TWO Cork lads who are on soccer scholarships in America are returning home for the Christmas period.
They have enjoyed their experience Stateside and would recommend it to youngsters wishing to develop their game.
Keelin Foley and Matty O’Reilly are hoping to push on further in the coming months.
“I’ve been out in America since August 2020 at Rogers state college in Tulsa Oklahoma and I am loving it,” said O’Reilly.
The striker made the move at the age of 19 and while he has a few years left in his scholarship is already planning on being in the States beyond that.
"I’ve got three more years on my scholarship and my plan then is to hopefully coach out here in America. I would definitely recommend going to the states if you are a young footballer in Cork because not only does it help you on the pitch but it also gives you loads of opportunities you wouldn’t have even considered when you put yourself in a different environment.
"It will be a fantastic opportunity to be here during the time of the World Cup in four years.
“Life in the States is busy but the school and the facilities help you keep it all together. I live with three of my teammates in an apartment. In my spare time I go to downtown Tulsa and often visit other states when we get the chance.
“Our team is a mixture of many different nationalities and players from everywhere around the world but the most common is English. I am a regular in the starting 11, playing in the 10 or on the wing so I am happy out."
Keelin Foley was also a youngster when he set off for the States and with five years down he will move into coaching.
"I can no longer play for the college. I’ve had a fantastic time here in the States on and off the pitch and now I hope 2023 will give me more opportunities as I hope to work in marketing, along with perusing my coaching ambition.
“I just finished playing for Louisiana State University in Alexandria, which is an NAIA program. I studied international business and marketing. As a team, we have won one championship title and we went to the National Tournament once, and individually, I have won two All-Conference Team of the Year awards.
“2022 has been a good year. We got a new head coach at the start of the year which was a big change, but he did a fantastic job. We qualified for the playoffs and made it to the semi-final. In the end, we were unlucky by losing out to a last-minute goal. Overall there were a lot of positives to take from the year and Im sure I have learned a lot that I will carry forward in life."
The former Ballincollig centre-back loves across the Atlantic.
“I live in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is close to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which are two famous Louisiana cities.
“My brother Ryan Hogan currently runs an agency called PlaySport Agency. He took care of everything for me by making a highlight video and contacting college coaches in America. I came to Louisiana on my own, but I settled in really quickly and made friends. I didn’t think America would actually be as crazy as it’s made out to be in movies, but it really is. Big cities, massive sporting events and warm weather are just some of the exciting parts.
“Captaining the team was a huge honour for me but it was also challenging and rewarding. Being captain makes losing so much worse, but when you win it’s an extremely proud moment. My job as captain was made a lot easier by working with a great group of lads.
“I played soccer with Ballincollig AFC for most of my life. I also spent a few great years with Lakewood AFC. The highlights of my underage career included achieving promotion to the Premier Division with Lakewood, winning two cups with Ballincollig, and being selected for the Cork Youth team. I also played GAA with Ballincollig all my life which I loved.
"It has helped in the States having three Irish men involved in the squad, a professor, coach and player but nothing beats being amongst family and friends.”