Sunday 15 September 2019

Ó Cairealláin's Tipperary glory born in Belfast and refined in Arsenal

Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Tipperary captain Séamus Callanan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

Thirty years on from Tipperary beating Antrim in the All-Ireland final, there was a strong Saffron influence running through the team for Sunday's All-Ireland win over Kilkenny.

While making his acceptance speech, Tipp captain Seamus Callanan noted among his list of people expressing gratitude that they had: "An absolute legend in Cairbre Ó Cairealláin. He put some serious work into us and that didn't go unnoticed out there on the pitch."

Ó Cairealláin is Tipperary's strength and conditioning coach, recommended to Liam Sheedy through Anthony Daly, whom he had come into contact with through his work with the Limerick hurling academy.

The Belfast man's work was evident in the pared-back physiques of the likes of John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, who said after the game: "Liam (Sheedy) came back and told me a few home truths at the start of the year and I worked a lot with the S&C, and it was just about getting that base fitness.

"The team as a whole, we all did it together, we went through thick and thin together."

The work was also acknowledged by Sheedy himself, who was typically generous with spreading the credit, stating: "Cairbre doing the S&C, the condition he has got those players in is just fantastic. They challenged the lads and the lads responded."

Ó Cairealláin followed older brother Ainle down to the sports science faculty in University of Limerick after completing his A-Levels in St Mary's CBS, Belfast, and forged a most unusual coaching and sporting path.


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Instead of returning home for summer breaks, the brothers hurled in Cork with Na Piarsaigh. However, persistent injury issues left Cairbre spending more time working with the Limerick hurling academy where he came into contact with Daly.

Having studied a Master's alongside former Irish rugby international Jerry Flannery, they switched places when he returned to work with Munster and Ó Cairealláin landed a three-year internship with the Arsenal Academy, where he came under the guidance of Galway native Des Ryan and Barry Solan, who had worked with Mayo before joining Arsenal.

The two talked in the lead-up to Sunday's final. "He said to me, 'Take a moment to take it in,'" said Ó Cairealláin.

"It's surreal, you are so focused on how to win the game. But when you came out, it was what you have been dreaming about all your life, so - obviously not in Saffron colours - it's good."

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