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Before making the major switch across the water to apply his skills with Peterborough United, Conor O’Malley was better known in many parts of Ireland for his burgeoning GAA career that saw him rub shoulders with current Mayo captains, Diarmuid O’Connor and Patrick Durcan.
O’Malley was the first-choice goalkeeper for the Mayo Minor squad in 2012. Overall it was a mixed season with the big highlight coming in the quarter-final when they knocked out reigning champions Tipperary.
In between that, however, Mayo lost both a Connacht final and an All-Ireland semi-final to Roscommon and Meath respectively. The Electric Ireland Connacht Minor Football final that season included a plethora of future stars with Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Ronan Daly, Ultan Harney and Conor Hussey all playing pivotal roles in Roscommon’s Connacht title success this season while Durcan, O’Connor and Stephen Coen all started Mayo’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat to Dublin two weeks ago.
“Yeah, I played for Mayo Minors in 2012,” explained O’Malley.
“We lost in the semi-final against Meath. It was very tough. We were well up with about five minutes to go and they scored two goals. One was a penalty, and I didn’t save that one either!
O’Malley continued, speaking on his fondness at watching the Minor side play as well as highlighting just how monumental an honour it is to represent your county.
“In Mayo, you grow up playing GAA and soccer and my brother would still play GAA so it’s still something I follow closely. Whatever about playing for the Irish team but everyone from Mayo wants to play for Mayo so I still watch out to see how they’re doing.”
Following his stint with Mayo Minors, the Westport native spent three seasons with St. Patrick’s Athletic in the League of Ireland Premier Division where he excelled for the club before going on to secure a lucrative deal with Peterborough United after the League One outfit reportedly paid £100,000 for the Mayo Minors’ services.
Since then the Westport club man has gone on to make 23 appearances for the English club and has spent time in camp with the Republic of Ireland senior squad.
There can be no disputing, however, the role that Gaelic football has played in shaping this young man’s career and how getting to experience big outings in Croke Park as a Minor would have helped him deal with the pressure that comes with playing professional soccer.
The Minor stars of today can learn a lot from O’Malley not only in how he dedicated himself to two sports and was able to forge a professional career for himself but also for being such a level-headed young man who is acutely aware of how fickle professional sports can be.
With Leaving Cert results landing in homes around the country just last week many of today’s Minor stars will be in the midst of preparation for life in third-level education, a daunting prospect for any 17-year-old.
Not only will many have to juggle playing for their college, club and county but they also have to keep on top of their studies in order to secure a future for themselves.
Following his stint with Mayo, O’Malley enrolled in Maynooth University where he went on to obtain a degree in Maths and still harbours hopes of becoming a financial analyst despite his burgeoning career in soccer.
“It’s very important. Maybe it’s just the way I was brought up but education was always first.
“If I did well at football I was always hopeful but education was massive for me and it’s so nice to know that if it doesn’t go well over here, if you get a bad injury or something you can always go home and, hopefully, fingers crossed, walk into a job.
“You’ve got the football side of it which is good on the CV as well as the good degree so it’s very comforting.”
While GAA doesn’t afford players the opportunity to earn a professional living, they can certainly take note of his comments around securing a future for oneself if soccer doesn’t work out.
O’Malley knows the importance of ensuring that you have a good education because all it takes is one injury before you need to find a new passion in life.
So as our current Minor stars embark on this next stage of their lives it’s important that they are aware of Conor O’Malley’s story because while playing sport and winning with your friends is one of life’s great pleasures, it’s vital that to know that it doesn’t last forever and forging a career outside of the game can go a long way to making sure your life is fulfilled.
Brought to you by Electric Ireland
Minor players are embarking on their adult lives. They have hopes, dreams, pressures, distractions and ambitions, but for this one moment in time, the Electric Ireland Minor Championships is the major thing in their lives.
Follow the conversation at #GAAThisIsMajor or be a part of the action; watch a selection of the GAA Minor Hurling & Football matches live, join in the pre game ritual of the Championship Haircut at the provincial finals or vote for your Minor Player of the week, with all nominated players in with a chance of making the Electric Ireland Minor Team of the Year 2019.
Find all information on https://www.electricireland.ie/gaa-minor-championships.