Pundit Arena caught up with former Limerick hurling star Andrew O’Shaughnessy to reflect on his career and discuss life off the field.
Only a few short years ago, Andrew O’Shaughnessy was illuminating the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, as he led Limerick’s attack to the Final in 2007. He has won numerous honours at both school, club, and inter-county level and is part of an elite group of men who have won an All-Star.
His time at the top was, unfortunately, brief. Just over two years after being selected as the best corner forward in the country, Andrew was dropped from the Limerick panel at the end of 2009. In this interview with Pundit Arena’s John Ivory, Andrew speaks candidly about his hurling life, from the very first day playing as a child, to the highs and lows of Inter County life, to how he is spending his retirement and his plans for the future. This is his experience with hurling.
“My earliest memory was practicing hurling out the front at home with my brothers and sisters.”
Andrew remembers these days well.
“As I was the youngest, they wouldn’t pass me the ball which led to early signs of my competitiveness, which ended up with a broken drain pipe!’’
What O’Shaughnessy might have lacked in size, he more than made up for in talent. It was no surprise when he was selected to play for the Limerick seniors while still preparing for his Leaving Certificate.
“I didn’t have any nerves as it was just another hurling match, albeit an Inter County match. I had the added advantage of thinking about my leaving cert at the same time. I obviously didn’t think about that too much either in hindsight!”
After catching the eye at schools level, once scoring 2-8 out of his teams total of 2-10, it was expected that Andrew would take to senior level well.
“I didn’t find a noticeable difference between [senior and] other inter county age groups.’’
O’Shaughnessy explains that, “all of those matches are against the best another county has at a specific age group. The main difference is the fewer chances that come your way which means you have to be ultra-efficient.’’
From the outset of his inter county journey, a lot of pressure was put on Andrew, and after a few fruitless years, 2007 was to be the pinnacle of his Limerick career.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was my life and the sole thought on my mind, my focus was total.’’
Juggling his hurling passion while being stationed as an army cadet in the Curragh is a testament to his dedication to both.
“I would reach the Curragh [after a training session in Limerick] exhausted around midnight and I could have a 10k run the following morning. Lunacy or dedication, I’m still not sure.’’
This focus was certainly needed as the Championship began with an epic trilogy of games against arch-rivals Tipperary, during which he scored a combined total of 18 points. Coming out on the right side of that episode would be the springboard for Andrew’s and Limerick’s year, one which he looks back on with great fondness.
“For me the 10 seconds after the 3rd Tipp match was special as the emotion displayed by the Limerick people was a joy to experience.’’
Unfortunately, 2007 ended without any titles for O’Shaughnessy, something which he won’t forget. He looks back with affection on that year but as he concedes himself, “no medals were handed out after.’’
When asked would he swap all his honours for one All-Ireland winners medal, without hesitation “yes’’ is the response.
“Yes, no question. But if you won one, you’d want more so why settle at one.’’
Ambition, dedication and talent are all things that Andrew O’Shaughnessy has in abundance. So when he was cut from the Limerick Senior panel in late 2009 for lack of commitment, you couldn’t blame him for holding a grudge towards the set-up, or the man who removed him, Justin McCarthy.
“There is no bitter taste. No one is more critical of me as a hurler or person than myself,’’ states O’Shaughnessy frankly.
“The simple reason was that I asked I few questions during that year as to why certain things were and weren’t happening and had a feeling Justin thought I was causing trouble. If wanting to do things right after all the time you put in is seen as that, then I guess he could see me as troublesome.’’
Indeed, the time consuming nature of being a part of a county team was catching up with Andrew.
“I had decided prior to a squad being named that I couldn’t give the commitment to the panel with another year under Justin.’’
While being dropped in such a dramatic way was a shock, he can see the funny side of it now.
“To play corner forward for your county and province and be dropped off a panel of 30 in terms of the same year must be a record!’’
Andrew O’Shaughnessy announced his retirement from Inter-County hurling in April 2011. During his inter county years, Andrew never forgot where he came from.
“Kilmallock hurling couldn’t take on a greater importance [for me], as it has always been number one. Even when I was with Limerick, I always made as much club training as possible and played matches. Club should come first for every GAA player.’’
So, with all that Andrew has won and the experience he has garnered, what advice does he give to budding hurlers.
“Practice, enjoy and belief. Practice every day, enjoy every practice, game and conversation, and believe you’re the best.’’
When asked what his future involvement in hurling will be, Andrew’s ambition shines through once again. “I trained a senior camogie team to win the Limerick County in 2011.’’ He added that,
“I’m back with the club minors this year and will take the opportunity to train a senior club and County if and when it arises.’’
Hurling gave Andrew magnificent highs and disappointing lows throughout his playing career with his schools, Limerick and still with his club, Kilmallock. So as he moves onto the next phase of his association with the GAA, what does it mean to him?
“It means I have never had a prolonged summer holiday. It also means that all my friends are true friends, it means I found my soul-mate through hurling.
“It means that I’ll always have unforgettable memories, it means that I have a sense of belonging and I have made a valuable contribution to the organisation, it means that when I stop hurling, I will still be a part of this community and in the future, any children of mine will be involved.’’
Hurling plays a massive part in Andrew’s life. It shows the enriching effect and fantastic opportunities the GAA can bestow. He may be gone from our television screens, but Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s exploits on the playing field will stay with Limerick, and hurling supporters in general, for years to come. And who knows, maybe he’ll be managing from the sidelines in the future.
John Ivory, Pundit Arena.