"Some people think I'm mad, facing the car for home on a Friday evening at 4.30pm, but during the summer where else would you rather be than at home in Louisburgh, as long as the weather is good of course." Austin O'Malley has been there and done it all before but he is still making the long trip home from his home on the east coast each weekend to try to help get Louisburgh back over the line in the junior ranks of Mayo football.
The former Mayo and Wicklow inter-county man is a teacher in St Benildus College in Dublin, and it will be a tough few weeks for him in the capital as the countdown to Mayo's big day with Dublin edges ever closer. "Ah it'll be tough, but good fun there, it's a big GAA school so there'll be plenty of it being given over and back all in the best way possible." Two former students of his are current Dublin players Davy Byrne and Paul Mannion, and having been involved in coaching schools sides, we asked O'Malley if he was to blame for Dublin having two more top quality players in their ranks. "Ah no, those lads were special talents, you could see coming through from first year in fairness and they've gone on to great things."
With the countdown on to another All Ireland final under way, the scoring forward knows what it is like in the build up to big games like that, having been part of Mayo squads for a number of years in the 2000s, but on Saturday he has his own big game to prepare for as Louisburgh look to get into the Mayo Junior Football Championship final.
O'Malley transferred away from Louisburgh in the 2000s and picked up a Dublin senior championship with St Vincent's in 2006 and a Wicklow senior championship with St Patrick's in 2012, but it was always the plan to finish off his playing days at home on the seaside. "It was what I always wanted to do, maybe I intended to come back a bit sooner, but I've been back since 2014 and it's great, I love it. I love playing the game and playing for my home club, some think I'm mad facing into the long trip home and burning diesel or whatever driving down, but I love playing football and there'll be long enough when I won't be able to play so I'm just going to enjoy every day of it."
When O'Malley started out in the adult ranks Louisburgh were knocking around the senior and then intermediate championship, but have now found themselves down in the third tier of the game, but they are working hard to get back up the levels. "It was a blow of course ending up in junior football, but I suppose it's a bit symptomatic of rural clubs, where lads end up gravitating away from home and it's hard to keep everyone together. But there has been some great work done in recent years and we won an U21B title recently and that keeps lads invested in knowing they can win and have success and we're looking to keep that up this weekend against Kilmeena. We've a good mix of old lads like myself at this stage, but you've Padraig Prendergast, Kevin Gibbons, Marcus O'Malley, Stephen O'Grady, and Alan Moran who bring a great energy and mix to the squad which is what you need. Kilmeena on Saturday are probably a bit like us, a rural club who were used to mixing it around the intermediate level for a long time and both sides will know each other pretty well, so there'll be nothing left to chance."
Schools now back in session for the new term and if things go his way, O'Malley will be facing the car west for a few more weekends with an extra pep in his step if they can come up with the win on Saturday evening.