Between the “frenetic” pace of the League of Ireland and working under all-round managerial whizz Ruaidhri Higgins, Ollie O’Neill reckons he is on the right track at Derry City.
The Fulham and Ireland Under-21 midfielder arrived at on-loan the Ryan McBride Brandywell ahead of the new campaign.
O’Neill has enjoyed stepping up to men’s football having worked his way through the academy system at Craven Cottage.
Asked to describe his experience so far, O’Neill said: “Probably the tempo is a bit chaotic, partly because the league here is a little bit like that.
“And then also the first four or five games of the season are quite hectic anyway, with teams coming flying out of the trap.
“That’s probably the biggest thing. It’s not even necessarily quicker football, it’s just a little bit more frenetic.
“I suppose you add in crowds and things like that and it ramps things up a little bit.”
The 20-year-old has also enjoyed working under Derry boss Higgins so far.
“He is very good. Tactically he is really good,” said O’Neill.
“He has got that mix as well of being tactically good but also being a good man-manager, where players want to play for him.
“You don’t always necessarily get both sides of the equation, even with top managers where they are weighted towards one.
“Obviously I’ve been there four or five weeks now and I think he’s really good.”
O’Neill explained how he made the decision to join Derry after chatting with a few of his international teammates.
“I know a few of the boys. I knew Brian (Maher), Collie Whelan is there, Brandon (Kavanagh) and Ronan Boyce,” he said.
“Joe Hodge was there and I get on pretty well with Hodgey.
“I had a chat with him. I know he was only there briefly. So it wasn’t like a foreign place necessarily, I felt like I had a fairly good handle on it before I went.
“But I made a few phone calls to see what it was like.”
He added that he had options to stay in England, but that an ankle injury that hadn’t healed ahead of the transfer deadline closed off those routes.
The Derry opportunity then arose, with the League of Ireland transfer window remaining open until late last month.
Heading into the international break, Derry sit in second place, three points behind leaders Bohemians.
“We are probably at a stage where we are not that satisfied with it. We feel we should be a bit better off,” said O’Neill.
“There are a couple of points that we dropped at home in the last few weeks that we’re unhappy with.
“But I suppose given where we are at as a squad, in terms of injuries and things like that, to get to this international break unbeaten and feeling like we have a few more levels to go up is probably a good enough place to be.
“We can kick on after this.”
Born in London, but with all four grandparents hailing from Galway and Waterford, O’Neill is back on international duty this week, with the Under-21s facing Iceland in a friendly at Turner’s Cross on Sunday.
It’s his first time back in the set-up since last year’s Euro Championship play-off heartache.
O’Neill came off the bench in the second-leg in Tel Aviv, when Jim Crawford’s side were beaten on penalties to a first ever finals appearance.
“It was pretty much as close as you could get without qualifying,” he said. “It’s a uniquely horrible way to go out of a football game. But that’s life, isn’t it?
“At least I have the consolation of being able to start another campaign, whereas for some of the boys that was genuinely their last kick of their Irish 21s journey.”