TUCKED away in south inner city Dublin, midfielder Adam O’Reilly is slowly making a name for himself with St Patrick’s Athletic.
The 21-year-old, who is on loan from Preston North End, is one of the Saints stand out players in 2022.
This season he has faced some of the best teams in Irish football, including Shamrock Rovers in the Presidents Cup, and this month he will play in the Europa Conference League with St Pats.
The Saints will either play opposition from Moldova or Slovenia in the second qualifying round, and the team will travel to the continent under a sea of expectation after winning last season’s FAI Cup.
O’Reilly is using the pressure to learn how to compete before he goes back to Preston on July 31st.
“It’s my first experience of senior football where it is at a good level,” he said.
“When I first came over, I didn’t realise how good this league was going to be.
“If you think about it, there are a lot of players who went to England and came back here. Like myself now. It is a really good league and I’m gaining a lot of experience from it.” Europe will be an important milestone in O’Reilly’s career, which began in 2016 when he joined Preston after impressing on a trial.
He immediately started playing academy football and within weeks of making the move to Deepdale, the midfielder was getting noticed.
During O’Reilly’s first full season with Preston’s academy, he featured on a team that reached the Lancashire FA Youth Cup final. He was then named in the team of the season and won Preston's Scholar of the Year award The next step for the midfielder’s development was to experience senior football. His assignment was a loan spell with Hyde United and O’Reilly scored one goal in four appearances. He continued his tour of the lower leagues in England by spending time with Stalybridge Celtic and Bamber Bridge.
O’Reilly is more than appreciative of his tour of duty and his next task is playing European football with St Pats.
The midfielder is determined to savour the adventure while driving the club on in the competition.
“I’m excited, not many people can say they have played in Europe,” he said.
“It’ll be a good experience but at the end of the day we’re over there to do a job. We want to go as far as we can in that competition. So I think that me and the boys are just really excited for it now.” This is O’Reilly’s second time playing in the League of Ireland. Last year he spent some time on loan at Waterford FC, who were playing in the Premier Division at the time.
Republic of Ireland and Everton legend Kevin Sheedy took the young midfielder under his wing at the Blues and they worked together for two months.
It was a helter skelter time in the south-east as Waterford battled COVID issues and relegation. O’Reilly could not be faulted for the team’s results as he was repeatedly the team’s stand out player during a difficult time. He was their engine in the middle of the pitch, and fans were gutted when he returned to Preston.
Twelve months on, O’Reilly is in a totally different environment at St Pats and he doesn’t like to compare his two League of Ireland clubs.
“They are two different teams with two different set ups,” he explained.
“At Waterford it was about getting more experience. Now, at St Pats, it is about getting more experience but pushing forward in my career. I’m really enjoying it here and things are starting to come for me.” O’Reilly’s loan spell at St Pats will expire on July 31st and he will return to Deepdale where he will be coached by Ryan Lowe.
The new coach, who took over in December 2021, made sure that Preston had a strong finish to the season by pushing them up to thirteenth in the EFL Championship.
While the fans are now dreaming of a play-offs push, O’Reilly is fully focused on St Pats and competing for them domestically and in Europe.
“I still speak to all the boys,” he explained, “But when I’m here, it is all about concentrating on here. I think about the relationships I have here, they are building every day. I’m really enjoying it here with the boys.
“When I first came in, they welcomed me in straight away. I’m just loving it here at the moment.” Whatever the future holds, O’Reilly will always have an eye on his boyhood club back in Cork, Ringmahon Rangers.
They first taught him how to kick a ball and they made him a star in the Cork Schoolboy Leagues.
He rose through their underage teams alongside a number of future stars like AC Milan’s Cathal Heffernan, Liverpool’s Caoimhín Kelleher, and Preston’s Alan Browne.
“I think Ringmahon is a very good club and there is a lot of boys coming through now who are getting noticed a lot more,” he said.
“I think a few years back it might have been harder because people didn’t really watch the Irish leagues. You can see the boys coming through now and they are all doing well. Just look at Caoimhin (Kelleher) and Alan Browne. I love Ringmahon to bits and I think it is really good.”