'When young players sign for clubs in England the hard work is only beginning'

Kieran O'Reilly explains to Graham Cummins the challenges talented teenagers face trying to make their mark cross channel
'When young players sign for clubs in England the hard work is only beginning'

Kieran O'Reilly, Ringmahon Rangers. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

BEING a parent is the most wonderful experience in the world.

Your children can make you so proud by doing the littlest thing. Parents encourage their children to be the very best and if children do achieve their dreams, that must be rewarding for a parent.

Adam O’Reilly recently signed for Waterford on loan from Preston North End and his father Kieran O’Reilly (former Cobh Ramblers’ player and current Ringmahon Rangers’ manager) knows that, although he has been proud to see his son’s career progress, being the father of professional football can also be very tough.

“Lots of parents look from the outside and think having a son as a footballer in England means that everything is all rosy in the garden but that’s not always the case,” O’Reilly said.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Adam has achieved but there have been times, as a parent, it’s been difficult seeing how football can influence him.

A lot of parents think that by their child signing a contract to become a professional footballer that the hard work is done, the hard work only begins when you go over to the UK.

“I’ve been back and forth with Adam to England since he was only 12, and like every parent, I was a bit naïve. I got caught up straight away in what clubs were telling us and how great things are going to be, without asking, how difficult football can be for a player as well?

“It’s difficult for players moving from Ireland at such a young age and perhaps with Brexit coming in, meaning players from Ireland can’t go to the UK until they are 18, it might be a blessing in disguise.

“It allows players to develop more in Ireland, get their education done, and then move.

Adam O'Reilly in 2014 when he was playing for Ringmahon Rangers U14s, with his father Kieran. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Adam O'Reilly in 2014 when he was playing for Ringmahon Rangers U14s, with his father Kieran. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“My advice for parents whose child has interest from clubs in the UK, is talk to other parents who were in a similar situation and don’t be afraid to ask the clubs questions as well rather than just listen to what they have to say.

“I’m only too happy to give advice to other parents when they talk to me about their son going to the UK.

“I think the toughest time for me as a parent, is when Adam feels he is doing everything he can to make the breakthrough, but he just hasn’t got his opportunity yet.

“It’s been difficult for the manager (Alex Neil) to give Adam a chance because Preston have been pushing for promotion for the past three seasons and it’s harder for a manager to give a younger player a chance when they are in that sort of position as opposed to a club that doesn’t have much to play for.


“I spoke to Adam before his move to Waterford and part of him felt that he wanted to stay and fight for his place at Preston because he felt ready to play but for me looking from the outside, I thought it would be better him going out on loan getting game time rather than being on the bench.

“That way he will going back into preseason with Preston in the summer having made 10 to 15 appearances in League of Ireland rather than perhaps get some minutes in the Championship.

“Adam was hesitant at first, but he and I know, that there is a future for him at Preston, otherwise they wouldn’t have given him a new contract last year, and that the best thing for him was to come back to Ireland, play games, and get his confidence back.”

Looking forward to the League of Ireland season, O'Reilly believes that Cork City and Cobh Ramblers are right to be recruiting players from the Munster Senior League. The only surprise from his perspective is they haven't been doing it sooner.

“I watch League of Ireland games and seen firsthand the players in the MSL. There is a difference between the leagues and I always hear people talk about how this guy playing in the MSL is better than most League of Ireland players. I do think the players that City and Cobh have recruited are good enough and there are certainly a few others in the MSL good enough as well.

“It’s probably because of the finances that City and Cobh are recruiting from the MSL but Dublin clubs have been doing it for years with the Leinster Senior League. 

If you look at Cork clubs’ recent record in the Intermediate Cup, I’m shocked it’s taken City and Cobh so long to take more players from the league.

“From a manager’s point of view, I lost Anthony O’Donnell and Darren Murphy to Treaty United and Cobh.

“We don’t want to be losing our best players but how can I tell a player not to go play League of Ireland when there is no guarantee that our league will return. The First Division is going to be very competitive this year and it’s going to be a battle.

“I envision both Cobh and City to have good seasons.

“Cobh will be a dark horse for the title, but I expect them to at least make the playoffs and with Colin Healy in charge, City have a great chance of going straight back up.”

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