West Cork men backbone Garryowen GAA Club in Melbourne
IT was an Irish answer to an Irish question, and a standard opening to an Irish conversation.
‘What’s the weather like back home?’ Stephen O’Mahony enquires, surrounded by 30 degrees of warmth in Melbourne this week and an unseasonal heat-wave.
‘I’m looking out the window now and it’s raining,’ I replied, Wednesday’s grey clouds bringing bad news with them, ‘but at least we haven’t run out of bread.’
The joke’s not lost on the Gabriel Rangers’ club-man currently enjoying life Down Under and winning silverware with his club, Garryowen, in Melbourne.
Recently, Garryowen won the Padraig Pearses 7s tournament in Melbourne, an all-Australian competition that attracts GAA clubs from all over the vast country to take part.
More than 20 teams travelled from Sydney, Perth, Darwin and beyond to battle it out for one of the biggest titles in Australian GAA – and it was O’Mahony and Co that came out on top.
‘This was a big tournament for us because last year we lost three finals – the nine-a-side final, the league final and the championship final,’ the Ballydehob man (24) explained.
‘Some of the lads who have been here for two years have lost five finals, so it was a great relief to get over the line this time.
‘We were always coming second – but not this time.’
Key to Garryowen’s success was the West Cork influence on the team, with Dohenys’ trio Denis and Tom Collins and Mark Quinn all starring, with Tom winning the player of the tournament award. Dunmanway’s Alan Sheehan, sidelined with a broken wrist, coached the team.
The club used a 14-man panel for this tournament but also involved with Garryowen are Barry Horgan (Newcestown), Shane Evans (Ilen Rovers) and Ballingeary duo Liam Creedon and Ciarán Twomey.
Adding some star quality to the Garryowen team is former Cork footballer, Ciarán Sheehan, who was released from Carlton late last year after four years with the AFL club. His addition was a massive coup, explains former Cork minor and U21 O’Mahony.
‘He finished up with Carlton and he came in with us to train for a few weeks, and he’s been with us for the two tournaments in the last few weeks. He’s a massive addition, a class act, an unbelievable asset,’ he said.
‘Just to have him around, he’s such a great outlet to have, he was playing in a two-man full-forward line so all we had to do was kick the ball and he’s such an athlete, he’d win it.’
The sevens tournament is one that O’Mahony won’t forget in a hurry. Group stage wins over Sydney sides, Penrith Gaels and Young Irelands, were followed by victory against the favourites, Wolfe Tones, in the semi-final before Garryowen beat Clan na Gael from Sydney in the final.
‘It’s a very good standard here, there are a good few inter-county guys playing, fellas who have played minor, U21 or senior at some stage,’ O’Mahony said.
‘Our Garryowen team would put it up to any intermediate team in Cork, if not give some premier intermediate teams a rattle.’
When he left these shores in January 2017, after playing an influential role in Gabriels’ West Cork and Cork JAFC triumphs in 2016 and run to the Munster junior football final, O’Mahony intended on spending just the one year in Australia.
Plans changed, and while he could be back home after the summer to begin the next chapter here, for now he’s loving life in Oz.
‘It’s a great lifestyle here, it’s a great country to come to even for a year, there are so many Irish here and everyone helps each other out,’ he explained, with the GAA community pulling together.
And the GAA will keep him busy for the next few months, with the league in the Victoria division up and running, with six clubs in action – Garryowen, Wolfe Tones, St Kevin’s, Sinn Fein, Padraig Pearses and Geelong Gaels.
‘We’re in the Victoria division and we play league games every Saturday night or Sunday morning. We’d our first league game recently and we beat Padraig Pearses by a point,’ he explained.
‘The league is first and that will go on for a bit, finishing with semi-finals and a final, and then the championship starts after that, it’s straight knock-out.
‘We started training just before Christmas and the season will run until July.’
He’s still keeping tabs on Gabriels, watching from afar and he’ll be back before long, but until then, he’s adding to his silverware collection in Australia, with hopefully more to come before the season finishes.