By James O'Connor
As the world gears up for FIFA 19 to hit the shelves on September 29th, Conran ‘Rannerz’ Tobin and Roma will begin their season.
Limerick man Tobin is Ireland’s best pro FIFA player and member of the AS Roma eSports team that will travel the world this season defending their Gfinity title, an incredible feat for a man who was playing tournaments with his friends only a year ago.
“It was when I was playing casually and beating all my friends with ease that first illustrated my talent and then I started playing online where it was no different, I sailed up to division one.
“Now with Roma, it’s different. There is scheduled training, streaming, media and even gym time all planned out to keep us focused.”
The 21-year-old made a name for himself last Summer. After finishing in the top 32 in the FUT Champions Cup in Barcelona, ‘Ranners’ was drafted in by RomaFnatic for the Gfinity Elite Series.
After some impressive performances throughout the tournament, he went on to beat UNILAD in his leg of the final in London, which also earned him a place in the Global Series Playoffs in Amsterdam. At that level, the ‘enjoyable hobby’ element of FIFA is soon forgotten.
“There’s such a huge amount of learning that needs to be done from tactics to formations, choosing the right players, the right passes, when to shoot, what type of shot to do and the list goes on and on. Most of this is done by trial and error and is very time-consuming.
“When you’re working tirelessly to become the best it (FIFA) is far from relaxing but it comes with a huge amount of satisfaction when all the hard work pays off, whether that’s qualifying for an event or winning a trophy.”
Some dismiss gaming as an addiction, but it is a career for the Limerick man.
After earning €13,500 during the summer, Tobin has taken an academic gap year from University of Limerick to move to London, where his team are based, a sacrifice he thought necessary to become the best.
“As with anything, sacrifices were made and it did affect my college work. As for addiction, I think it was more of a passion than addiction. You would never call somebody practising football all day addicted so why should it be different when pursuing a career in esports?
“I’ve no real specific goals, it’s just to finish as high as I can in every tournament I play in. But hopefully, I can compete at this top level for a good few years and then proceed to a career in management afterwards.”
Now, with a new generation of egamers about to enter the FIFA 19 world, Tobin, who uses the 4-2-3-1 formation, is not worried that his position is in jeopardy.
“I can’t wait for FIFA 19 and all the new challenges and tournaments that will come with it.
“I mean it’s similar to football in that respect, the young players like Mbappe are always coming along but the top players, the likes of the Drogbas and Suarezs, stay at that level for years.
"You don’t suddenly lose their place just because a young talent comes along.”