Brothers in arms - Greencastle trio back on Irish soil for World Games
By Eoghan Tuohey
When former All-Ireland Minor champions, Sean Warnock and John McCullagh, of the Greencastle club arrived in Waterloo, Sydney, in early 2017, there was only ever going to be one GAA club to whom they would pledge their allegiance.
Now integral parts of the Cormac McAnallen club in the city, along with fellow club-mate, Christopher Gillen, it's fair to say that the former members of the Tyrone club, which is nestled in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains, have made a real impact here. Warnock, who claimed triple honours with his county at minor level in 2008 (Ulster League, Championship & All-Ireland Championship) will assume the mantle of midfield play-maker for the Australasian Irish Born side at this year's Renault GAA World Games.
"Myself and John (McCullagh) moved to Sydney in February 2017, and with Cormac McAnallen being a Tyrone man it was the only club we considered going to. We also knew a few people who were involved with the club at the time. Christopher arrived a year later so he didn't have much of a choice of who to play for!
My reading of the play would be my main strength. I'm looking forward to getting back on the field at home and hopefully pick up some silverware while we're at it!"
The civil engineer, who was a member of the Tyrone senior panel as recently as 2013, is a huge advocate of the GAA World Games as a concept, and can't wait for the action proper to get underway.
"It's a great opportunity to showcase the growth of Gaelic Games globally. It's something incredible to be a part of, it's not somewhere I ever imagined myself ending up to be honest."
Versatile attacker McCullagh can also lay claim to an impressive array of honours from his underage days - claiming an Ulster and All-Ireland Minor title in 2010, while all three players were part of the 2014 Tyrone Intermediate League winning squad with Greencastle. Given the nine-a-side format that underpins the Renault GAA World Games, his pace will undoubtedly be an invaluable attribute for the team's attacking prospects.
"I normally slot into full-forward, my pace would be my main asset. I fully expect the GAA World Games to be an incredible experience on and off the pitch, it'll be a serious challenge and one I'm looking forward to."
All three have earned titles during their relatively short stints Down Under thus far, with a plethora of New South Wales and Australian Championships between them.
The trio are well settled into their new lifestyles in Oz, but while the climate and professional scene may differ somewhat to back home, the social scene hasn't altered a huge amount, it would appear, as outlined by McCullagh.
"We all live approximately within 100 yards of each other in Sydney and are best of friends so as you could imagine we do quite a lot together and our three girlfriends are all from Antrim and play for 'Mac's camogie team!"
There are plenty of negative aspects to emigration as well of course, and John is relishing coming home for an extended holiday, so that he can meet nieces and nephews for the first time this summer.
Gillen, meanwhile, has found that what generates the flurry of homesickness for him is often more culinary-related.
"Friends and family would be the most common answer here in terms of what I miss the most, but, to be honest, it's my Mum's dinners that I'm struggling without a lot of the time!"
All three have hopes in the future to return home and don the green and white of Greencastle before they have to hang up their boots, a collective highlight being earning promotion to Division 1 football for the first time in club's history in 2009.
McCullagh and Warnock, in particular, are well travelled footballers, garnering experience in the States prior to joining the McAnallen set up in Sydney.
"With Sean being one year older and Christopher one year younger growing up, I was always playing along with the two of them. Myself (McCullagh) and Sean played underage county football and school football together and also went to play for the Ulster club in San Francisco during the summer of 2015.
"I definitely do plan to return to Greencastle and play before I retire from football, but a lot of Greencastle people would tell you I was finished before I left!"