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20th Jun 2021

Greg O’Shea’s reasons for leaving ‘celebrity life’ behind show you what this 7s dream is all about

Patrick McCarry

Greg O'Shea

“Imagine being a young fella or young girl watching that.”

Greg O’Shea had a clear path ahead of him, filled with TV appearances, guest spots, sponsorship deals and photoshoots.

He dabbled his toes in it, briefly, but chose the tougher path.

It is just after 9pm in Monaco and just over 90 minutes since Ireland Men’s Sevens side qualified for the Olympics. If you are picturing a wild party in Ireland’s team hotel, you would be mistaken.

Greg O’Shea is the first up for the virtual briefing in one of the Irish team’s bedrooms. The lads partied on the Stade Louis II pitch, and in the dressing rooms, but they have landed back at the hotel, showered, changed and are trying to get their heads around Olympic qualification.

Winning the Monaco Sevens is an achievement in itself, but it is all the sweeter given the golden ticket to the Tokyo Olympics that they just punched for themselves. Trailing 12-7 to a very strong France side, O’Shea and his teammates rallied to win 28-19, sparking wild scenes as Olympic qualification was realised.

For O’Shea, it is further justification that he made the right call, back in 2019, when he opted to concentrate on his rugby after winning reality TV show Love Island.

He had been with Munster for four years but never got a senior side run-out. With that dream dashed, he turned to Sevens and started making inroads. A big name on the celebrity circuit after the summer of 2019, he chose to return to Ireland.

“A big thing for me is that, as you might know, I was on a little show called Love Island and I won it. I could have easily gone down the celebrity route – moved to London, do the red carpets, events, make my hundreds of thousands, like everyone else does.

“But I was like, no, I’m coming home. I’ve been so many years with this Sevens team.

“And it’s never about the money. It’s common knowledge that you don’t get paid a lot with the Sevens. It was the work I put in with the lads. And I couldn’t sit over in London, on my high horse, and watch the lads train and maybe get to the Olympics.”

Greg O’Shea pictured with Munster teammates Francis Saili and Ronan O’Mahony in 2017. (Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile)

What makes the Limerick native’s part in the Monaco Sevens triumph all the more special is the fact that he was not originally supposed to be travelling to the tournament.

“I’m not even supposed to be here,” he says.

“I’ve had a bad run with injuries, for the past few months. These little niggles that keep you out for four weeks, and I just wasn’t training. And if you don’t train, you don’t play. It’s simple; it’s the way it is.

“And I managed to get a call [last] Sunday night. Gavin Mullin, unfortunately, picked up a knock and I got brought in. I thought I’d just be a travelling reserve. I was delighted to even be with the team over here, to play my role, whatever was needed.

“Anthony Eddy decided to back me and put me in, and I ended up starting every game, from the second game in. I feel like I did alright. I made a few mistakes but I’m honestly over the moon. I wasn’t even supposed to be here but now I’m a full part of the team.”

The Ireland team celebrate after beating France in the final and qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Giorgio Perottino – World Rugby via Sportsfile)

O’Shea touched on a point that Ireland captain Billy Dardis superbly covered in his post-match interview – what visibility at the Olympics could now mean for Sevens.

“We were only saying it on the pitch, after we had finished cheering and kissing ad hugging each other – imagine being a young fella or a young girl watching that. It can only spur you on to want to play rugby.

“Obviously the 15s side are massive and they’re one of the best in the world. The Sevens have been kind of forgotten about or late to the party. And we’ve just put ourselves on the world stage. I honestly couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”

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