AS soon as the announcement was made Mark O’Mahony officially joined a prestigious list of winners which includes Declan Rice, Jack Grealish, and fellow Cork native Adam Idah.
But O’Mahony is the second current Cork City player to have been named the FAI’s U17 Men’s International Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of Aaron Bolger who lifted the award in 2017.
And his current teammate was one of the first people to get in touch with him, knowing how big an achievement it is.
“Aaron texted me on Instagram after it got announced to be fair to him,” O’Mahony told the Echo.
It’s unreal to be a part of a list like that, it’s what every kid my age would want to try to achieve.
“But it doesn’t just get gifted to you either, it’s hard work to get there but when you receive these awards all the hard work is completely worth it. If you had told me that after playing one year of international football that I would have these stats and awards I probably would have laughed at you.
“It was an amazing feeling, to be honest, it wasn’t one I was expecting at the time.
“It took me a couple of days to realise how big it really was and to let it settle in but yeah I am over the moon with it.”
While it may have come as a surprise to the talented young forward, his 14 goals in just 16 international appearances across the U17s, U18s, and U19s, whom he scored a hat-trick for against Gibraltar in September, meant that for many he was always likely to secure the gong.
But as the former Carrigaline United forward alluded to, it wasn’t just gifted to him. It took a lot of hard work and he also had to overcome numerous rejections in the early days of his career.
Now though, the 17-year-old is thriving in the green Ireland jersey which has also led to him wearing the green Cork City jersey on 13 occasions during their First Division title-winning campaign.
“I hadn’t always been in international teams,” he continued.
I was rejected in U15s and U16s but that just made me want to work harder and prove people wrong and again it’s stats and awards like this that prove that hard work does pay off.
“Obviously now I just want to keep it going now and try to improve on these stats even more.
“Back in January/February time, I would never have thought that I would make 13 appearances for the City first team.
“I hadn’t even played U19s the year previous so I wasn’t expecting to make that many appearances.
“But when I was called on back in February all the lads were extremely welcoming and made me a part of the group straight away. Obviously, Colin and the rest of the staff were really really good to me throughout the year as well.
“They always helped me and encouraged me throughout the year and that pushed me in training every day to play more and keep pushing for more minutes.
“It’s really disappointing that I didn’t score, to be honest, but the experience I took from getting minutes here and there and not scoring just pushes me to hopefully go on and get more minutes and get that goal next season.
“Winning the league was everyone’s aim at the club and thankfully we did that which was amazing but it’s where Cork City belongs and hopefully it will be another good season to come now.”
As 2022 draws to a close and 2023 appears on the horizon, O’Mahony now has his sights set on making more appearances and scoring goals for club and country.
But unlike Grealish, Idah, and Bolger before him, he also has his eyes on landing back-to-back underage International Player of the Year awards with Rice being the last player to do so.
“At this present time I think just pushing for more minutes and starting is definitely up there,” insisted O’Mahony.
“I have a year of senior football behind me now so I have a lot more confidence and experience going into next season which should help me a lot.
As a striker, I want to get that first goal and push on to score and create as much as I can for the team.
“With Ireland, we have the U19s elite phase coming up in March so I want to be 100% ready for that and be in the best position for the manager to pick me for those games.
“Again, I want to score and create as much as I can to help the team and hopefully qualify for the European championships in Malta in July.
“I’m someone that’s never satisfied with what I got I always want to achieve more and get better all the time so yeah that award will definitely be on my list again.
“But most importantly, if I can help the team by scoring, playing well, and doing my job on the pitch then that’s the biggest thing for me.”