‘I have some West Cork in the blood,’ says Munster star

November 29th, 2022 4:03 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Waterford man Jack O'Donoghue has strong links to West Cork.

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‘YOU’RE trying to add me to the West Cork Mafia, aren’t you?’ Jack O’Donoghue laughed.

Instantly our plan was foiled, but it wasn’t derailed.

Once we heard of the Munster rugby star’s strong links to West Cork, the recruitment drive began.

‘You probably have your own rugby team in West Cork at this stage!,’ the Waterford man quipped. True, but there’s always room for the current Munster Player of the Year.

There would be no issues with processing his West Cork passport, as his father, Neilus, is an Enniskeane man. Jack’s connection to this part of the world is strong.

Neilus went to school in Kilcolman, Enniskeane, as did his brothers (Jack’s uncles), John and Pat, who still live in the area. His father moved to Waterford and lived in Woodstown near Dunmore East, with Jack’s mother, Caroline, a Waterford woman. That’s where Jack grew up. Waterford is home, but he has a soft spot for West Cork.

‘I always remember the drive down to Grannie Nellies, she lived in the home house in Enniskeane – the drive down seemed to take days from Waterford!,’ Jack recalled. ‘There’s still a good gang from my dad’s side living there now.’

Jack was back in West Cork the day after he captained Munster to that famous 28-14 win over South Africa A at Páirc Uí Chaoimh earlier this month. The spin west brought back memories as Jack and a few players went for a swim at Inchydoney beach, and ventured into Clonakilty afterwards.

‘West Cork is one of a kind – look at the quality of players that have come from there, not just in rugby, but the O’Donovan brothers and all the rowers. There must be something in the water there because the quality of athletes is incredible,’ Jack remarked, and he has been blessed with priceless West Cork DNA, too. 

His father and mother are names of note in the equestrian world, and Jack and his brothers grew up in that environment.

‘The competitive nature has always been strong in my family, from dad and from mom. He represented Ireland at a high level, at world level, and he narrowly missed out on an Olympics,’ explained Jack, who gets a reminder of West Cork every day he trains with Munster.

‘I’m surrounded by lads from West Cork,’ he said – and he’s right. Gavin Coombes. Liam Coombes. Fineen Wycherley. Josh Wycherley. Jack Crowley. John Hodnett. 

‘They’re a gas bunch and they all bring their own unique personalities,’ he explained. ‘Any time there is bacon and cabbage on the menu you can be sure that Gavin Coombes is first up!

‘There’s great craic as well about the West Cork Mafia, but look at how Munster is benefiting from tapping into that area.’

There’s a rugby boom in West Cork, and in Jack’s home county, Waterford, with Thomas Aherne and Eoin O’Connor also putting Déise rugby on the map. Two non-traditional rugby areas are coming up trumps. Jack has the best of both worlds – Waterford and West Cork.

‘I am very proud of where my father comes from and I do have some West Cork in the blood,’ he said.

‘The big thing for me was I was the only player coming from Waterford and that was a massive honour and achievement.’

Home will always be Waterford, but West Cork has played its role in Jack’s rise, too. 

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