Search icon


16th Nov 2022

“I couldn’t get over the amount of differences between the hurling and the football” – Leaving hurlers was never an option for O’Donnell

Niall McIntyre

Eoghan O’Donnell played football for Dublin last year but that doesn’t mean he left the Dublin hurlers.

He only joined the footballers because, in a marriage of convenience really, the hurling was over and the football was only getting going. As a footballer, Dessie Farrell had managed him at minor and under-21 level and so, when the Na Fianna man came calling, O’Donnell jumped at the chance. He was always going to.

But he was never jumping ship. And, in a wide-ranging interview on The GAA Hour, he’s very keen to stress that.

“I put a message in the (hurling) WhatsApp straight away saying I’ll be back ready for this year, and that’s the plan I’m sticking to,” he says.

“I never left the hurlers. It was just that he hurling had just finished up for the year,” he adds.

With that, Dublin hurling supporters can breathe a big huge sigh of relief.

In fairness, O’Donnell never indicated otherwise.

He never did anything to get the alarm bells going but none-the-less, the rumour-mill always turns.

And whatever way you look at it, had the capital’s hurlers lost O’Donnell, a player who many view as the best full back in hurling, there’s no denying the fact that it would have been a monumental blow.

Now that he’s in, it feels more like a timely boost.

“I was really surprised at the difference between them,” O’Donnell says of his time with the Dublin footballers.

“They’re both part of the GAA but they’re completely different games.

“I was in a more central position with the footballers, half back or midfield whereas I’d be full forward with the club. So it was a steep learning curve from the tactics point of view in terms of passing a man on, picking someone up, knowing when to run, knowing when to hold back.”

O’Donnell says that, from a tactical perspective, Gaelic football is on another level when compared to hurling.

“I couldn’t get over the amount of differences between the hurling and the football.

“I think the hurling is heavily tactics based, but it’s so fast that some of the tactics are just eliminated and it comes down to one-on-one battles an awful lot. Whereas with the football – take opposition short kick-outs, it could take 15/20 seconds to get the ball down the pitch. So there are a lot of off the ball decisions and tactics.

“I’ll definitely try and bring a few of those across to the hurling. In hurling for example, I take the approach where I try stop my man getting the ball at all costs, whereas in football, it might not be possible to do that. You might have to just concede on a hand-pass or a loop and just try to hold them out then.”

From hurling to football and back to hurling, it’s quite the journey but it’s nothing like the journey O’Donnell made when he was six years of age.

“It’s a bit of an unusual story,” he begins.

“My parents were working with charity in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and they lived there for ten years, I lived there for until I was six or seven. Far from hurling is right. We played a lot of football, cricket on the streets (out in Zimbabwe)

“I remember the rain when I came first! It was a completely different climate, even the idea of wearing a coat, runners, trousers! It’s baltic cold, but as a kid you adapt quite quickly. People were great at helping us settle in with the club. I had three other brothers making the same transition and the club welcomed us all in,” he adds.

“Joined the Whitehall-Colmcille club then, as anyone would. My dad’s from Roscommon, my mother’s from Wexford, a letter came in the door and we just went into Whitehall then, and never looked back from then I suppose!

He may well be the best full back in hurling, but he was centre forward for his Whitehall-Colmcille team, scoring four from play when they won the Dublin senior 2 hurling championship final against Faughs two weeks ago.

“In the club, I don’t have a massive amount of medals or success or anything like that,” he says.

“So it meant an awful lot to me and it meant a lot to people who have been involved with the club for a long time.

“It was a makeshift centre forward role! More just catching the ball and running away from people but yeah, ah I enjoyed it, I suppose you can play a more expressive style of hurling than just trying to stop people all the time, so it was a breath of fresh air.”

And now he’s ready to rock again. With a hurl in the hand.

Listen to the full interview, from the launch of Dublin’s new AIG jersey, right here.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?