It’s two years, and more, since he kicked a ball in anger at senior level. But Dubliner Warren O'Hora is convinced that he can prove himself in the Premier League and try to compete with the likes of club-mate and compatriot Shane Duffy for game time.
O’Hora (20) moved to Brighton from Bohemians in January 2018, after an impressive run of form in the first team at Dalymount Park under Keith Long in the 2017 season.
His contract is up in the summer and as the Cabra lad has yet to play for the first team – the closest he came was a place on the bench for a League Cup tie in September – there’s no guarantee he’ll be kept on, though Brighton are considering a new deal.
Making the Brighton team will be tougher than getting a contract – even Duffy is not guaranteed games at Brighton at the moment. But O'Hora says he’s heartened by the sight of fellow Irishman Aaron Connolly in the side now and feels that the Premier League can happen for him.
"You watch the first team train and play and you try to take as many pointers as you can, see what you can add to your game,” says O'Hora, who had spells with local club Dingle United, Ashbourne and St Kevin's Boys before joining Bohs.
"You want to be around these players, the likes of Duffy and Dunk, to see what they are doing and how you can get to their level.
"I know I need to match them or be better than them to have a chance.
"The Premier League is maybe the highest level in Europe, I know I am not at that level now and I have more work to do but I have belief and confidence in myself that I can get to that level. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that.
"Maybe I need to go to a lower league for a spell to prove that but that’s a challenge and I’ll be ready if and when my chance comes," he added. "My contract is up at the end of this season so I have to work as hard as I can and see what happens.
"They might take up the option to keep me, or I might have to move elsewhere to get first team football.
"I want to play first-team football and my preference would be for Brighton to take up the option of another year, maybe go on loan to get experience and see what happens then – get six months on loan somewhere and show what I can do."
Mervue United graduate Connolly has made 16 Premier League appearances this season, offering inspiration to O'Hora.
"Seeing Aaron come in and do well in the first team is great for me and gives me hope," he added.
"He did really well when he got his chance, scored on his debut, the stuff of dreams, that motivates me to think that it can be done and that the first team is not a million miles away.
"I know that Aaron worked hard to get that chance, the gaffer here has trust in younger players, the like of Aaron and Steven Alzate, it motivates me.
"I have improved a lot since I left Bohs, I owe them a lot for the chance they gave me, Keith Long and Trevor Croly worked hard to get me to where I am.
"Coming to England and being full-time, you go up a level again.
"Physically and technically I have improved, U23s football here is quicker and less physical than the League of Ireland, which is a real man’s game."
He joined the club as a 13-year-old kid, and now returns as a man, a father of two, with a lot of miles on the clock. And, in a crucial part of his back-story, more than a few scars.