Kerryman O'Connell focused on driving Cuala revolution forward
It probably wasn't how he saw his career turning out, but Cuala's Darragh O'Connell isn't complaining.
A Kerry hurler lining out for Dublin. An Abbeydorney man spending much of his spare time around Dalkey. It has been a considerable adjustment but one that, eventually, had to be made.
After getting a teaching job in Greystones, he commuted home to hurl for club and county from his Shankill base for more than two years. The drive was long and hard and it just ground him down.
"On a Friday evening, you're probably in the car for four hours. Then you're trying to stop and get out. Adare! Yeah, those places. Nightmare," O'Connell says.
"There were times coming up to games when you might have to travel midweek or meet in Limerick if lads were training there with the college. So there were other times when you had to go to Tralee on the train. You're not getting a 100pc out of yourself when you're sitting in a car for four hours.
"And if you play a game on a Sunday, having to sit into the car and drive back to Dublin from Tralee - especially if you weren't after playing very well, that's a bit tougher as well."
He had gotten to know a few of the Cuala players around that period. There were offers to come in and train and by 2014, he decided to make it official. Shortly afterwards, an offer to throw in his lot with Dublin also came along.
"You become settled somewhere very quickly. You're in each other's pockets. You're hanging around with each other all the time. You just never know what the future holds. You've got to try and live in the moment as much as you can."
He couldn't have foreseen what would happen back then. When he joined, the South Dublin club were looking to win their first Dublin title in a couple of decades. On Saturday, they are out to defend their All-Ireland crown when they take on Galway's Liam Mellows in the semi-final.
"The Galway championship is so difficult to win. You see so many different teams coming out over the last few years. It's so competitive.
"And you look at Galway hurling and it's on a real high at the moment as well. They're All-Ireland champions. And their club teams, their record speaks for itself. So look, we know it's going to be a huge challenge."
Though O'Connell admits it didn't always look like they would get this far after last year's heroics. "We were beaten in a group game in Dublin, a couple of weeks after winning (the All-Ireland). But at that stage, you know what you have to do to try and get through those games to get a win."
An Irish speaker, he was surprised to find so many in the Cuala dressing room. Though he admits that there have been some communication issues when it comes to accents.
"Not yet!" he smiled when asked if he had picked up a Dalkey accent. "Even though every time I do get home, they always tell me I'm after picking up a word or two but I don't know! The lads in the dressing-room, they don't understand me. And some of the things they come out with, I don't understand them!"
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