Wednesday 19 December 2018

Parents vow to shield rugby star son as Zebo-mania takes off

Simon Zebo with Siofra McMahon and Joyce Erlie at the Rugby Sevens in Kinsale last year
Simon Zebo with Siofra McMahon and Joyce Erlie at the Rugby Sevens in Kinsale last year
Simon's sister Jessika.
Zebo playing in the Munster Junior Cup Final in 2007.
The Scoil Barra National School team from Beaumont in Cork.

Ralph Riegel

HE is one of the hottest properties in world rugby but Simon Zebo's parents are determined to shield their superstar son from the media mania generated by his meteoric rise to fame.

The 22-year-old wonder winger still lives with his mother Lynda and dad Arthur at the family's home in the quiet Cork suburb of Ballintemple.

Simon's mother is from Cork and she told the Irish Independent that while the family is honoured by the media focus on their son, they insist on staying out of the limelight.

"It has been totally overwhelming for all of us – I think mania is the only way to describe what has happened over recent weeks," she said.

"While we appreciate the media attention, we feel we have a duty to try to protect Simon as much as possible – so we prefer to stay in the background."

Zebo comes from a family with sporting talent to spare. His sister Jessika is a talented athlete with Cork club Leevale. Dad Arthur was born in Martininque, a French-speaking island in the West Indies, and was set to compete for France in the 800m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics until a leg injury ruled him out.

But his son is now the centre of attention after a try-scoring Six Nations debut against Wales. His audacious flick kick to catch a wayward pass in the build-up to Ireland's second try was the cherry on the cake.

The family has been inundated with requests for interviews, photographs and TV slots from sports outlets all over the world.

Interest in their sports-obsessed son was kindled by his starring role for Munster in this season's Heineken Cup. But his astonishing skill for Ireland in Cardiff last Sunday transformed him into a global sensation.

Footage of the flick even made sports channels in the US, including the top-rated 'Deadspin' show.

"What makes it all so unbelievable is that it is just so unexpected and overwhelming," said Lynda.

However, there were signs of superstardom in his early teens from the former Beaumont and Presentation Brothers College (PBC) student.

Zebo was an underage GAA star at St Michael's, played schoolboy football for Avondale United and rugby for PBC in the Munster Cup.


But GAA and football lost out when Irish rugby chiefs identified the Ballintemple teen as one of the country's outstanding young talents following a scorching performance for PBC over old rivals Christian Brothers College Cork six years ago.

Zebo scored the try of the game and hasn't looked back since.

PBC, the Cork school which has produced such modern rugby legends as Ronan O'Gara, Declan Kidney, Peter O'Mahony, Mick O'Driscoll and Peter Stringer, said Zebo's emergence came as no surprise.

"He has enormous talent, but also ranks as one of the nicest guys you could ever meet," the school said.

Irish Independent

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