skip navigation

How Aaron Molloy’s soccer heritage paved his path to success

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 02/23/24, 3:05PM EST


Son of a former professional, the Irish midfielder is among the most influential on-field figures in the USL Championship

The Charleston Battery added midfielder Aaron Molloy this offseason, bringing one of the most influential midfielders in the USL Championship to the defending Eastern Conference title holders. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

There was almost an inevitability that Aaron Molloy would be a soccer player.

After all, it’s the environment and life that he grew up in.

“I was always in the locker room with my dad at pro games. I’d be sitting in the corner with my jacket on and listening to the manager give a team talk, those type of things,” said Molloy recently. “So, ever since I remember, that was always something I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to be in the locker room, getting ready for that night’s game, just that special feeling you get as a kid. I kind of got that from my dad, which was great.”

Trevor Molloy was a well-traveled forward who competed in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland during his career. It was in his native Ireland he featured most prominently, becoming one of the few players to appear for all four of Dublin’s major clubs – Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, Shelbourne and St. Patrick’s Athletic.

A young father when Aaron was born, Trevor had a different style as a player to his son.

“He played as a No. 10, striker, winger,” said Molloy. “He’s a little bit more skillful, sharper, I’m more of a central midfielder that looks to be around where the ball is, pretty busy, but he was a show-boater, for sure.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Aaron’s formative years were spent with a ball at his feet. He was a keen all-around sportsman, in fact – in addition to soccer he also played for his school at Gaelic Football, one of Ireland’s traditional sports – but when he wasn’t in the classroom the games of pick-up soccer in his neighborhood in Dublin filled the hours.

“It was definitely a working-class area,” said Molloy. “I grew up in a thing called The Flats, where it’s just like some of the projects that you see in New York. There was a football pitch, playgrounds, and kind of all we had was each other. We had a lot of guys just looking to play football, it was the only thing that kind of got us through the day, kicking the ball around until the sun went down.

“Once one person got a new football, it was like Christmas all over because all of us went out to the pitch. It definitely helped, playing street football growing up, it was really tight spaces, there could be broken glass on the ground, we’d have to put our hoodies down for goals, but we wouldn't have it any other way.”

“Once one person got a new football, it was like Christmas all over because all of us went out to the pitch. It definitely helped, playing street football growing up, it was really tight spaces, there could be broken glass on the ground, we’d have to put our hoodies down for goals, but we wouldn't have it any other way.”

Those hours of playing in the neighborhood combined with following his father’s career played a major role in the player Molloy is today. Crossing the pond to compete at Penn State University and at Reading United AC in USL League Two after completing his high school education, his close control and ability to manipulate games from the center of the field quickly became apparent. After a season with the Portland Timbers 2 in the Championship during the abbreviated 2020 campaign, he joined Forward Madison FC the following season in USL League One and immediately flourished, earning League One Player of the Year nomination as he starred for the Flamingos.

Aaron Molloy was nominated as a finalist for USL League One's Player of the Year award in 2021 before joining Memphis 901 FC in the USL Championship. | Photo courtesy Justin Nuoffer / Forward Madison FC

Memphis 901 FC quickly came calling, paying Molloy’s release clause to acquire him via transfer as Head Coach Ben Pirmann looked for players who could raise the level of his squad in 2022. In Molloy, he found a centerpiece to build around.

“His technical ability, his soccer awareness, he’s just a very good football player,” said Pirmann. “He’s constantly making an impact. He keeps ball-centric defensively, he hunts the ball well in transition, he’s got very good anticipation skills, so he impacts all four phases of the game and then obviously restarts as well. He’s a very big focal point. So as much as anything, it’s his ability to constantly be affecting the play and not just be affecting the play, but being someone who thrives in those situations.”

With Molloy among the key leaders, Memphis surged to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference in his first season at the club. He himself was nominated for the Championship’s Player of the Year award, a rare accolade for a player whose position rarely features in such things. This past season saw a second consecutive selection to the USL Championship’s All-League First Team with Molloy’s play making him among the most respected players around the league.

“Honestly, it feels great, it really does,” said Molloy of the renown he’s held in. “And obviously, for me, it comes as something of a surprise. I just tried to be myself and just try to be a competitor and try and win. Honestly, it’s a great feeling when the players themselves have said nice things about me. It definitely helps me hold myself to high standards going into a game on the weekend.”

