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O’Hora a man of many talents

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THE THINKER Mayo footballer Padraig O’Hora is pictured at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign at Croke Park last week. Pic: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Padraig O’Hora is much more than just a Mayo footballer

Interview
Mike Finnerty

LAST Wednesday morning was a busy one for Padraig O’Hora.
The Mayo defender was on duty as a brand ambassador for a SuperValu campaign so was working his way through a blizzard of interviews with a plethora of GAA journalists, broadcasters and podcasters.
The Ballina Stephenites man is one of the most interesting people you will ever meet.
Engaging, thoughtful, opinionated and refreshingly honest.
You could, literally, talk to ‘Swanee’ O’Hora about anything.
During the course of the online ‘round-table’ interview attended by The Mayo News, he shot the breeze about everything from his two-year break from Gaelic football to mixed martial arts to his passion for promoting inclusion for members of the neurodivergent community.
And we only got to scratch the surface.
There was one question that, predictably, popped up quite a bit across all of his interviews; ‘What did you say to David Clifford during the National League Final?’
O’Hora showed deft footwork to side-step most enquiries about the TV footage that went viral last month of him chatting to the Kerry superstar during the second half, but when asked about the social media backlash about his ‘chat’ with Clifford that came his way afterwards, he didn’t flinch.
“It doesn’t put me up or down too much to be honest,” he shrugged.
“I talk to kids and to different groups about resilience all the time. And that’s a big part of it.
“The criticism I will take will come from within my circle, my friends and my family and the team. If somebody on the team was upset with me about my performance, I’d take it on.
“If the management were upset, then I’d take it on.
“But if it’s coming from externally, I just don’t care to be brutally honest.
“Everybody can have their opinion. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Everybody believed him too. Because that’s how Padraig O’Hora rolls.
The Mayo News wanted to ask what motivates a 27 year-old with a young family, and a huge passion for working with Western Care and Mayo Mental Health Association, not to mention volunteer work in Ballina, to play for Mayo.
What fuels his fire?
“You’d be lying to say it’s not an All-Ireland,” he admitted.
“I think we’re all fully aware that Mayo are in the top tier at all times over the last how many years, and we’re up there competing to win an All-Ireland championship.
“It’s fairly straightforward, you know, there's no magic there.
“For me personally, and maybe for the group, I suppose I can’t speak for the group entirely, but the way I see things is that I’m motivated and driven by getting better tomorrow.
“Having a good training session, improving, pushing the guys on around me, getting the team together and getting ready for the qualifier.
“And that will be this week. Next week again, focus on training and getting prepped. Then the game comes around, whenever that is. Play that game and then focus again from there.
“So I think it’s very step-by-step. It’s a different route we have to take this year but, again, it’s just step-by-step.”
That one-step-at-a-time approach has served Mayo well during the last decade, but the fact remains that they are still chasing the Holy Grail.
We couldn’t help but wonder how the three most recent big defeats — to Tyrone last September, and to Kerry and Galway last month — have impacted on Padraig O’Hora and his team-mates.
“Really, we don’t focus on it,” he replied. “Football is a beautiful game in the sense that you’re usually back the week after, there's no time to dwell on the past.
“We’ve had some fantastic performances, we’ve had some less than fantastic performances over last three years, and in picking the poison you could point out any of those games. But they’re irrelevant. What's relevant is tomorrow and next week and the week after that.
“So, I think as a group that we don’t dwell on the past. We’re looking forward.”
One of the most memorable moments from last summer’s march to the All-Ireland Final was O’Hora’s TV interview after Mayo beat Dublin.
He was a study in joy unconfined as he tried to put his feelings into words that day.
So what’s the most enjoyable thing for him about playing for Mayo?
“Playing the game, playing the game on the big days is great,” he smiled.
“The noise, the buzz, the energy, the atmosphere is what you play for.
“And I love it, I really do love it.
“But aside from that, what I’m getting to do today with SuperValu, this is a big part of it.
“We’re very fortunate in the sense that we are in the spotlight in relation to the media.
“And some stuff can go viral and might be negative, but you also have the opportunity afforded to you to speak about really important matters.
“And for me, that’s inclusion, especially for the neurodivergent community. I would really like to see them afforded more opportunities in day to day living that we’re all afforded.
“So if I can be part of that, and I can voice that and influence a few people to try and start a conversation, improve our levels of inclusivity, then that that’d be a great step.”


Padraig O’Hora on…

Marking David Clifford
“IT didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, there’s no doubt about it. But I enjoyed it.
You lose games, and I suppose I was downhearted for a few minutes.
But my little girl jumped on to the pitch, the family and kids were there, and you get a smile and you forget about it. It was an experience, and I enjoyed every bit of it, and I hope there’s more to come. Honestly, genuinely, I enjoyed it.”

What they said to each other
“THERE’S nothing to say. Do you know what, I wish there was a little story behind it, but there’s not. There’s nothing funny there. There’s nothing malicious. There’s nothing.”

Analysing opponents in detail
“IT wouldn’t be my thing, it just wouldn’t be. You know enough. You should know enough, in general. I wouldn’t spend hours studying a lad. At the end of the day it’s a game of football. You can solo the ball with two feet and kick it with two feet. You can run only a few ways.
There’s not a whole pile to it.”

Galway being the real deal
“I DON’T know, to be brutally honest. I think they were just a little bit better on the day.
I don’t think there’s a massive difference between a lot of the teams in the country.
I think it’s a couple of percent.
Maybe they just turned up with with a little bit better attitude or they just performed a little bit better on the day. And we’ve knocked them out the last few years in a row, that can motivate a team, can drive you on a little bit.”

His approach to the Qualifiers
“I CAN only speak personally and, honestly, I know it sounds a bit daft but I don’t see past tomorrow! I’m brutal for it. I don’t know when the draw is called, I don’t really know the teams involved. Somebody will tell me about that. I just have training coming up. I get through training, I get through the weekend, and then we’ll set the plan for the week after. That’s my set-up, I suppose and it doesn’t isn’t put me up or down.
It would be nice to be playing, week in, week out, don’t get me wrong. It would be great.
But it doesn’t put me up or down that we have to wait a wee while.”

 

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