Ballymac best friends are now Down Under

John Paul O'Regan and Shane Leen from Ballymac in Australia.
John Paul O'Regan and Shane Leen from Ballymac in Australia.

LIFE-LONG friends, Shane Leen and John Paul O'Regan from Ballymac left Ireland with friends seven years ago for the golden beaches of Bondi in Sydney, Australia.

As another year draws quickly to an end, the lads are extremely happy with their lot and accept that - for the moment at least - the grass is actually greener on the other side.

Unlike many these days, Shane and John Paul left Ireland of their own volition; a burning desire to see the world being the main reason to jump on a plane. While both agree that the transition was tough - searching for work and missing family - they are now well and truly honourary Aussies.

"When I arrived here, trying to get a good job was the hardest. I spent the first three months getting jobs here and there," Shane explained. "I got a job with a company called Subakette owned by the late Mick Daly from Brosna and made brilliant friends and stayed with them for six years. Now I'm working in Queensland on a big gas project for Murphy's Pipe and Civil. I fly in and fly out, working 21 days straight with one week off. It's in the back end of nowhere, with kangaroos, wild pigs and wallabies - slightly different than the Ballymac wild life."

John Paul, who continues to work for Subakette laying electricity pipes, says the transition was somewhat easier than most people experience because he came with friends.

Both lads say that while the lifestyle is fantastic - with sunshine and beaches at your doorstep - the cost of living is pretty high in Sydney, and of course the distance from home is a killer.

"The hardest thing is obviously missing family and friends, missing out on nephews and nieces growing up, as well as birthdays and Christmas," John Paul said. "But because there are so many Irish boys working alongside each other, it's like a home away from home in some ways."

So after seven years in their 'home away from home' is there any prospect of returning to the Emerald Isle?

"I'm coming home every year. Then I think I'll just do one more year," Shane says. "It's a brilliant spot and it will be hard to leave when I do. It's just a pity it wasn't closer to home."

John Paul, meanwhile, is adamant about coming back - exactly when, however, is another question.

"I do think about coming home with my girlfriend Tara (from Kildare) who I met here two years ago. I definitely will return to settle down in a few years"