kid, it was all I really cared about," Kerrigan said. "Just watching your local team in your town and watching all the stars on TV that are from Ireland and England. It's always been a dream to play at that level. Growing up in that culture, everyone's mad about it.”
"It's the highest level you can play at home," Kerrigan said.
After four years in the Sligo Rovers academy, Kerrigan went on to play one season with the Finn Harps FC Under 19s.
When it came time to decide how to continue his soccer career, it was a relatively easy decision for Kerrigan to take the collegiate path — a less traditional approach for European talent like his brother Liam Kerrigan, who currently plays for the Italian second division side Como 1907 in the Serie B.
“It was actually a really quick decision for me, seeing a lot of my friends go into the pro setup at home," Sean Kerrigan said. "It's really cool, the perks of a pro, but they weren’t really playing that much. It’s a risk, you know ... You're not playing that much and not going to school; you have nothing to really fall back on.”
Currently studying business, Kerrigan's plan was always to get a college degree.
“My idea was to come here to play soccer, have my college (education), and then I can really try to go pro after and fall back on my school if I need it," Kerrigan said. "Because I’ll have a degree wrapped up, so that was my thought process behind it.”
Before playing at MSU, Kerrigan spent his underclassmen years as a player on Mercyhurst Lakers, a Division II team, in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Heading to unfamiliar territory with little film, Kerrigan knew he just needed to play and prove himself.
“I got in contact with a family friend of ours, and he had an agency that put me in contact with a couple schools," Kerrigan said. "He said the best thing to do was to go D2, prove myself in the American culture, and go from there.”
In his two years at Mercyhurst University, Kerrigan amassed a record of 25 goals and 11 assists in 37 matches, averaging a goal contribution every 57 minutes. Kerrigan also secured four match winning goals, a facet of his game that he brought with him to MSU. Kerrigan has already secured two match winners against the University of Dayton and the University of Notre Dame.
“The standout moment for me was scoring away at Notre Dame, who were ranked tenth in the country," Kerrigan said. "Game winning goal 1-0 — doesn't get better."
Although it seemed that Kerrigan appeared out of nowhere to now a marquee player for the men’s squad this season, his path at MSU wasn’t as linear as it seems. Kerrigan spent the previous spring semester with an injury.
“It was tough in the spring being injured," Kerrigan said. "It was harder to get close to the lads because I hadn’t proved myself on the pitch. So, I didn’t want to be someone talking a lot in the dressing room, you know. I didn't earn the right to do that."
With the Spartans off to a red-hot and undefeated start, the team has big goals for this season.
“We set a goal as a team to win the Big Ten," Kerrigan said. "If we do that, I couldn’t care less about myself.'
Kerrigan holds his teammates in high regard, calling them the “hardest working team” he's played for in a long time.
“I think that's what makes us so hard to beat; it's that we work so hard,” Kerrigan said.
The Irishman noted how important his teammates are to him, especially being so far from home.
“If I was coming to college without playing for a team, it would be really hard, and I'd be really homesick," Kerrigan said. "But when you go into a team, you kinda make friends right away and they become your family. There's days when the game ends, and all the players go and see their family after the match and you don't see yours — and that's tough, but that's something you have to get over.”
But amidst homesickness, Kerrigan emphasizes the teammates' bond tying him here at MSU.
“I think the biggest thing with this sport is the people you meet," Kerrigan said. "For me, I don’t know what friends I would have made in my life if it weren't for this sport.”