FROM Shanagarry to Oklahoma, soccer star Matthew O’Reilly is set to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer as he leaves for the States this summer.
The 19-year-old former Cork City midfielder recently signed a four-year contract with American college Rogers State University in Tulsa, Oklahoma and he is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I am set to leave in August and I am really looking forward to it,” said O’Reilly.
“I officially signed with my agency Atlantic Scholarships in January for a full four-year scholarship and without them, none of this would be possible and I couldn’t recommend them enough to anyone pursuing a scholarship to the US.
"The two lads Jake and Ben have been unbelievable.”
The former College Corinthians and Midleton player was always driven to play professionally and although England was a route he considered, when the opportunity arose to play in the States, it seemed a lot more appealing.
“To be honest my main focus was to go to England and hopefully make it professional but when this opportunity came about it was hard to turn down knowing I’d have a safety net of a free education while also playing at a very high standard with opportunities to go professional in the States.
"Obviously it will be quite difficult living away from home for the first time especially given the distance but that’s not really phasing me at the moment.
“The college are back-to-back champions of their conference the great American conference and are hoping to win the nationals. The quality of football in this college is quite high as it is a majority international team with players who have played in big academies like Chelsea and Tottenham.
"They play in D2 and I hope to study business."
The area, Tulsa, is home to 400,000 people the college is also very close to the Ozarks.
"While in the States, I’m hoping to accomplish getting a professional contract to a club over there and having a degree at the same time.”
Growing up and having three older brothers, O’Reilly was always competitive for the simple fact of wanting to compete with his brothers and their friends. This certainly stood to him as his toughness on the pitch shows how playing on the streets has benefitted him as a player.
“I grew up in a family with three older brothers so I was constantly playing park football with them and their friends.
"I was always very competitive and practicing so I could compete with them and their mates and through that football just took over my childhood.
"I never went anywhere without my football. My family are originally from Birmingham and we didn’t live far from Villa park so the whole family back through the generations were huge Aston villa fans and football fans in general.
"When I first moved from England I started GAA but soccer was always my main focus and when I got on the Cork Schoolboys team at U12 I quit GAA.”
He played for Cork Schoolboys right up through the ranks until signed for Cork City and it was here he developed hugely as a player.
“I played with Cork Schoolboys teams underage and then eventually signed fully to the Cork City academy when it started at the age of 16. I played for Munster in the inter-pros tournament and then went on to represent Ireland in the centenary shield tournament in 2018.
“I stayed with City until I signed this contract for America.
O’Reilly, who is currently working at Ballymaloe Cookery School was guided in finding the correct university by Atlantic Scholarships. The Sligo-born company is assisting young athletes like O’Reilly to complete their moves to the USA.
The company's Director, Jake Dykes is a former Airtricity League player and has himself played collegiate soccer in the USA.
“Matty has been a pleasure to work with over the last number of months,” said Dykes. "We’ve known about Matty for some time since playing in the centenary shield with Ireland.
"Knowing that he will be joining a winning team that will be fighting for a national title next year gives us great pride.
“Matthew assessed all of his options since completing his Leaving Certificate in 2020 and we believe he has chosen a pathway that will benefit him in many ways.
"Matthew will now enter a full-time soccer environment where there is an emphasis on the student before the athlete.
"This is a massive part of why Atlantic Scholarships was founded, being able to give people like Matty the opportunity to express themselves both academically and athletically overseas gives us a great sense of pride.
“We are working with all NCAA regulated sports.
"If you are interested in pursuing a scholarship to the USA or simply want to hear more information about the collegiate scene, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.atlanticscholarships.ie."