Most of our clients and indeed many of our own staff may not know that we have a star sportsman in our midst here at LCI. Since arriving in Australia from Ireland 6 year ago, Sean O'Leary has been working as an engineer LCI exceling in CFD analysis and visual rendering.
In addition to work and family life, Sean is also a highly accomplished hurler. Sean recently captained Victoria to victory in the Australian State Games Hurling Championship held in Brisbane in October, capping it all off by also been announced in the All-Australian Team. Sean's accomplishments didn't go unnoticed back home in Ireland and his local county newspaper recently featured him on their Sports Pages. Congratulations Sean!
The article can be found on the Cork Evening Echo website but we have included the full article below also.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 02, 2016
GROWING up as a young hurler, the dream for any player is to lift trophies with your club and county.
To collect a cup at Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Páirc Uí Rinn is the fuel that drives endless the hours spent pucking sliotars at training or in the alley.
So what happens when you land on foreign shores?
The grá for a game as great as hurling doesn’t diminish with age or location.
That was the challenge facing Seán O’Leary when he landed in Melbourne six years ago with his, now wife, Maria. He wanted to keep hurling, and was also keen to connect with similar GAA enthusiasts.
“Being from Watergrasshill my life revolved around the Watergrasshill hurling club. It took a while to settle in but mixing with your own is always a good way to do it in a new environment.”
There were three clubs in Melbourne at the time, Garryowen, Sinn Féin and Shamrocks, while Dan Breen’s were formed two years later. Erin’s Own stalwart and former Cork hurler Peter Kelly directed O’Leary towards two Caherlag natives, Fergus ‘Gusky’ Murphy and John Geary.
“I messaged Gusky on Facebook to find out when and where training would be and he duly obliged ‘You’re very early (it was October), training doesn’t start until January boy’. That was the start of my great friendship with Gusky and joining Garryowen.” While the social side of GAA abroad is hugely attractive, a competitor like O’Leary relished the action too. While there are only so many wristy, tough hurlers domiciled Down Under, there are a number of competitions, which run from January through to October.
The official start of the season is marked by the Padraig Pearse Seven-a-side Tournament, drawing in clubs from Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. It’s a test of skill and will, hurling on a full-size pitch with seven players and seven rolling subs.
Garryowen last won that competition in 2012 with a strong Cork flavour, including O’Leary, Murphy, Geary, Rob Murphy and Eoin Conway from Fr O’Neill’s, Richie O’Connell (St Catherine’s) and John Griffin from Cobh.
“Once the sevens tournament is finished we begin our league games which means in the hurling we play each other three times each until the league final in May,” explains O’Leary.
“The championship is semi-finals, knockout, and it’s hotly contested. We are very aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses after the league, so there is never much between us.”
This season, Garryowen set the bar high, led by Galway man Ronan Costello, who took up the coaching mantle after being ruled out by a cruciate knee injury.
“Our aim was to win every competition we participated in and put in a huge effort. Ronan trained us to the league title and the championship title. We beat Sinn Féin in both finals.”
Despite the condensed nature of the Melbourne format, O’Leary took huge pride in the double. While he’ll always be a Watergrasshill man, he’s a Garryowen man now too.
“We do take our hurling seriously out here. A lot of us are here for the past five or six years, so this is where our club is now. We train two nights during the week with either a game or an extra session at the weekends. The standard is quite high seeing as we’re so far from Ireland, but that’s driven also by the fact all the other clubs have people who are very passionate about their hurling too.”
The current Garryowen hurling squad featured players from Tipperary, Kilkenny, Galway, Waterford, Clare, Kerry and seven Leesiders: O’Leary (Watergrasshill), Alan Sheehan and Cian Lynch (Dohenys) Patrick O’Neill (St Catherine’s), Murphy and Geary (Erin’s Own), and Sean Hennessey (Castlemarytr).
The Cork connection has always been strong, including Sean Flannery (Carrigtwohill), John Griffin (Cobh) and David Hennessey (Glen Rovers).
While it’s always impressive to dominate on your own patch, it’s even sweeter to make a mark at a higher level, and in Australia that’s the State Games. The four Melbourne clubs come together as the State of Victoria and to complete a fantastic season O’Leary collected a trophy on this front too, as captain, after losing the previous four finals.
“There is a lot of preparation and training that goes into this. The competition is the best standard of hurling in Australia. The State teams from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia would probably handle themselves well in intermediate competitions back home.
“Once the Melbourne Championship finished we had two weeks off and it was straight back into training for the State Games and representing Victoria. We had lost the last four finals in a row and were hell bent on winning this one.” The training was orchestrated by Tribesman Costello and Neil Murray (Antrim), with Tipp’s Matty Coffey involved too; three sessions a week for eight weeks. “There were a number of players very disappointed not to make the panel and the management had a very tough task in making those difficult calls.
As our club had won the championship we had the captaincy and I was privileged to be picked. The State Games are held during the week so players must get time off work and pay for their own flights to Brisbane.” The other expenses like gear, accommodation, and car hire are covered by fundraising, but players’ initial outlay highlights their commitment.
Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland battled for this year’s title, but it didn’t start brightly for O’Leary and his team-mates, as two opening days losses put them on the backfoot and into a semi-final against New South Wales, who had Aghada’s Brian Morrissey in defence.
“It was the wake-up call we needed. We regrouped and had a very honest chat about why we had put in all this effort to get there.” They won the semi-final 3-16 to 2-8.
“The final was a cagier. We’d been narrowly beaten by the hosts Queensland two days earlier (4-13 to 3-10), but we were confident because we didn’t do ourselves justice in that one.
“The bodies were tired after a tough few days but we wanted to make it count after losing the past four finals. We really had the full squad contributing and we just completely outworked them with our hunger and desire.” For that it was a narrow victory – 2-10 to 0-12 – but a special one.
Seán McIntyre, a staunch advocate for hurling in Victoria over the past 30 years and who recently recovered from an illness, was on hand as O’Leary lifted the silverware. It was a more sun-kissed affair than a county final in October here on Leeside, but a glorious one for O’Leary, his wife Maria and son Seán Óg.
To cap off a magical season, the Watergrasshill native was picked, along with nine of his Victoria team-mates on the All-Australasian team. All-Star and captain fantastic, it doesn’t get much better.