JUST over 12 months ago, one young man’s dream was to get some game time with the first team at his local club, Cork City.
It came to pass. He signed his first professional contract with the club at the age of 17 and featured in 11 games throughout the season in the National League.
The modest and hard-working striker was overwhelmed and grateful. It only increased Mark O’Mahony’s appetite to push on to the highest level, a desire he had since the age of five, when he knew the only job he wanted in life was to be a professional footballer.
Through his performances with Cork City and Ireland, the Carrigaline youngster landed himself a trial at English side Brighton earlier this year and it was no surprise to anyone who knows him, that he was offered a contract.
He has settled well since switching to the Premier League club and lining out with their U21s.
“While it was tough to leave family and friends, I am doing the job I’ve dreamt about since a child,” he said.
“Most youngsters that love the beautiful game, dream of one day being a professional.
“As a player myself, one man’s advice always stuck out in my mind.”
Willie Walsh, chairman of his schoolboy club, Carrigaline, told him: “Those that do the extra work will come out on top.”
Living in Carrigaline, I would often see O’Mahony kicking a ball in Ballea Park by himself, and this attitude and determination has no doubt helped to bring him to where he is now.
He is quick to say that just dreaming and wanting it wasn’t enough to make it.
“I’ve had to work very hard. Nothing was gifted to me,” he said.
“I had to work for everything but also had to sacrifice a lot to get to where I want to be. Although I’m at Brighton now and have a professional contract, I’m still nowhere near after making it.
I still have so much more to do and to achieve before I can ever say I’ve made it as a footballer — and that’s something my family always tell me.
“There’s always more to improve on, even when you’re playing well, and for me scoring, there’s always areas to improve on, but yes my dream is to make it to the Premier League and personally I don’t think there’s a better club to be at than Brighton to achieve this.
“I’ve settled in really well,” O’Mahony said.
“I’ve played five games in the PL2 and scored two goals, assisted one. Scoring the first one against West Ham was a great feeling, obviously, as getting that first one helps take pressure off, and scoring the next week against Wolves as well, I was delighted with.
“I’m staying in digs not too far from the training ground, which is handy because I can walk to training every day, but it’s nice to be able to go back and chill after training and games.
“I’m so busy training every day and playing games that I don’t get time to miss [being] back at home but I know I’m lucky to have the best job in the world and missing family is a sacrifice I’m willing to make to make it to where I want to be,” he said.
While being a professional footballer is the only job on O’Mahony’s mind, the grounded youngster, who has always been hugely supported by his parents and sister, is well aware of the importance of education.
He plans to sit his Leaving Certificate at Carrigaline Community School, which ties in with the end of the playing season.
For now, training with Alexis Mac Allister and Kaoru Mitoma has given the youngster plenty to smile about.
“I was in with the first team and it was an unbelievable experience,” he said.
“Obviously, being able to train with Alexis Mac Allister and Mitoma was unbelievable and their quality is incredible and the pace of play is lightning -fast.
“Of course it’s an aim of mine to get in with them more and the only way I can do that is perform in training and games and take each day as it comes, but it’s a big goal of mine.
“The club facilities are amazing and it’s a joy to come in here every day to do what I love — play football.”