CYRIL DONNELLAN COULD easily be in Australia this week, watching the progress of the Galway hurlers from afar rather than being immersed with them at the coalface.
The 26 year-old has been studying in the University of Limerick this year in order to become a secondary school teacher but his original degree was in Civil Engineering from Limerick IT. With work clearly scarce in that field in recent years, and his brothers Barry and Keith both based Down Under, there was a strong temptation for Donnellan to join them. But playing hurling with his county has proven too attractive for the Padraig Pearses club man to resist
“I qualified as a Civil Engineer and did four years with a company here in Galway, Finnerty Plant Hire,” says Donnellan. “But things were getting tough. My brothers Barry and Keith, one went two years ago, the other 18 months ago. My first-cousins down the road, the same thing. We’re a small rural club in Gurteen, seven or eight from the village gone. They were wondering if I was going to hop on the plane with them.
“And you’d wonder yourself. The winter months are tough and I have plenty of contacts over there, plenty of friends around my own age. All rural clubs are affected by this but you have to get on with it, you have to make a decision. But I said I’d stay around for days like the one that’s coming up this weekend. I went back to college in UL, to do a HDip and become a secondary teacher.
“The hurling was the biggest part of my decision. The training you’ve done over the years, the experience you’ve gained, you have all that banked – are you going to leave all that to head for Australia? My friends see it as well as worthwhile, that I did stay around and did something different. You’re delighted with what you did.”
Donnellan hails from a club that would not be one of the county’s heavyweights with Padraig Pearses having only clambered up from the intermediate ranks last year. He has no minor and U21 inter-county experience himself but prospered once he went down to Limerick IT where he fell under the guidance of Davy Fitzgerald and Cyril Farrell in the county’s hurling teams.
“LIT was massive. I play for a small rural club, went down there and I’d never seen the intensity of training, I had never witnessed anything like it, the hurling tempo just went up and up. I bought into it and it improved my game. It’s great as well for the club, we’re now in the senior quarter-final, the first time we’ve been there in 30 years so we’re absolutely delighted. We have two lads on the senior county panel, myself and Fergus Flannery, the sub-keeper. Things are good.”
And at inter-county level Donnellan is thriving after starring in Galway’s Leinster final destruction of Kilkenny last month when he struck 0-5 and now getting set for next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Cork. He has exploited the chance given last winter when he survived the major overhaul underataken by new manager Anthony Cunningham to the Galway panel when several members of last year’s squad were discarded.
“There were big names being culled. We were hoping they picked us because they saw something in us. But the finest of hurlers were left behind, fellas they didn’t keep to work on. We see it as an opportunity to build on, if they want us to do something we’ll try to go and do it.
“I’d still meet a few of the lads for dinner, the likes of Kevin Hynes and Andrew Smith who are still on the panel, we were all in the same boat. Seeing lads going that quick, you realise this opportunity won’t be there every year, you might start running out of steam. So all these opportunities that are coming up are more important than ever.”