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The Shouting Men: Gillingham defender Finn O'Mara writes exclusively for the KM Group

By Luke Cawdell

It’s a great achievement to have been offered a pro contract but it’s been hard work getting there.

When you see the likes of Marcus Rashford breaking in at Manchester United it seems easy but it’s definitely not.

I’m fortunate to be one of five youth players to have been offered a deal at Gillingham but I struggled in the first year of my scholarship. There were quite a lot of defenders in the team.

Gillingham's Finn O'Mara Picture: Barry Goodwin
Gillingham's Finn O'Mara Picture: Barry Goodwin

Getting here wasn’t easy. I joined the Gills from Dartford and even making it into their team was hard.

A family friend of mine was a manager of one of the youth teams at Dartford and he got me a trial for the team but I was quite overweight at the time and needed to slim down.

I was there for about three months, trying to get into the under-14s and I got a break when one of the players got tonsillitis.

I had four weeks to get into the team, which was hard but I did it and was with them for the season. We won the league and that was when Gillingham came and scouted me.

Had the player not got tonsillitis, I might not be here now. He came on trial for us a few years ago and I told him he helped me out. I still thank him to this day!

The under-14 team at Gills included Sam Lawford, who unfortunately didn’t get a contract, Aaron Simpson, Bradley Stevenson and Ben Chapman. I have been with these players for five years and developed good friendships with them. Now I am striving for the first team.

What I have to do now is get used to the pace. We’ve been involved in training alongside them, which has been a great experience. It’s a lot different to the youth team – a lot faster.

With the youth team you have a lot of time on the ball, I can take a couple of touches but when I go to the first team if you take a touch then straight away someone is on you.

I have to get used to the pace, a bit like when I went up from the under-16s to the youth team. I think I will be all right but there is a lot to learn.

Read the full column in Thursday's Medway Messenger

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