Saturday 21 October 2017

Dingle dual star O'Sullivan taking the hurling road less travelled

Barry O’Sullivan has experience of the big days but they have all been in football. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry O’Sullivan has experience of the big days but they have all been in football. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Before he joined up with the Kerry U-21 hurlers this season, Barry O'Sullivan reckons he had not played a game of hurling in about four years.

And after Saturday's Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 'B' final with Wicklow in Semple Stadium, it's not unreasonable to suggest he might never play the game again, but that's the scenario he finds himself heading into.

"I know it's a funny one all right, a Dingle man playing hurling," he smiles.

O'Sullivan has experience of the big days but they have all been in football.

He won a Hogan Cup with Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in 2014 and added the All-Ireland minor title with Kerry later that year. This year he was part of the Kingdom's U-21 set-up that won Munster on their way to what was expected to be another All-Ireland-winning season, before Galway blitzed them in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Then Dingle were knocked out of the county championship sooner than expected and when he opted against spending the summer in the US, it left a vacuum.

Suddenly, there was ample time for something else.

"I had a quiet summer this year; the club got knocked out early of the county championship and I didn't go to America and the Kerry front was quiet too.

"Then (manager) Ian Brick gave me a ring there and said will you come and play the hurling and I said why not?

"It was a great opportunity. I suppose my skill level wouldn't have been as good as the fellas from north Kerry but I picked it up gradually week after week and thankfully now we are in a final against Wicklow. Any time you are in a final it is great."

Dingle provided a hurling outlet for him until he was U-14 but could never truly take root in that football hotbed.

Hurling returned when he lined out in one game for Kilmoyley at minor level but until Brick's call this year, he hadn't played since.

"At the start, the touch wasn't as good. Naturally, I hadn't played a club game in four years. My first game was playing Cork U-17 hurlers, who went on to win the (All-Ireland), a baptism of fire thrown in there.

"Look, it comes after a while. Just get in among the thick of it and flake away."

He's not the first Dingle man to be plucked from obscurity to hurl for Kerry. Football All-Star Paul Geaney lined out for the Kingdom in the final of the same |U-21 B competition. "We had a club team until maybe I was U-14 and then football took over.

"In Kerry if you want to be trying to play it is probably football.

"In the school we were lucky to be good enough and it (hurling) kind of petered out.

"I played one game at minor with Kilmoyley in north Kerry and after that it petered out again. And now since the football went quiet I said why not."

It's hard to know what's next for him. He'd love a shot with the Kerry footballers but studying veterinary in UCD throws up obvious barriers. That's for down the road, however.

"I had nothing to lose. It was nice to change it up a small bit, less pressure than in the football in Kerry.

"There is a great set-up inside there, they are very keen... if we can play to our potential, we will be in with a good shot."

Irish Independent

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