Mark O'Hara's St Mirren ambition after Motherwell European experience marred by covid

St Mirren captain Mark O'Hara
St Mirren captain Mark O'Hara -Credit:SNS Group

Mark O’Hara is desperate for a fresh crack at European football after his first experience was overshadowed by the scourge of covid.

The St Mirren skipper has a Euro itch to scratch despite playing for Motherwell in the Europa League four years ago.

Football resumed five months after the arrival of the virus but fans were not allowed to attend games, with players forced to follow a list of rules to keep the show on the road.

Well beat Northern Irish duo Glentoran and Coleraine but their Europa League run ended in Israel following a 3-0 defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

This weekend, O’Hara could be part of the first Buddies team to qualify for Europe in 37 years if they beat Kilmarnock and Dundee fail to win at Hearts.

And the 28-year-old from Barrhead is dreaming of an authentic European experience if Saints seal the deal with the black-and-white army in tow. Reflecting on the madness of 2020, O’Hara said: “It was special at the time but frustrating because of the fact it was covid.

“We never got to sample the real experience with fans not being there. Travel was different with everybody wearing masks and we all had to stay in individual rooms so we couldn’t really bond.

“In a sense, I don’t really feel satisfied as I haven’t really had a taste of the real European experience.

“They were one-off games. In the Coleraine game, we were 2-0 up and cruising and I had a penalty given against me which was never a penalty! But going to Israel is something that sticks with me. It was a different experience.

“You do have regrets because when you play a team like that, you expect to do a bit better. Although it ended 3-0 – and we had a man sent-off at 1-0 – we were well in the game.

“I think a lot of it is down to mindset when we go and play these teams because the Scottish sides are just as good. I’ve been close a few times but this is obviously a massive chance and I would love to get to Europe with this club.

“It would be a thank you to the fans from us if we get there. As a fan, you want to experience things like that.”

O’Hara and his Buddies created this Saturday’s SMiSA Stadium clinching scenario after storming to a 3-1 win over Dundee at Dens Park.

“It’s a special group of players and staff and I think it’s something that we would deserve,” the captain added. “The belief is massive and this is where we think we should be.

“You probably don’t realise at the moment but, in 20 years, hopefully qualifying for Europe is the norm for the club.”

Saints will rake in at least £450,000 if they qualify for the Europa Conference League and O’Hara added: “We will attract more players and the infrastructure can become bigger and better.”

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