Lismore's Heneghan is homeward bound in bid to capture Renault GAA World Games title
By Eoghan Tuohey
The populations and geographical specifications of Lismore and Australia may be worlds apart - but the passionate fires that are stoked when the jersey of representation is donned retain very similar characteristics. John Heneghan of Lismore in Co. Waterford has been living and working in Victoria, Melbourne for upwards of four and a half years at this stage, and, like many Irish emigrants before him, quickly found his feet in the warm embrace of the local GAA club. Representing Australia in a GAA World Games competition may have seemed like a far fetched notion a few years back, but the former minor and U-21 Waterford hurling panellist is privileged to be travelling back home to Waterford as part of a formidable Australian Irish Born hurling squad.
"It's a massive honour to represent a country and to be playing in the Games. It's a great initiative to support international GAA clubs, and long may it continue! I love the fact that the games are in Waterford. Growing up playing in every pitch from Ballygunner to Ballyduff, you get a great sense of joy and competition out of playing in all these parishes and now to be going home to represent Australia is a real honour. The aim is obviously to get to the final and win it and play in Croke Park, but the pride of playing in your home county will be very important to all the men and women from the Deise competing."
The Garryowen club-man may have a higher ratio of internal butterflies ahead of his trip back home than most - coupled with travelling to Ireland to represent Australia in the Irish Born Hurling competition, he's also getting married during the same excursion!
"I get back home once every 18 months roughly speaking and I'm getting married to my beautiful fiance Gill three weeks after the games so it's a massive trip home for us. We also have an 8 month old son Sean who is hoping he gets to see his dad play in Croke Park."
The St. Flannan's College, Ennis alumnus, known affectionately as "Giggles" to those that know him best, has found himself re-immersed in the GAA scene in Melbourne, having fallen somewhat out of love with the game towards the end of his playing career in Waterford. He's a founding member of, and regular contributor to, the "G'day GAA" podcast, which is the only GAA podcast outside of Ireland presently.
"G'day GAA is a trio of passionate hurling people who spotted a small niche in the GAA podcast landscape and created the only GAA podcast outside of Ireland. We discuss everything from GAA hurling and football (mainly hurling) to GAA in Australia and around the world, to Congress, to how the GAA can learn from the nimble and flexible approach taken by the GAA community outside of Ireland.
We have around 1200 listeners weekly from all around the world and have our own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account so you can follow us there. We have just finished recording episode no 43.
Myself, Sean O'Leary from Watergrasshill in Cork, who is also playing in the World Games and Liam Lenihan, a Dicksboro man are the 3 founders.
We have had some great guests on the show including - Brendan Bugler from Clare, Gary Brennan from Clare, John Mulhall from Kilkenny, Richie Foley from Waterford and the great Brian Cody, when we covered the Wild Geese trophy. Liam especially enjoyed that one...he was star struck!
The podcast is sponsored by O'Neills Australia and more listeners are coming online every week."
The two-time Australian State Championship winner, and one-time Australasian championship player of the year, has also represented the University of Limerick at Fitzgibbon Cup level. Given the volume of GAA talent that exists already in Australia, Heneghan expects the standard at this year's Renault GAA World Games to be exceptional.
"Our team is pretty strong, we have 9 Melbourne-based players and 4 Sydney-based players from Waterford, Cork, Tipperary, Wexford, Limerick, Offaly, Kilkenny and Clare and they are all keen to impress and win the competition. The prize of playing in Croke Park is huge for a lot of us... It may be the only chance we get, so we certainly will be doing everything we can to get to the final and win it. As always though, it's one game at a time.
The Middle East team are the reigning champions and we expect them to be the favourites again given their large youthful teaching community who often travel home from Dubai and the surrounding regions every summer. It's a much bigger trek for us in Oz."
It's going to be a very exciting holiday period for John Heneghan and his family, with the chance to play in a GAA World Games final in Croke Park up for grabs, while the wedding bells will toll for he and his fiancée a few weeks later. This is just one of hundreds of fascinating stories as GAA players from every corner of the globe make the journey home to Ireland this July and August for what is sure to be the biggest and best GAA World Games yet. Make sure you're a part of it!