JOINING the League of Ireland for the first time, 19-year-old Adam O’Reilly returns from England on loan with Waterford.
Having progressed through the academy of local side Ringmahon Rangers, where he played under the management of his father Kieran, O’Reilly signed for Preston North End in December 2016 after successfully trialing with the club.
During his first full season with the club’s academy, he helped his side reach the Lancashire FA Youth Cup final, was named in the team of the season and won Preston’s Scholar of the Year award. The highlight of the season came in February 2018 when he was named on the substitute’s bench for the first team’s Championship match against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He then featured on the bench again in a league encounter against Aston Villa. He made his debut in the final minutes of the match, coming on as a substitute for Graham Burke. In doing so, he became the 20th-youngest player ever to represent the club. The following month, he signed his first professional contract with Preston.
It’s been a frustrating time for O’Reilly though as although he feels he is good enough to be playing first-team football with Preston, he has struggled to get into the squad and having experienced been out on loan with Hyde United and Stalybridge Celtic, he now knows how beneficial his move to Waterford could be.
“Coming to Waterford will hopefully give me more experience and game time that I need”, said O’Reilly.
“I spoke to my manager Alex Neill with regards to his plans for me for the season and it was agreed that going out on loan to gain experience would be my best option. I then spoke to my agent and that’s when the idea of Waterford came about.
“I spoke with Waterford and they really sold the club to me in terms of what they were willing to provide me with. So I felt after a few discussions, Waterford would be the best move for me.”
Having only trained with Waterford last week for the first time, O’Reilly is delighted to get back on the pitch and he is confident that there is a quality side put in place, in which he hopes to play a huge part in.
“It was great to meet up with the squad and get on the pitch. I have already played with Graham Burke and Kevin O’Connor, two top players who spent time in England, and this was another incentive for me to sign for Waterford as they seem to have signed top quality players so I know it will be of high quality and standard.
“They have also signed players from Cardiff and Swansea which shows the calibre of the talent in the squad. It will be great to be back playing competitively. Obviously while away for the past number of years I wouldn’t have got to watch so many games in the League of Ireland however I always kept up to date with Cork City’s progress.
“It was tough to see them go down but I hope they can get back up to the top tier again soon enough. I have no doubt the First Division will be a tough test also with some really good sides who have really developed their squads over the years.
“I am really looking forward to getting started. There is a really good buzz and atmosphere in the squad and everyone is on the same page wanting to do well for the club. There is good quality which makes the training sessions really competitive and that can only be on benefit to us all as players.”
His main aim is to get game-time and show his undoubted ability.
“I know there are no guarantees in football however I am confident that I can be a key player week in a week for Waterford. This is my aim as I want to help the side do well but my ultimate aim is to get back playing in England, and in order to do so, I need to gain as much game time as possible.
“I want to be playing every week. This is what I missed while been in Preston.
"It’s frustrating when you feel you could be playing and at one point I went nearly six months without a competitive game. That was really tough.
I want to be playing and enjoying myself and there certainly was no enjoyment when I wasn’t playing competitive football.
“Our first game is away to Drogheda and I am really looking forward to it. This will be my first year playing League of Ireland football as I signed for Preston while playing for Ringmahon. It’s a new challenge for me but one in which I am really looking forward to.
“It’s great being back at home also. I really missed my family and friends. Since I’ve been away I have become very independent as a person which has made me mature a lot and I think this will help playing my first year at League of Ireland level. I cannot wait for the season to begin.”