Preston let a number of players leave in January, and two dropped down to non-league for playing time.
The likes of Andre Green, Chris Maxwell, Josh Earl, Kevin O’Connor, Jack Armer and Josh Ginnelly all departed in one way or another, and two players headed to Stalybridge Celtic.
Midfielder Adam O’Reilly and forward Ethan Walker joined Simon Haworth’s side until the end of the season, gaining valuable first-team football.
They’ve dropped down to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, which is the seventh tier of English football. That’s a long way from North End’s level, but both players have made their league debuts for Preston.
Both players started Tuesday’s game against Gainsborough Trinity, and actually combined for the opening goal. Walker’s free kick was saved, and O’Reilly scored from the rebound to bag his first Stalybridge goal.
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Stalybridge both Haworth spoke about O’Reilly after the game, admitting that he thought the 18-year-old was ‘class’, even claiming he was showing the more senior players how to grab a game by the scruff of the neck.
Haworth added that O’Reilly is showing maturity far beyond his years, and predicting a ‘really good career’ for the Irishman having impressed so much already at Stalybridge.
“I thought he was class,” said Haworth. “Again, a young boy showing men how to do it. He grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, kept doing the right things and showed maturity beyond his years. I’ve been really impressed with him in three games, I think he’s got a really good career ahead of him,” he added.
A product of the Ringmahon Rangers setup, just like compatriot Alan Browne, O’Reilly is thought to have a big future at Deepdale, and hopefully this experience in non-league will prepare him well for pre-season with the North End first team.