Apprenticeship steadied multi-talented Reilly after lost soccer dream
15 years on and Martin Reilly's sporting life has come full spin.
Cavan in the early 2000s and the youngster from Killygarry is the best young soccer player in the county. That mightn't be saying too much in a place where Gaelic football rules but his move to Home Farm, and subsequent appearance on the Republic of Ireland under-18 squad alongside names such as Darron Gibson and Anthony Stokes, tells more.
Reilly was on the cusp of it. And so was Cian Mackey.
The vibrant, hopeful Cavan pair began playing with Home Farm FC towards the end of their teenage years. Reilly would make the cut too.
Burnley liked what they saw in a trial across the pond and snapped this gem up. Even outside of Cavan they were talking about the left footed creator who had it all.
You'd be forgiven for thinking this was May 2019 with the Ulster championship in full swing. 15 years later and they're finally talking about Martin Reilly again.
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) May 18, 2019
He was outstanding in Cavan's historic win over Monaghan in the Ulster quarter final and his barnstorming display earned him the PWC Player of the Month award for May.
Speaking to us at the collection of that award, the Breffni man reflects on a career that started with so much hype and reignited in the public eye anyway, not until a good while on.
"Yeah, I was discussing that with a few people and they thought it was strange enough," he says with a rye smile.
He insists that those miraculous passes have been happening however, just away from the glitz and glam of the Sky Sports cameras.
"I think I've had a few good passes in the years before. I think I gave a couple of them before. I don't know, maybe because it was on TV and it was on SKY, a few more people noticed it," he laughs.
So how did the soccer dream turn out? Reilly has seen plenty anyway, that's for sure. He made the move over to Turf Moor while he was still in secondary school but found the transition tough.
Missed Cavan, found it difficult to settle in and came home to a world that had moved on. He'd missed out on his Leaving cert year, had no interest in going back to school and it took an apprenticeship with his cousin to get him going again.
"I came home when I was about 19. I found it tough to be honest. You're going over there very young and you're leaving your family and friends. If you knew then what you know now and have the experience things possibly could be different. But it's tough for someone so young going over there. Some people take to it better than others"
"I didn't really have much interest in going back and doing it (Leaving Cert). So I did an apprenticeship as an electrician."
That set him up for College in DIT, where he studied Electrical Engineering and won a Sigerson Cup.
"I never thought I would go to college but I went a roundabout way of doing it..."
On the day the Leaving cert begins, it's certainly worth nothing that the Cavan man is happy as Larry as an automation engineer despite not having sat his sixth year exams. He looks back on a former life with no regrets.
"No, not at all. I'm very happy with where I am and with the way things are now. You might think 'what if' the odd time but I'm very happy with the way things have turned out for me.
"I think it definitely would have helped me over the years and stood to me, that experience. When I was a young lad I would have been just playing football, football, football - that was it. I realised the commitment that was needed to be successful, that stuck with me over the years. I tried to give that commitment and look after myself..."
That he has done. For now, all Reilly's focus is on Sunday's Ulster semi-final replay against Armagh. The thoughts of an Ulster final are enough to get this fella excited.
"Exactly. You just had to see after our win against Monaghan in the quarter-final, the supporters were on the pitch after the game for a good half-hour. You could imagine if we got to an Ulster final, the county would be mad..."