I did my Leaving Certificate in 2018. My first choice was agricultural science in UCD, which I narrowly missed out on by 10 points.
I intended to take a year out anyway, because it was my first choice. I was playing football with the Mayo under-20s and the Mayo minors for a few years and I was unsure really what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to focus on football for a while.
So I hit a wall, because when you don’t get the points it feels like the end of the world.
I got a part-time job and was made aware of a Level 5 course in animal care in further education in Westport College of Further Education (now named Mayo College of Further Education and Training). I did the course, and I was only doing it because it would be good to keep my head busy and to keep in routine.
I did the Level 5 course and at very late notice I was made aware that the course could get me into UCD to do agricultural science. I was under a bit of pressure then, so I did the course and got my eight distinctions and I got in through the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). That’s how I got to UCD through further education, and I just haven’t looked back.
I moved up to Dublin in 2019 and got the campus accommodation. [During my] first year, [and with the] transition from the QQI into college life, I joined loads of clubs to make friends and joined the football team.
The course is fantastic and there’s a misconception I think, even when I was going up on the train I was wondering if I’d be able for it. Maybe it would be a step too far. But once you actually go in the door of UCD, the entry route is actually completely irrelevant. Everyone is on the same wavelength and you’re all on the same page in terms of learning.
[Further education] gives you more time to prepare for college life, it assures you of your career path. I had mixed emotions between the love of sport and the love of agriculture.
It increases your hunger to go to college and to get a degree. It was fantastic. I’m in third year now, so I’m just finishing up my professional work placement and I, 100 per cent, want to have a career in the area.
College gives you great opportunities. I went to Brazil for my work experience. You have to do four weeks minimum in five enterprises, but you can spend longer if you want. I went to the Netherlands to do dairy research, then I went to Brazil, I went to an industry company in Limerick and I’m just at Castlebellingham now. You don’t know where you’re going to be when you graduate, but at least you get to try everything.