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Mayo's Padraig O'Hora Using Football To Promote His Real Passion

Mayo's Padraig O'Hora Using Football To Promote His Real Passion
By PJ Browne
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"What's the best thing about playing for Mayo?" is the question for Padraig O'Hora. Along with the thrill of big games, it's the platform which being an inter-county footballer gives him. On Wednesday, it put him in front of the national media.

"In a sense, we are in the spotlight in relation to the media and some stuff can go viral, and it might be negative, but you also have the opportunity to speak about really important matters," says O'Hora, speaking at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign.

For O'Hora, that critical issue is inclusion for the neurodivergent community. The Ballina man works as a social care assistant for the Western Care Association and as community liaison officer for the Mayo Mental Health Association.

"I work alongside the autistic community, or the neurodivergent community, quite a lot, both in my professional work and in my community work," he says.

"That's a huge part of my life. I would really like to see more opportunities afforded to them in day-to-day living. If I can be part of that, and I can start the conversation to improve our levels of inclusivity, then that'll be a great step.

"I work in the mental health area too, and I suppose it does bring some form of perspective to life in general. If you have a setback in football or an injury, it isn't the end of the world. I see people who have to struggle day-to-day, and who have to fight. They're very inspiring, and I think it does influence my attitude towards football."

Pictured is Mayo footballer, Padraig O’Hora, at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign.

O'Hora's outlook on the game is intriguing, simultaneously intense and relaxed. Mayo's defeat to Galway in the Connacht quarter-final last month means they are on the qualifier route for Sam Maguire. Before being informed this week, he didn't know when the qualifier draw would be taking place.

"I know it seems a bit daft, but I don't see past tomorrow," he says.


"I'm brutal for it. I don't know when the draw is called, I don't really know all the teams that are involved. Somebody will tell me about that.

"I have training coming up, and I'll get through that and get through the weekend. Then we'll set the plan for the week after."

Padraig O'Hora: 'Nothing malicious' in Clifford clash

That laid back attitude is belied by his energetic, in-your-face defensive presence on the pitch. Though it didn't go his or Mayo's way in this year's league final against Kerry, O'Hora still enjoyed a game in which he was tasked with man-marking David Clifford.


The two were pictured toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, having words during a heated exchanged in the second half.  "I wish there was a good story behind it but there's not. There's nothing funny there, there's nothing malicious," says O'Hora about his clash with Clifford.


Social media was judge, jury, executioner, and undertaker for O'Hora's football career and character, putting him under the guillotine for being unable to stop the country's best forward scoring 1-5 from play, and six feet under for having a few words in his ear.

"It doesn't put me up or down," he says about the criticism, plenty of it excessive, which came his way.


"I'm in touch with different groups about resilience all the time. The criticism that I take will come from within my circle - my friends, my family and the team. If somebody was upset with me about my performance I would have to take it on, likewise if management were upset. If it comes externally I just don't care. Everybody can have their opinion, it doesn't bother me at all.

"[The game] didn't go the way I wanted it to go but I enjoyed it. You lose games. I was a bit downhearted for a few minutes but my family and kids were there, and there was still a smile and a hug.

"The kids weren't bothered. My little daughter wanted to know why she couldn't get the cup but apart from that, she was happy out. I'm here to enjoy myself. The wee ones at home, I'm taking from them in that I miss family occasions. If I'm not enjoying it I would have left, so you have to enjoy the training and the games. It's an experience, if nothing else.


"I'm grateful to be in the position I'm in. It is a great game. My little girl plays under-6. I go to the training when I can; they are happy just running around with their mates, enjoying life. You don't want to lose that. At the end of the day, Gaelic football is fun."

14 August 2021; Padraig O'Hora of Mayo celebrates with his children Caiden and Mila-Rae after his side's victory over Dublin in their GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

And more fun is what O'Hora would like to see the sport he loves playing become for the neurodivergent community by being more accessible.

"I think it starts with a good conversation, and I don't think you can provide something for somebody without understanding the person fully," he says.

"What's important is to sit down and discuss with people within our community about what variables we need to adapt for them. What helps you and allows you to function comfortably within a setting? Sometimes it's really small barriers, especially for the autistic community. It might very well be a whistle that goes off at training.

"A parent might say, 'My son or daughter can't deal with whistles, or that kind of noise.' And for that reason, they never risk bringing them to training. And that might not be communicated, so maybe we can make a change there. That's just a simple idea but in general, we can take a look at people and ask what we can do to make things easier for them.

"The world doesn't fit everybody and we should be obliged to try and at least do our best to make things a little more accessible for the neurodivergent community. That's my passion."

Now in their 13th year of supporting the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, SuperValu is once again calling on each and every member of GAA communities across the country to do what they can to make their community more diverse and inclusive.

Featured image: 3 April 2022; Padraig O'Hora of Mayo during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Kerry and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

See Also: 'I Get Stick From The Kildare Lads For Going Over To Laois!'

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