Sunday 17 December 2017

Costly switch from soccer paying off for Laois star King

Laois' Ross King. Photo: Sportsfile
Laois' Ross King. Photo: Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Laois captain Ross King has revealed how he turned his back on a promising soccer career to focus exclusively on hurling.

The 23-year-old Rathdowney-Errill player was a highly-rated young striker who had trials at Aston Villa, while also impressing with the national underage emerging talent squads.

King's soccer career began with local club Clover United before he joined Evergreen in Kilkenny as a 15-year-old, playing with them until Leaving Cert and also starring on Kilkenny & District League selections.

King's talent caught the eye of then UCD manager Martin Russell, who urged him to apply for a scholarship there, which he got. King was a key member of the UCD team that won the Collingwood Cup in 2012.

But it wasn't long before King was swapping soccer for hurling, and he smiles: "A small bit controversial, I suppose!

"I was on a soccer scholarship in first year, and then that summer, I went home and hurled with Rathdowney-Errill in the club championship, and we won it out and got to a Leinster semi-final.

"I wasn't supposed to be hurling - I was doing it behind closed doors, I suppose.

Paper

"But the UCD lads started seeing my name in the paper, hurling every weekend back home in the club championship, Leinster quarter and semi-final.

"Then second year came and none of my fees were paid when I started back training with UCD.

"I asked the manager after training one day, 'what's the story with my fees? They're supposed to be covered by ye?' He goes 'you must be joking, we're after seeing your name in the paper hurling!'.

"I got a land there and then, but he eventually said, 'fair play to you, we didn't know you were able to hurl at all!'"

The late Dave Billings contacted King then and he made the switch to hurling. "And I've barely kicked a soccer ball since," says King.

Billings and Fitzgibbon Cup manager Nicky English were big influences on King.

When Eamon Kelly announced King as Laois captain this year, he revealed how Tipperary legend English had spoken highly of him.

King played an important role for Laois as they avoided relegation from Division 1B, seeing off Kerry in a titanic play-off.

And thoughts now turn towards Sunday's Leinster SHC round-robin opener at home to Westmeath.

King, a sales rep with Glanbia, said: "We had a decent enough Walsh Cup and a mixed League, but we drew confidence from that Kerry game and a good performance against Wexford down there as well, in our last two games.

"We're quietly confident going into the round-robin. We can't wait."

Irish Independent

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