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A Young Philly McMahon Discovered The 'Harsh' Reality Of An English Football Club Trial

A Young Philly McMahon Discovered The 'Harsh' Reality Of An English Football Club Trial

If his Dublin career had not turned out to be so successful - he has five All-Ireland titles to date - Philly McMahon says he may have looked back on an opportunity given to him aged 14 with some regret.

Writing in autobiography 'The Choice', the Dublin footballer tells of going on trial with Nottingham Forest. The Ballymun man numbers among the many GAA players who flirted with a career in the alternate code.

The club was in the First Division at the time and Andy Reid was on the rise. McMahon and another young Irish player were put up at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, just across the road from Forest's stadium.

They did a few days training with a larger group ahead of two trial games. McMahon believes the coaches were on the eye out for discipline in players as much as skill levels. Not having his t-shirt tucked led to some punishment push-ups for the young Dubliner.

England was in the middle of a heatwave that week, and the pitches we were playing on were like concrete. I wore studs in our first game against the Americans and I limped off the pitch. My feet were in shreds, covered in blisters.

I played in both games, against the American Cubs, who were basically an American All-Star team, and the following day against a club from Mexico. I thought I played well, but it's difficult. You've got a team made up of triallists who think that this is their dream on the line, and everyone is trying to do their own thing to show off and hopefully catch the coaches' eye. It makes it nearly impossible to play together as a team and if you're playing centre-midfield like I was, trying to just knit everything together, it's very difficult to stand out from the crowd.

The day of the second game saw temperatures rise even further - it was just like home for the Mexican team. McMahon thought he'd made a good impression when he put a smile on one coach's face with a flying tackle, 'milling through' the Mexican player.

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It was not enough. McMahon was told that they would not be brought back over for another trial, "But we'll be looking out for you over the next year or two to see how you develop."

Looking back now, McMahon wishes he had been a little bit older when he got the chance. He believes that he did not play to his potential.

It's quite a harsh system, years of fighting to get noticed and then, when you do get your shot, you've got a couple of training sessions and two games to make the impression of a lifetime. I would have loved to get called back over for a second trial a year or two later. Going over at 14 was far too young, and I've always felt that if I had got the call and gone over at 16 or 17 instead, I would have been a much more developed, much smarter footballer.

See Also: Philly McMahon Opens Up About Why He Changed His Name

PJ Browne
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