Warren O’Hora: The young Irish defender defying the odds in the UK after his humble beginnings

Warren O'Hora

Warren O’Hora on leaving Brighton and his hopes for the future. 

Now 22, Warren O’Hora had to bide his time for his chance to come in England, but he is making the most of it now at MK Dons.

Aged just 17, O’Hora swapped Cabra, and Bohemians for the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

And while his chance never really came at Brighton, it has arrived at MK Dons in League One.

But his rise has been an incredible journey all things considered, from his humble beginnings at Dingle United on Dublin’s Northside, right through to his flourishing young career across the Irish Sea.

Warren O’Hora impressing at MK Dons.

Just last month, O’Hora made his 50th senior appearance for MK Dons – as he continues to thrive in a promotion hunting team alongside Ireland international Troy Parrott.

While MK may be considered a step down from the Premier League, it has been anything but that for the 22 year-old Dubliner.

“I’ve played a lot and I am really enjoying it here,” he tells Pundit Arena. “I’m really happy with the way that it is going.

“The manager seems to like me, the style of play suits me down to the ground, and since I’ve come to the club, I’ve been over the moon.

“I think I’m in the right place at the moment in my career.”

O’Hora joined MK Dons on a permanent deal earlier this year from Brighton, having enjoyed prior stints on loan at the League One outfit.

And it has been that exposure to first-team football which has brought his game onto a whole new level.

“That’s the reason I came here,” he said. “Obviously I played with Bohs for a little bit in senior football before I went to Brighton’s U23s for a couple of years.

“The goal was to play first-football, and kind of kick on my career. I’ve played over 50 games now here, and let’s see what we can do for the season.”

Early days.

And while his career prospects may be exciting for now, it was not too long ago when O’Hora was lining out for a relatively small Dublin schoolboy outfit, in Dingle United.

But it was there where he learned his the basics of his trade, before then moving on to Ashbourne United, and then St Kevin’s Boys, before he joined Bohemians, completing his remarkable rise.

“I started with Dingle in Cabra, my local team. I started by playing with the bogeys every week, and then went to Ashbourne.

“Played there for a good few years and then went on to Kevin’s for 6/7 months before then going into Bohs’ U17s and 19s.

“Dara O’Shea would’ve been on my team at Kevin’s. And there would have been a few others that went over to England as well.”

And it was in 2017 when he made his professional debut for the Gypsies, coming on in a 3-1 win away to St Patrick’s Athletic. Coincidentally, it was that debut, that kickstarted his rapid journey into the professional ranks in the UK.

“Pat’s was always a tough game, especially away. But I remember playing at Richmond on a brilliant pitch.

“I came on for Rob Cornwall who went off injured with about 15 minutes to go, and it was unbelievable.

“Detser [Derek Pender] was helping me get through it, and he got me all settled just minutes after coming on, screaming at me saying, ‘you’re alright gorgeous’. That got me all settled (laughs).”

England calling.

From there, O’Hora impressed substantially between then and the end of the 2017 League of Ireland season to pique the interest of several clubs in the UK.

At the time of his move, however, he was enrolled on the FAI’s ETB course in Cabra, under course director Harry McCue.

But even then, he admits his move across the Irish Sea to Brighton came much sooner than he expected.

“I was going through my education, and I just decided to stop it for a year and train full time at the ETB,” he explains.

“It obviously worked out for the best, and it was then when I really wanted to give football a go full-time and see if I could make a career out of it.

“The ETB course was unbelievable for me. They gave me all the time and all the training I needed. With Bohs it just kind of mixed really well.

“There was a few clubs in England looking and I didn’t really expect it to go through at the end of that season.

“I was in Colaiste Ide doing a PLC course at the time, and then everything just happened.

“I got a phone call to go to Brighton, and before I knew it, I had my bags and my suitcase packed. It happened so quickly, but it was probably the best way for it to happen.”

Brighton’s Irish contingent.

Joining the club in January 2018, Brighton then, as it is now, had a collection of Irish players at the club.

Current Waterford Dessie Hutchinson was there, as was Shamrock Rovers midfielder Daniel Mandroiu, alongside Jayson Molumby and Aaron Connolly.

Shane Duffy was involved with the first-team for good measure too.

“Dessie was unbelievable for me when I joined, even though I think I played with him for about six months.

“I think he got released at the end of the season, but it just felt like a brother to me, the way he took me under his wing, Same with Molumby and with Danny.

“We had Rian O’Sullivan there as well who helped me settle in. The Irish boys were really good to me. Shane Duffy was good to me as well.”

But while never playing alongside Duffy, O’Hora was able to watch the Irish international at close quarters.

“When I signed under [Chris] Hughton, he was player of the year. He [then] went to Celtic for a bit and has been great since he came back. Credit to Shane.

“He was he was unbelievable for the young lads. He never passed you by on a corridor, and in the gym he’d always come over and say hello.”

Success.

As far as success goes, however, it was at the Amex Stadium where O’Hora continued to grow into the player he is today, despite his lack of first-team football.

“In my eyes I would consider my time at Brighton a success,” he explains. “I don’t think playing a Premier League game would have been a sign of success.

“If I have a look back at where I came from, with Dingle, and look at where I am now, I think it’s a massive success.

“I progressed as a footballer and I had an unbelievable time there. I’ll always have time and good things to say about them.

“It’s the same with Bohs and all the other clubs that I played for.”

And now O’Hora is continuing to improve in League One, this time with a promotion chasing side in senior football.

“I’m still trying to improve,” he adds. “That’s the way I would manage success if I’m honest.

“There are a lot of players who have played one game in the Premier League, and then they’ll go on to play for three or four seasons in U23s football.

“I’m in the right spot for my career at the moment, and I’m really happy where I am.”

But as far as 2022 goes, O’Hora’s continued good form would certainly throw him back into the shop window at a higher level, should he not reach that level with his current club.

And from an Irish point of view, the former Bohs man’s quality and ability to thrive is one to keep an eye on; despite Stephen Kenny’s stacked defensive options.

Although, one thing is certain, the future seems very bright for Warren O’Hora; a man who has already defied the odds to reach his current level.

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