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To Hell and Back – Padraig O’Hora

Padraig O’Hora is a Ballina Stephenites and Mayo footballer, and was one of this years winner’s on RTE programme “Ultimate Hell Week”. Padraig has taken the road less travelled so far in his footballing career, taking some time away from the game to explore other sports including mixed martial arts. Padraig’s time away from the game and experience in other aspects of life have helped to develop an athlete that is now brimming with self-belief and is ready to face any challenge that arises.

Hell Week

When asked about his experience on “Hell Week”, Padraig explained how tough the experience was. “They test every little fiber, you don’t have to be great at anything you just need to be a Jack of all traits. They just find something that gets to you. It’s very difficult , you have to push yourself harder than you ever have mentally. It’s such a small space of time but the hard work you put into those 7 or 8 days is unbelievable. You’ve never in your life time put in as much work as you have in that time. You’ve just never gone that far before. Even by the end of day two I’ve never been as tired, they just keep demanding more of you.”

While the week was so tough in many different aspects, it was also clear to Padraig which part was the toughest. “The mental fatigue. Trying to hold onto yourself and remember yourself. They just break you down, day by day and everything just gets a little bit harder. The food, the sleep, not knowing the time, not being able to communicate with anybody, no music. It’s just a constant barrage of pressure. They won’t dial it down for us and they won’t lose their integrity over it and they made that very clear. They wouldn’t care if they knocked everybody out and there were no finishers.”

O’Hora was unbreakable during Ultimate Hell Week
O’Hora was unbreakable during Ultimate Hell Week

A Break from Football

The “Hell Week” challenge was undoubtedly tough, and while Padraig would have been physically fit from football, he credits some of his strong mental resilience to his break from it.

“I went away from football for two years and I went up to the gym in Ballina where they do Mixed Martial Arts and I did Jiu-Jitsu up there. I just fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu for 2 years and I did a bit of striking while I was there. It kind of changed the way I trained. I needed something to focus my head after football. I was kind of frustrated with football at the time and I found that and thought, that gets the mind kicking. It’s a serious brain game. The only reason I’m not doing it right now is because of football and I want to give everything I have to football.”

When asked what it was like to put football on the back burner he said “It was strange, I just kind of fell out of love with it for a while. I just had a couple of years where I just wasn’t enjoying doing the same thing week in, week out. I just couldn’t stay away from football after watching the club and I was so tied in with the club and the community that I was always linking in and working with them on stuff anyway.”

He also found that the community were very supportive in helping him while he was gone and knew he wasn’t leaving football for good while they were around. “If I was doing anything in the community they would have been very supportive, they helped me with fundraisers and stuff. I was never going to completely break away from football because an awful lot of my close friends are involved and you grow up together playing football so I could never forget that and eventually, I felt that it was what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. I had my break and learnt a bit about myself before I went back at it.”

He was however glad to be back afterwards and said that it helps that things have been going well since he’s been back. “It was unreal. Things have been going well for us the past year. The team is different, just kind of firing on all cylinders at the minute.

While “Hell Week” had been another challenge for Padraig he is glad that he’s gotten to take it on. When asked if he would recommend it for others, he said “I’d recommend hell week or whatever your hell week is. Whatever that thing is that’s just slightly out of reach, forget whatever reason is holding you back, just go for it. It payed off for me.”

The next chapter

Padraig is eagerly awaiting the return to GAA action and to lining out with both his county and clubmates. Having watched Padraig across his “Hell Week” experiences and the early part of the National League campaign with Mayo, it is clear that James Horan has added a player to his team that will not lack the mental fortitude required to topple the top teams. In Padraig O’Hora, Mayo have unearthed a different type of character, one who has been to hell and back, who might just give them a new edge as they continue in the quest for the Holy Grail that is Sam Maguire.


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