Friday 23 February 2018

'I have never ever seen it in my life...Hurling is phenomenal, I was dumbstruck'

The Big Interview: Jean Deysel

Jean Deysel was impressed by the action in Thurles last weekend
Jean Deysel was impressed by the action in Thurles last weekend
Jean Deysel was “dumbstruck” as he watched Cork beat Tipperary at Semple Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Standing at well over 6ft and weighing almost 18 stone, Jean Deysel would be a decent target on the edge of the small rectangle if he ever tried his hand at hurling. But to Darren Sweetnam's disappointment, the Springbok won't be lining out in a Cork jersey any time soon.

Deysel was a "dumbstruck" spectator at Semple Stadium in Thurles last Sunday, as he cheered on Cork to victory against reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the Munster quarter-final.

It was his first experience of the fastest game on grass and it certainly didn't disappoint.

"I have never ever seen it in my life. And during the week the guys were talking about it," explains Deysel. "I said 'let me go watch one'. I went there and Darren Sweetnam said you have to support Cork. Sitting in the Tipperary side of the stand wasn't easy but it was so much fun.

"Hurling is phenomenal, I was dumbstruck by the guys. Even in the warm-up, the way they were pucking it around and catching. The skill-levels of the guys are amazing. It's high-scoring and edge-of-the-seat stuff. I will definitely go again, if there's ever a game when I'm around again.

Because it was my first one, I was a Cork supporter, but the lady sitting next to me was big into Tipperary. She was explaining the rules to me. Every time Cork would score I would jump up and shout, and she would look at me strangely. But I was told to support to the red guys."

The 32-year-old South African lock, who can also operate in the back-row, has been in Ireland since March. The hurling was an exhilarating 70 minutes, but he wants to add one more rugby memory to the collection before he, his wife Cindi and three-year-old son Zanru head back for Durban next Wednesday.

"When I just arrived here Jaco Taute told me about Thomond Park, the atmosphere and the people," he says. "I thought 'I have played in big crowds and I will be used to it'.

"But there is nothing like getting out onto the pitch there. It feels like the people are shouting down your neck when you are out there.

"It's even better playing a semi-final at home and getting the support you get, winning the game and taking that forward to Dublin. It's such a privilege and honour to be involved in a team like Munster.

"For me it would mean a lot to win this weekend - I haven't had silverware in quite a while. For the team, it's been a tough year there's been a lot of things happening. Winning silverware is tangible and it's something that you can refer to.

"In the future you will sit around a camp-fire, or at home, and you will remember playing Scarlets in a final in Dublin. And you will recall everything, you will recall your mates... everything.

"I believe we can do it, and it would be great for the club. It would be something that Munster could hold onto.

"The last time I won silverware was in 2013, we won the Currie Cup back home. I got injured in the semi-final. I had played the whole season and missed out on the big one. The last time I actually was involved when I won was in 2008, so it goes back a while."

But it's not as if Deysel would have long to wait before he could get back on the pitch and fight for another trophy back home.

Once he returns to Umhlanga, north of Durban, the seven-time capped Springbok will have a couple of weeks off before it's back into the rough and tumble with the Sharks.

He loves the action but says the players in the northern hemisphere have it just as difficult, and after five appearances in the Munster red he knows they go through one hell of a tough campaign physically.

"It sounds worse than it is. I was talking to the guys here, they have been going for about 48 to 49 weeks now," he says. "When I came here our season was only about four weeks old. They are having a little bit longer than me, but I am still fresh and ready because I am only about ten weeks in."

And the reason it's not straight back into competitive rugby when he does arrive home, is because the Springboks are playing their summer tour against France.

Deysel has fulfilled his dream to once wear the Springbok jersey, and he says it's the biggest honour back home.

"Rugby back home is massive. You get introduced to it at schoolboy level, and from there provincially, and then hopefully a big club. I played since I was seven, but for fun," he says.

I decided to give it a go professionally when I was 21. I had to make life decisions to carry on with rugby or keep on studying. My dad said there is always time to study, and it will always be there to go back to, but rugby is such a short part of your life. I have got a lot of thanks for my dad.

"It's a feeling that's different for everybody. It's a life achievement and something you work towards since you touch the ball.

"It's such a great feeling representing your country and at such a high level."

But hurling is Deysel's new second-favourite sport. He will head home next week with two hurleys and a sliothar in hand, and he will miss Ireland dearly once his three-month loan deal finishes.

"Munster have been so great, Ireland has been so great. The people here, the whole town we have lived in. It's such a great nation and the people made the transition so much easier for me and my family. It's really been phenomenal.

"All the expectations were met and even better."

Subscribe to The Throw-In,'s weekly Championship podcast, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every Monday, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé, Brendan Cummins and John Mullane.

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Irish Independent

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