BEST-SELLING author Louise O’Neill accepted this year’s West Cork Sports Star Hall of Fame award on behalf of her father, Mike ‘Haulie’ O’Neill.
The renowned Clonakilty author was delighted to pick up the Hall of Fame trophy from guest of honour Ronnie Whelan at a star-studded awards night at the Celtic Ross Hotel.
Against the odds, Haulie O’Neill guided Clonakilty to the 2021 Cork Premier SFC final where St Finbarr’s denied the Brewery Town a fairy-tale ending to their season. Living legend O’Neill was honoured with the Hall of Fame award, not just for last season’s heroics, but for a lifetime dedicated to his hometown GAA club.
‘My dad is an incredibly modest man,’ Louise O’Neill told The Southern Star.
‘He also has a real aversion to being the centre of attention. Maybe it is no harm that I am here to collect the award on his behalf rather than him! It is lovely to see dad’s hard work and dedication being recognised in this way.
‘He gave a speech after last year’s county final saying that it is not about him or even the players. It is about the club. I think that is so true and encapsulates my dad perfectly.
‘For him, it is about protecting and ensuring the legacy of Clonakilty GAA Club. My dad has dedicated decades of his time doing just that.’
Mike ‘Haulie’ O’Neill has always been held in the highest esteem in the town of Clonakilty but equally respected outside of West Cork and beyond. The current Clonakilty senior football manager’s work ethic, honesty and ability to get the best out of people are just some of the reasons for that respect.
‘I often say that being raised by my father was being given a master class in what discipline, willpower and commitment looks like,’ Louise O’Neill explained.
‘I believe that because he gives so much of himself when it comes to training or matches, he gets it back and more from the people he is working with. Every single person involved with him, be it the team itself or selectors, they commit in the same fashion.
‘We (family) have always been very proud of him. When you work that hard and get the kind of results that he has, even though he would hate me to say it, it doesn’t go unnoticed.’
Haulie O’Neill is as proud of his family as he is of any of the players that he has worked with.
‘I remember saying congratulations to dad after he came home following Clonakilty’s county semi-final victory and he just rolled his eyes at me,’ O’Neill said.
‘Typical dad, he just answered, “I didn’t set foot on the pitch, did I? What are you talking about?” But then he paused and said, “Do you know, I am really proud of the lads”.
‘You can see that relationship he has built up with the Clonakilty senior team, not just this past year, but in all the years he has been involved.
‘I know what kind of father he has been to me. How encouraging he can be, how much he believes in you and the support he always gives as long as you are prepared to put in the work. I think that is probably reflected in the relationship he has with his players as well.’