Sunday 23 April 2017

Don't join top English clubs, O'Hanlon tells Irish hopefuls

Alex O'Hanlon. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Alex O'Hanlon. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Former Liverpool trainee Alex O'Hanlon has urged budding Irish teenagers to avoid the Premier League's big guns if they want to plot a career cross-channel.

The 20-year-old has signed for St Patrick's Athletic after spending five years in England, all but the last six months of that time at Liverpool.

O'Hanlon was part of the same St Kevin's Boys team as Jack Byrne and chose Liverpool ahead of Arsenal and a clutch of other suitors to pursue his ambitions.

Kenny Dalglish, then in charge of the Reds, played a key role in enticing the 15-year-old to Anfield, but he was sacked shortly after O'Hanlon's arrival.

Although Brendan Rodgers thought highly enough of O'Hanlon to include him in the first-team squad for Premier League games against Newcastle and Swansea, the big breakthrough didn't arrive.

When Jurgen Klopp brought the midfielder to Spain last March for a training camp, there was talk of progression.

Read more: Gerrard returns to Anfield academy

The German, however, soon provided the Dubliner with a message about the pecking order of a team chasing Premier League glory.

"I really enjoyed working with Klopp but, as a central midfielder, he just said I had a lot of competition ahead of me," he explained.

"Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho have those spots and there's about another seven in the queue behind them.

"A few years ago, Jordan Rossiter was the seen as the next big thing at Anfield when he made his debut, but he got out last summer.

"Irish kids are better off joining a Championship club. In hindsight, that's what I should have done."

O'Hanlon eventually made it to the Championship, signing for Huddersfield Town last summer. However, things failed to work out.

With his short-term deal up at Christmas, O'Hanlon drew breath again to consider his next move. Into the void came Liam Buckley and the pair clicked straight away.

"I'm a completely different person compared to a few years ago and I can't wait for the season to start," said O'Hanlon. "I've really enjoyed the first couple of weeks of pre-season.

"Playing in the League of Ireland will put me in the shop window like it did for the likes of Daryl Horgan and Richie Towell.

"I would certainly go back to England in time as I'd be much better prepared."

Irish Independent

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