Ryan O'Donoghue on how the demands of boxing prepared him for elite sport 4 months ago

Ryan O'Donoghue on how the demands of boxing prepared him for elite sport

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"I would run a mile up and a mile back before school."


Ryan O'Donoghue is one of the top forwards in Gaelic football right now, but he credits much of his drive, discipline and determination to the sport of boxing.

As a young boy, the future Mayo star was more known for has fast hands than his fast feet, and carved out a pretty impressive boxing career at youth level.

Eventually, as is the case with all young multitalented athletes, he had to pick one path and stick to it, but he's never forgot what the art of pugilism taught him.

"When I was 11, I was only 33kg, pretty small back then, still am pretty small - but yeah, before primary school me and my dad used to get up, he would drive behind me in the van and I would run a mile up and a mile back before school, and then I would run home again from school, and go to training.

"Boxing taught me a lot of self-discipline, and I keep a lot of it with me in my own training nowadays, but yeah I boxed for three years.


"I won an Irish title in my Boy 1 year, lost the All-Ireland final two years in a row, Boy 2 and Boy 3, and it was against the same fella.

"I look back on it with fond memories, but the making weight was absolutely a killer. Like being 33kg, I didn't have much on me at that stage and my natural weight was 34kg, and just making the weight was an absolute killer, and I suppose that really what turned me off it in the end.

"Years of doing that was really tough, especially as only a small kid, but I really enjoyed it and my dad was my coach as well, so I look back on it with fond memories.

Ryan O'Donoghue


"Actually the fella I beat in Boy 1, James McGivern, I beat hm in the All-Ireland final, and he's actually a pro boxer now."

For those who maybe aren't fans of boxing, or understand the importance of making weight and why you would try to get as low as you can on the scales, it's basically because you want to go into the ring in a fair fight.

The fact is your opponent will be facing you having cut weight themselves, and will be fighting well below their natural weight, so if you're just fighting at whatever you normally weigh, then you could be facing someone much heavier, stronger and taller on the night.

"The reason I would have to lose weight is because I was not very big at all. In a hotel near home there's a sauna and I would go to training and I would be wearing plastic bin bags on each leg, a plastic bag up here, cotton t-shirts and everything.


Ryan O'Donoghue

"There was a lady working at the hotel and it would close at nine o'clock, and I would finish training and go out to the hotel and sleep in the sauna for 20 minute nap while she was cleaning the dressing rooms, and Dad would set an alarm.

"Now this isn't every week, this is the week of making weight, and I had to sweat every last bit out of me, like this is only when I was 11 or 12 years of age.

"I went to big depths to try and make the weight but it's standing to me now I think, I learnt a lot from that. "

There are of course 100 reasons why you wouldn't want to put yourself through this, but one of the biggest reasons for O'Donoghue involved a chocolate-themed holiday.


"The All-Ireland final week, and any boxers listening to it will know, it's after Easter Sunday, so I used to never be able to eat Easter eggs.

"That was one thing when I finished, I would stuff my face the following year because I knew I would never be able to do it. When I was playing minor in 2016, they would only make me plain pasta and plain chicken because that's all I would eat.

"When I was 11, 12, 13 or 14 that's all I would have ate, I didn't like any sauce, and then with the calories, that was just the easiest way so I got into a routine of that."

Of course, to be a top athlete you need to use food as fuel and when you're playing at inter-county level. Then size, muscle and strength is all essential in order to break tackles and take the big hits.

Needless to say, O'Donoghue's diet had to drastically change to play for the Mayo senior team.


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