Over two seasons in Memphis, Aaron Molloy earned two USL Championship All-League First Team selections and was a finalist for the league's Player of the Year award in 2022. | Photo courtesy L. Ross / Memphis 901 FC

If there’s one regret Molloy has over the past two seasons, it’s that Memphis wasn’t able to capitalize on its regular season success in the postseason. In 2022, he had a penalty saved by the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Phil Breno in second-half stoppage time that could have decided the Eastern Conference Semifinal between the sides, only to see Leo Fernandes convert his own spot kick moments later to send the Rowdies through.

This past season, Molloy scored from the spot as Memphis hosted Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals but the side was still eliminated 5-4 in a penalty shootout for another disappointing end to the campaign.

“It definitely hurt,” said Molloy. “I think the two years I was at Memphis we had two very, very strong teams. And I know in ‘22 with the [penalty kick] it was a little bit on myself and I still remember it. It kind of made me into a better player, made me think about a lot of things, and actually it kind of builds character. Obviously, 2023, it was against a really good Louisville team. And it just is what it is, hard to lose, but again they’re all learning experiences for myself as a player that I’m excited to learn and grow from.”

Molloy is now reunited with Pirmann at the Charleston Battery, where the latter led a massive turnaround in the past campaign on the way to winning the Eastern Conference title and coming minutes from claiming the USL Championship title before their own penalty shootout disappointment against Phoenix Rising FC. It’s a reunion that both are looking forward to, given the respect each has for the other and the ambition the Battery have to prove last year was the start of run of sustained success.

It also gives Pirmann a player whose competitive drive can drive the Battery to new heights. He tells a story from early in Molloy’s time in Memphis when the side was set to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies and another of the league’s top central midfielders in Lewis Hilton that helped Molloy establish himself as one of the Championship’s best.

Charleston Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann and Aaron Molloy will be reunited at Patriots Point this season after Molloy's move from Memphis in the offseason. | Photo courtesy Michael Wiser / Charleston Battery

“I was going over a scouting report, and I was like, ‘yeah, Tampa has this midfielder, he’s probably the best midfielder in the league. His name is Lewis Hilton, and if you guys want to know what type of player he is, he’s basically Aaron Malloy. He’s just better,’” said Pirmann. “It pissed him off so much that the rest of the week he wouldn’t look at me.

“We went out, we scored off the kickoff like 20 seconds in, and then Lewis Hilton put one in the top corner two minutes later, but Aaron was the best player on the field, by a mile. … You could just tell, he was like, ‘ain’t nobody better than me.’ If Lewis Hilton is better than Aaron Molloy, which he very well could be, Aaron was like, ‘on the day, I’m going to make sure that we win the game and everybody’s saying we're the better team.’”

As driven as Molloy is to succeed on the field, away from it he’s far more laid back. He and his wife recently welcomed a puppy to the family – “He’s a long-haired mini dachshund and he runs the show, he’s king of the house,” said Molloy – and at the Battery he’s already found an affinity for his new teammates as well as the familiar faces that have also reunited with Pirmann from Memphis.

With the Battery’s success in the past campaign providing motivation for everyone in the locker room, the expectations are high for the side as it approaches its opening game, a renewal of the Southern Derby against North Carolina FC on March 9.

Aaron Molloy is set to be a key figure in the Charleston Battery's drive for a fifth league title in club history during the 2024 USL Championship season. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

For Molloy, as well, there’s the aspiration to start emulating his father as well.

“Whenever we talk about football and we have a disagreement, he always tells me to put the medals on the table,” said Molloy, with Trevor having won three League of Ireland titles and an FAI Cup. “Unfortunately for myself, I don’t have too many medals compared to him.”

After the Battery’s near-miss a season ago, Molloy is ready to provide the impetus for a fifth league title at one of the country’s most historic clubs.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “No doubt about what I want, to come here and win a championship and do whatever I can personally to help the team, whether that’s on the pitch, off the pitch, anything. It would mean the world to me, I know it means the world to the players, the coaches, the ownership, the fans, the community.

“There’s just a real sense of togetherness within the club right now with the season they had last year. It’s a great culture, everything just seems to be all pulling in the same direction. So hopefully we can all do it together.”

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos