Kieran O’Hara happy to mix it at Theatre of Dreams

Of all the fresh faces in the Ireland U21s squad for Saturday’s Euro qualification opener, Manchester United’s Kieran O’Hara has had the biggest crash-course of late.

Kieran O’Hara happy to mix it at Theatre of Dreams

The goalkeeper reported for duty having spent the past month part of Jose Mourinho’s first-team squad and assuming the role of third-choice stopper for the Europa League ties against Rostov.

Aside from working close-up with one of Europe’s best custodians in David De Gea, O’Hara is mixing with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba on a daily basis. Even the Special One has taken time out to put the rookie at ease in his new surrounds.

When he learned of the club’s decision to opt against following up a loan stint from last season at Morecambe with another, the realist in him still decreed there were still major obstacles to promotion. Football works in mysterious ways, however, and by Sam Johnstone leaving on loan from Aston Villa in January and Joel Pereira suffering a season-ending injury last month, doors have opened. He finds himself behind just De Gea and Sergio Romero in the pecking order.

At 20, O’Hara knows he has years of moulding ahead to develop into the finished product but that doesn’t dim his appetite to achieve his lifelong ambition of featuring for his hometown club.

“I want to be the third-choice keeper this season but wouldn’t rule out pushing for the No 1,” insisted the Stretford-born stopper, who is eligible for Ireland through his Galway-born grandparents. “I know that would be difficult because United are a massive club but if keep developing and the chance comes, I don’t see why not.

“I feel in good form and being around the first-team at United helps that. Just being in the squad, like the recent trip to Russia, was a brilliant experience. It was different and not what I was expecting. Seeing how top-class players prepare for a game is something I wanted to take in and make me a better player.”

King has yet to decide between O’Hara and Belgian-based Anderlecht stopper Liam Bossin for the No 1 spot against Kosovo on Saturday at Tallaght Stadium (1pm). The newcomer’s journey to the squad originated through the most basic of research methods, with the Ireland manager encountering a name on a team-sheet not out of place in the Connemara region near where his relatives hail from.

“I was on loan at Morecambe last season when Noel noticed my name,” he outlined. “Just seeing my name on a team-sheet would have been a giveaway that I qualified for Ireland!

“My grandparents on my Dad side are from Galway, so there was always a possibility of declaring if I was asked.

“Noel spoke to the Morecambe manager and I was delighted to accept the call.

“I was with the squad towards the end of the last campaign, as well as the training matches in La Manga in November. Now I just want to get started by hopefully making my debut.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox