Football/Soccer

Republic of Ireland's goalkeeping understudy Kieran O'Hara fears nothing

Republic of Ireland Manager Mick McCarthy has made Kieran O'Hara understudy to Darren Randolph
From Brendan Crossan in Abbotstown

International friendly: Republic of Ireland v New Zealand (tonight, Dublin, 7.45pm)

MANCHESTER United’s on-loan goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara has designs on reaching the top at both international and club level as he looks to catch Mick McCarthy’s eye in tonight’s friendly clash with New Zealand in Dublin.

The 23-year-old Manchester native will win his second senior international cap tonight, following on from his debut against Bulgaria in September, and is expected to share goalkeeping duties with Bournemouth’s John Travers against the southern hemisphere nation, while first-choice ‘keeper Darren Randolph is rested for Monday’s Euro 2020 showdown against Denmark.

O’Hara, whose grandparents hailed from Galway, has decided to take the hard road of loan moves in the hope of returning to Old Trafford as a first team player.

He signed for United as a youngster from local club Urmston Town and is now plying his trade with League One club Burton Albion, his seventh loan move in his fledgling career.

Had he remained at Old Trafford and opted to play U23 football his senior international career would probably never have had lift-off.

“U23s football has its benefits and positives,” O’Hara told reporters at the team’s training base yesterday morning.

“It wouldn’t exist if it didn’t. But, for sure, you can go out to play league football. It’s tough, it’s competitive, there are points at stake, but at the same time, it’s something you’ve got to deal with if you want to make that step.

“Last year was a massive learning curve for me [at Macclesfield], one with real positives where I got some real experience and put in some really good performances and thankfully we stayed up, against the odds, with a newly promoted side.

“Playing at the bottom of the league, you’ve got to deal with those pressures and I’ve dealt with those pressures, thankfully, and come out on the good side of it. Those experiences will stand to me for the rest of my career.”

Living just 15 minutes away from Old Trafford and a childhood supporter of the Red Devils, O’Hara is a huge admirer of current number one David De Gea.

“He's a fantastic goalkeeper and it's put me in an amazing position to learn from someone like that at the very top level.

“Over the last few years especially, he’s probably been one of Man United’s best players in the Premier League.

“He’s a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s athletic, he can make saves, he’s got fantastic distribution. To be around someone like that, you hope it rubs off on you and you can take some of it into your game.”

O’Hara will remain with mid-table Burton Albion for the rest of the season and feels he can use the experience as a springboard to greater things.

“I wouldn't still be doing what I am doing if I didn't believe in myself to play at the top level. I have never shied away from that, that's the goal, I believe I can achieve that. Everyone wants to take what they do to the very top and I am no different.”

O’Hara, who dabbled in Gaelic football as a kid, had his entire family in the stands to watch him make his international debut against Bulgaria.

And he has sufficiently impressed with the senior squad that McCarthy has installed him as Randolph’s understudy having been named on the bench in last month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Switzerland.

Randolph got his big break when Shay Given suffered injury during the Republic’s famous 1-0 victory over Germany in October 2015.

“You never know what is going to happen in football,” he said. “It's a crazy game so you have to be ready and prepared for whatever is thrown at you."

He added: “Confidence is part of the position; it's probably one of the biggest parts of the position. You have to be confident and back yourself, believe in yourself, if you do, you have a head-start over a lot of other people.

“I definitely feel comfortable and I back myself every day, I believe in myself and I know I am good enough, it wouldn't faze me at all.”

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Football/Soccer