Ex Preston midfielder Adam O'Reilly on why Derry City was the right move for his career
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After much deliberation the 21 year-old, who had attractive options to stay in England or test himself in Scotland, felt the Foylesiders offered him the biggest personal challenge and opportunity for growth.
The Corkman could also have returned to St Patrick's Athletic where he impressed on a season-long loan spell last term but opted to step out of his comfort zone and move to Brandywell on a two-year deal.
With City intent on challenging Shamrock Rovers for the league title once more this season, O'Reilly admits Ruaidhri Higgins' ambitious plans and the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong were factors in deciding to move to the North West.
"I'm just excited to get going with Derry now and show everyone the real Adam O'Reilly and impress all the people who doubted me through my career. So I'm just really excited to get going," enthused the midfielder.
Following his move from Munster Senior League outfit Ringmahon Rangers in November 2016, O'Reilly quickly made his mark at Preston's academy and was voted Scholar of the Year on two consecutive seasons.
He graduated to the first team and was included in the matchday squad in February 2018 against Wolves before his debut arrived the following December as a substitute against Aston Villa.
Earning his first professional deal shortly afterwards, O'Reilly spent the next few years on loan including a spell at Waterford in 2021 but when it became clear he wasn't in Preston boss Ryan Lowe's plans, he had no shortage of offers.
He's disappointed he didn’t get more opportunities at Deepdale but that frustrating experience is clearly driving him on in his pursuit of top level football. And he hasn't given up on returning to England should his immediate future go to plan at Derry City.
"Right through my career I've been proving people wrong, from the very start," he lamented as he prepared to pack his bags for the five hour plus journey to Derry from Cork on Wednesday morning.
"I made my debut when I was 17. I got Scholar of the Year for two years in a row and was the first person to do that at the club. The main thing that stood out to me," he continued. "Usually when young players make their debuts that's when their careers start to take off. Unfortunately that didn't happen to me."
O'Reilly made 34 appearances for St Pat's last year, scoring twice and his engine and ability to break up play in midfield impressed several suitors in the League of Ireland who also attempted to clinch his signature this month.
He could so easily have slotted back into the dressing room at Inchicore but the player, who admits he's 'shy' when it comes to meeting new people, wanted a new challenge and the thought of moving north to FAI Cup champions was 'intriguing'
Several conversations with the City boss sealed the deal!
"I'm really, really excited. I spoke to Ruaidhri, the gaffer on the phone and the way he spoke to me about the plan going forward, it really intrigued me and got me really excited and I think that's one of the reasons I decided to go with Derry. The plan that he set out got me really excited.
"I think I'm one of those players who likes to challenge themselves to play at the best level I possibly can. You could see from last how well Derry did and even playing against them as well you could see how very good the boys are.
"So those are a few of the reasons I decided to go with Derry.
"Derry were in contact midway through the window and I did want to see if I could pursue a club in England but then the more I thought about it, I thought the League of Ireland is just getting better and better every year. The standard is actually going through the roof at the moment so going to Derry was the best thing for me."
Flying out to meet the squad at their pre-season training camp in Alicante last week was daunting but he was pleasantly surprised with his reception.
"I'm just really excited to get going. I flew out to Alicante to the team and to meet everyone in training and I must say they're a great bunch of lads who welcomed me in straight away like I was one of their own which, for me. At the start, when meeting new people I would be kind of a shy character. So to be welcomed in so easily was a weight off my shoulders.
"Obviously I was at Pats and knew everyone and I had a great relationship there but I sat down and was thinking to myself, you have to put yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to push yourself in your career and be as ambitious as you can be."
Of course he hasn't given up on his hopes of playing at the highest level possible cross-Channel but he believes he can develop his game alongside some of the top players in the country.
"I was in the UK and things didn't work the way I wanted it to for various reasons. I think it's at a stage now where I have to rebuild my career. So going to Derry was probably my best option because of the level of players, the platform.
"I'm kind of known for my fitness side of the game and how I can get around the pitch and break up the play and things like that but going to Derry will help me get even better from a footballing side of things because in that team there's a lot of technically gifted players who I can now learn from.
That was another thing that stood out for me because of the calibre of players at Derry it will only help me go in the right direction."
His arrival provides Higgins with an embarrassment of riches in the midfield department with O'Reilly expected to play in the No.6 role and facing competition from the likes of Cameron Dummigan and Sadou Diallo.
O'Reilly is embracing the challenge.
"That's good to have in a dressing room, that healthy competition where you're constantly pushing each other to get into that starting XI. Of course all of us want to help the team get the best possible results we can."
Having come so close to dethroning champions Rovers last season, O'Reilly is confident Derry can go one step further this year and he's determined to play his part in a potential title challenge.
"I think it's 100 percent achievable," he insisted when asked if Derry could win the league this year. "Like I said, the players are unbelievable and to do so well last year and strengthen again this year, it looks good.
"So I've no doubt we can push for the league this year which is obviously something I'd love to do - win the league. So it's about giving our utmost best to do that."
With his native Cork City back in the top flight, Derry’s first home match of the league campaign will see the Rebels back at the Brandywell and it’s one O’Reilly will no doubt have circled in his diary.
"I'm excited for that. Look, on the pitch there's always a saying that sticks in my head. I might know a few of the boys but there's no friends in football when you get out onto that playing field. It's all about Derry once I get out onto that pitch."
Before that there’s the little matter of the President’s Cup match against Rovers and O’Reilly reckons he’ll be fit and raring to go when it comes around next Friday.
“I've been training fierce hard. The season ended and the window opened so I've been trying to stay as fit as I can.
"I'm naturally fit anyway but it was good to go to Alicante into training with the boys and get more of the football side of things done. It helped a lot in such a short space of time. I' excited to play a few of the games that are coming up and prepare for that President' Cup match.”