AN abundance of Irish teens have set sail to American soils in recent years as previously absent pathways are offering opportunities to sporting hopefuls.
Not only are athletes finding their feet in faraway fields, but they are flourishing, reaping the benefits of standards and facilities that are otherwise unavailable to them closer to home.
Former Cork City FC defender Éabha O’Mahony has garnered national attention stateside for her performances as a student-athlete at Boston College, earning a move to Austin, Texas ahead of next semester.
Here, O’Mahony will feature for the University of Texas, recently ranked as the 17th-best team in the country.
The Longhorns have had steady success since the turn of the century, winning Big 12 conference titles and regularly qualifying for the NCAA National Tournament.
The Leesider first found her feet in the competitive ranks with Cork City FC Women in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division. As an 18-year-old, it quickly became evident that O’Mahony was a special talent, leading the league in passes completed, interceptions and defensive duels won.
These kinds of performances played their part in attracting attention from overseas, with a scholarship offer from Boston College emerging as the best fit.
O’Mahony thrived during her time in Boston, offering stability and security with her composed play as a part of the BC back line.
She started in 15 out of the Eagles’ 18 encounters in a year where she was chosen by Vera Pauw to represent her country in October and November’s series of FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifiers.
The defender was key to Boston’s early success as they won their first six outings, keeping three clean sheets in the process.
“We performed really well in non-conference play and then once league games came around, we were consistently putting in great performances but we just weren’t getting the results.”
The following season, O’Mahony started every contest in what was ultimately a disappointing campaign, notching just five wins all season.
The transfer is undoubtedly a leap in the right direction as the former Lakewood underage star joins a more competitive program than the one she leaves behind in Massachusetts.
The university itself is like a state of its own, with a $42.9 billion endowment playing a factor in being able to produce cutting-edge amenities for its student-athletes.
After completing three semesters in Boston, O’Mahony will now finish her sophomore year in The Lone Star State with two more years of college to go thereafter.
The city of Austin lacks a major professional sports team, meaning the athletic programs at the University of Texas attract the most attention among locals.
Fans flock in droves to see the men’s football team, with last September’s clash with Alabama tallying an attendance of over 105,000 spectators.
The format of the US college soccer schedule differs from the more traditional timelines seen in Ireland and across Europe with a more condensed, concentrated approach.
Matches take place from mid-August until the end of October with players often having to endure three outings a week, concluding with conference and national playoffs through November.
Following this, colleges cease competitive play for the winter months before resuming training ahead of another helping of games.
“It goes by quickly but you do have to play two or three games a week quite often before getting a few weeks off at the end of the regular season.
O’Mahony is not on her own playing soccer on US soil, with Kilnaglory’s Maria O’Sullivan playing out her third year between the posts for Fordham University and Irish teammate and Wilton United graduate Denise O’Sullivan playing professionally for North Carolina Courage.
More members of the formidable Women’s World Cup side have also been performing on American soil, including Donegal’s Roma McLaughlin at Central Connecticut State and Galway’s Heather Payne at Florida State.
Following a short stint at home for Christmas, O’Mahony has now settled into her new home in Texas after moving out earlier this week, eager to begin the next stage of her US soccer journey.