Fionn is excited about his new challenge Down Under

Sarah Slevin

Mullingar all-rounder Fionn O’Hara had been on AFL’s Hawthorn’s radar for several years ahead of being signed with the Australian football team.

O’Hara has been signed on a two-year international category B rookie with Hawthorn, and will join the Australia team in the coming months.

Fionn and his family have guessed that the interest from Hawthorn recruiters began some time ago, though they don’t have confirmation of that.

"They rang my mam when I was in third year. We played in an All-Ireland final around then and we can only presume that that’s where they or one of their scouts maybe saw me," O’Hara said.

"That’s what we’re presuming, but they won’t tell us," O’Hara laughed.

The 19-year-old has been balancing football with St Loman’s alongside rugby with Mullingar RFC and hopes this will bode well for him with his new venture.

Fionn in action for Leinster.

"I was training full-on with rugby most of the time, and then when the rugby season wasn’t on, I was playing football," O’Hara said.

"I’m hoping it’ll be the perfect mix – but from playing with an Aussie rules ball it’s completely different to a rugby ball, and it is quite difficult to work with, but I’ll get used to it.

"There’s obviously a lot of running too, which would’ve always been an attribute of mine," O’Hara said.

O’Hara has had the chance to visit his new stomping grounds, having first gone Down Under to do some training in 2019 and went another visit with his family in January 2020.

"The way they do it is they try to introduce the players into the squad and get them used to training and give a proper opportunity to see what it’s like, which is really good, especially because it is moving across the world," O’Hara said.

O’Hara has said although he will miss Ireland, he is "just buzzing to get over there… I’m really looking forward to it".

"I’m obviously a little bit nervous for such a big move. But the nerves are kind of pushed to the back because I’m just excited to try something new and really give it a good crack," O’Hara said.

O’Hara has put years of hard work and dedication into his training and fitness, but the 19-year-old said he had plenty of help along the way from his club and school coaches at Coláiste Mhuire.

"There have been many coaches involved and I’m thankful to all of them.

“The work done by these coaches often goes unrecognised, but I have to say I really appreciated all the work they’ve put in," O’Hara said.

O’Hara gave a special thanks to Dicky Geoghan and John McDonald at St Loman’s, as well as Tony Doolin and Joe Duggan, two of his mentors at Mullingar RFC.

He also gave a special shoutout to Brian Murtagh at Coláiste Mhuire, who was also his maths teacher.