Conor O'Shea making a hurling mark in the capital
Saturday July 18
Dublin Senior Hurling Championship
Faughs v St Jude's, O'Toole Park, 2pm
By Cian O’Connell
“The joke in my family is that my grandmother wouldn't have been too impressed with me joining Faughs,” Conor O’Shea laughs as another campaign in the Dublin Senior A Hurling Championship with Faughs drifts closer.
O’Shea’s mother, Edel Murphy, forged a decorated Camogie career with Crumlin and Dublin, while his father, Eamonn, the thoughtful Tipperary coach, even had a stint in the blue and white jersey.
“My mother's family would all have played with Crumlin,” O’Shea continues. “Dad hurled with Crumlin too for three years and with Dublin for a year.
“Joining Faughs I knew a couple of lads involved, I had a fantastic coach in college, in Freshers, Colm Crowley. He was hurling a bit there at the time and he put me in touch with a couple of guys. Over the years I just got to know them.”
Now in his fifth year with Faughs, O’Shea is busy preparing for an eagerly anticipated summer opener against St Jude’s.
O’Shea, 26, derives significant enjoyment from hurling with Faughs, but is also making an impact training and managing teams. Taking charge of the UCD Fitzgibbon Cup team and coaching the Dublin minors are his current roles.
That competitive action is on the verge of resuming matters deeply to O’Shea. “It is absolutely mighty that there is something to be played this year,” O’Shea says.
“Faughs play Jude's this Saturday and for the areas the two clubs cover it is brilliant for the people there to have something. Just to talk about it. You are thinking local rivals. People are sitting in their kitchens wondering what the other team is going to do in this game.
“Whatever about the results across the next two months in the Club Championship, people need to live in the moment that we have matches to be played.
“My view would be don't be worrying too much about what is coming, just enjoy playing. We played three matches last week, every second day basically, but the smiles on us leaving the field. It is so enjoyable.”
O’Shea grew up playing with Salthill-Knocknacarra in Galway, where his parents have spearheaded the drive to put the club on the hurling map by constructing a vibrant underage system. Since commencing work in the capital, O'Shea eventually made the switch to Faughs in 2016.
Significant potential exists according to O’Shea. “The team is very young,” O’Shea states. “You have two cohorts, I'm 26. You have seven or eight around my age - 26, 27, and 28. I think 29 is our oldest player, everybody else is younger.
“You have a good bunch at 21 or 22 and from then down basically huge work went in at underage. I think it is the first time ever for Faughs to have two minor teams. In Dublin when you get to two teams it is brilliant because you have enough numbers. You become self sufficient then.
“There is a very talented team at Under 17 at the moment with the majority of them playing minor. They'd be a strong team, they got to the Feile final in Dublin at Under 14.
“At Under 15 and Under 16 they'd have been in the top two with Na Fianna or Ballyboden the whole time. Then the teams below that are all competing in the top division and are able to mix it with the top four or five clubs. They are coming nicely.”
Ultimately demographics mean people will always flock to the capital to work and live. O’Shea found a nice environment entering Faughs.
“They are incredibly welcoming, that is one thing that has to be said about Faughs,” O’Shea stresses. “They are so welcome to anyone that comes in. You will probably have 12 lads from Faughs that will start on Saturday. We only have a panel of 24, you only have three or four country fellas.
“The Faughs teams traditionally would mainly have been country fellas, it would have been a reverse. It is a huge testament to all of the work that has gone down over the last 15 years probably.
“There has been huge work put in. Tommy O'Mahony is the GPO, he has done fantastic work over the last seven or eight years in Faughs again to bring more players through. He actually coached us when we won the Senior B too. There is huge work going in. Hopefully it will bear fruit for them.”
O’Shea knows all about grafting with teams, but is excited about the manner in which the Dublin minors have dealt with an unprecedented campaign.
“I was with development squads for a while,” O’Shea explains. “Last year I was in with the 20s, this year I'm coaching the minors. Gearoid O'Riain is the bainisteoir from Crokes, he is very good.
“The year been as it is we got together earlier on in the year and got to know the fellas. We were working hard, then the Covid kicked in. The players themselves came up with an initiative.
“We were doing 'Hurl for Hope' for Pieta House. Fellas develop in different ways, and players develop differently. That was a fantastic experience for all of the lads. They basically took the project on themselves.
“They were in charge of it, they contacted the senior players, and were doing the media stuff. It was like a big massive project that they would do in TY or whatever, they really took it on. It raised just shy of 25,000 for Pieta House. They are an amazing bunch to get that done in very difficult circumstances.”
UCD’s relevance to O’Shea’s development has also been critical. From the first day entering Belfield as a third level student from Galway, O’Shea found the late Dave Billings’ genuine and helpful direction pivotal.
“The UCD thing is where I started,” O’Shea remarks about his thirst to train teams. “Dave Billings was brilliant to me in college.
“When I was in second year I would have coached the Freshers. Then I would have taken the Intermediate team which really got me hooked. From there I left college and went straight into coaching the Fitz team. This was my second year managing, I love it to be honest.
“For me going to UCD, I had been in Colaiste na Coiribe. There was nobody from Colaiste na Coiribe so you are on your own.
“Straight away I remember going into the Sports Centre on the first day, Dave would have been fantastic. I went up to the office and said I was here for the Freshers hurling, he started chatting, he introduced me to fellas and girls, just getting to know people.
“That is your social circle then. It starts from there. You ended up living with the fellas, in second year I was living with six hurlers and we had some craic. It spirals from there.”
Many valuable lessons were learned in Belfield. O’Shea always had an appreciation of sport, but the time spent in Belfield remains particularly rewarding.
“The other thing is it is you get a great connection,” O’Shea adds. “You are building relationships, when I did the Freshers I loved it because you'd just help lads out. The college stuff is all about helping each other out.
“Even just being there if a fella doesn't understand what he is doing in college, maybe struggling a bit. Just being there to give him a steer. The hurling is great craic. There is a great community. You have a small group of players that play, but it is very enjoyable.”
Uncertainty surrounds the short term future of the educational sector. So much will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, but O’Shea is adamant that the GAA can provide real assistance to students.
“The Colleges GAA and the situation that is coming with huge problems going to surround third level education going forward for the next while with the Covid restrictions,” O’Shea acknowledges.
“Stuff like 30 or 40 per cent class time, those type of things. That is where Colleges GAA clubs all around the country become even more important. They will give lads and girls all around campuses a focal point. I'm involved with the Comhairle Ard Oideachais, we are hoping to get as many games as we can for people, who want to play.
“You can call it developmental before Christmas and hopefully our Championship will be as normal after Christmas. It is to give people a focal point on campus, that is important going forward. We have a lot of young people struggling over the lockdown and that is something for them.”
Undoubtedly it is an area of concern, especially considering the thrill and joy third level GAA has supplied throughout the decades.
For now, though, O’Shea’s focus is on Faughs. “Who knows what it will be like?” O’Shea wonders. “That is the magical thing about this. It is like the start of a year, the pure hope you have in January, except this time it is in the good weather.”
Let the games begin.