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Mayo GAA star Ryan O’Donoghue speaks about playing soccer for Ireland

“I always had the aspiration of going across the water to England.”

Mayo Gaelic footballer Ryan O’Donoghue is a dual sportsperson. The Belmullet star played for Sligo Rovers at underage level and also represented the Republic of Ireland schoolboy team.

O’Donoghue spoke about his soccer career and realising he probably wasn’t going to be a professional footballer.

Ryan O'Donoghue

Ryan O’Donoghue scored 0-5 for Mayo against Sligo.

“I played for Mayo schoolboys in the Kennedy Cup, and then I got scouted by Sligo Rovers U19s when I was 17,” O’Donoghue said.

“I ended up playing three seasons there, and while I was there I got three caps for the Irish schoolboy team. I was three or four years with Sligo.

“Then I decided soccer wasn’t for me. I always had the aspiration of going across the water to England.

“Realisation hit when I was 17, 18, 19 that it’s a big step up and that I probably wasn’t good enough. I always wanted to get an education. So I decided to go with the Mayo minors in 2016, and never really looked back.”

Ryan O'Donoghue

Brighton’s Aaron Connolly played against the Mayo forward.

O’Donoghue featured in matches against Brighton footballer Aaron Connolly and Lincoln City’s Anthony Scully, but none of his former teammates are playing soccer professionally in the United Kingdom.

“I played with John Mahon who is now playing with Sligo Rovers. There are a few of them around the Sligo Rovers setup. None that are across the water,” he said.

“I think I played against Aaron Connolly in a provincial trial game, and Anthony Scully – he used to play for West Ham, I think he plays for Lincoln City now. I played against him in underage Mayo level.”

Ryan O’Donoghue is happy with his career choices.

O’Donoghue has no regrets about opting for Gaelic football, remarking how he has far more passion for Mayo than he has for Sligo.

“Not at the moment with how it’s turned out with Mayo so far. I’ve said before that I had that Sligo crest on my heart and it didn’t light that fire in my belly,” the Mayo player said when asked had he any regrets.

“Once I got that Mayo jersey in the minors, I just knew that I wanted to play for Mayo and I knehow crazy the Mayo people are, and the love of football in North Mayo and Mayo. Thankfully, I don’t regret it one bit.”

Ryan O’Donoghue was speaking at AIB’s launch of the 2021 GAA All-Ireland senior football championship.

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