County stars Sean O’Shea and Shane Kingston buying into UCC passion

Seán O'Shea of UCC during the Electric Ireland HE GAA Sigerson Cup Final match between St Mary's University College Belfast and University College Cork at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Two of the key men in UCC’s recent GAA successes enjoyed contrasting fortunes last weekend.

Sigerson Cup medallist Sean O’Shea had a stirring win with Kerry, curling over a sideline kick to help put Monaghan to the sword. Fitzgibbon Cup winner Shane Kingston, meanwhile, arrived in Páirc Uí Rinn with his Cork teammates to a postponement of their game with Tipperary. Both were delighted with the medals they picked up in the last fortnight, however.

“It’s a big one to have,” said O’Shea of the Sigerson Cup victory.

“It’s probably a medal you recognise more as time passes. While you’re in college you’re enjoying playing for the college and you know you’ll only have a few chances to win one, so to have it won is great, absolutely.”

Kingston acknowledged the standard of the Fitzgibbon Cup competition: “Growing up and playing Dean Ryan and Harty, and Frewen and Corn Uí Mhuirí, you know it’s a step above that. It takes a big buy-in, but you commit to it and you see the passion that lads have for it, the likes of John (Grainger, UCC GAA officer) and Tom (Kingston, UCC hurling coach).

“It’s incredible to be part of, really. Nearly every team you come up against is a full inter-county team, with more inter-county players on the bench. It’s a very high standard.

The conditions are different to summer hurling, but lads who’ve played colleges would be used to wet and muddy conditions anyway. It’d be on a par with inter-county in my opinion.

Kingston expanded on the role of people like Grainger and Dr Con Murphy in UCC’s success.

“They’re great, if you have an issue you can pick up the phone to them and they’ll help you out. That’s a huge asset to us, to have the likes of them on your side, because obviously it’s easier on the pitch if everything off the pitch is sorted.”

His counterpart on the football team sounded the same note, including UCC football coach Billy Morgan.

“They’re all a massive help,” said O’Shea. “They can’t do enough for you — anything at all they can do they’ll do. They’re mad about the college and mad about sport, and it’s obvious they want lads to enjoy themselves playing sport as much as anything else.

 Shane Kingston of UCC during the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Semi-Final match between University College Cork and DCU Dóchas Éireann at the WIT Sports Campus in Carriganore, Waterford. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Shane Kingston of UCC during the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Semi-Final match between University College Cork and DCU Dóchas Éireann at the WIT Sports Campus in Carriganore, Waterford. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

“Billy — it’s unbelievable to be in a dressing-room with him, you can see his passion for UCC and for football from the very first day.

“He’s obviously a proud Corkman but he didn’t bear any grudges towards Kerry or any other counties. It was a great experience.”

O’Shea noted the compliments for UCC’s footballing style, pointing to the difference in approach between the Sigerson Cup and inter-county competition.

“In national league games there’s a lot more preparation done by teams, while the Sigerson is more natural football, if you like.

“St Mary’s set up quite defensively against us, which was their structure for the year, but most teams play pretty free-flowing stuff, and obviously that’s a very enjoyable way to play.

“It’s good to be back in with Kerry full-time now as well, though. It was pretty busy there for a while trying to juggle the two, there were a lot of games.

“But at least those are games rather than months and months of training. I haven’t been doing much training, just going from game to game — if you had that the whole time it’d be brilliant.”

For his part, Kingston credited the co-operation between inter-county managers and UCC’s backroom team on training schedules as crucial to the Fitzgibbon success.

“That helped hugely, the fact that we were able to train together with the College. We would have known the Cork lads, for instance, but we got to know all the others and that helped to build the bond. It’s one of the reasons we won the Fitzgibbon.”

Did the footballers’ win put pressure on the hurlers?

“There was a lot of talk for the couple of days before the final about the lads winning the Sigerson,” said Kingston.

“And that was huge, obviously, but we focused on ourselves and controlled the controllables, as they say.

“It was a great achievement for the footballers, and fair play to them, but we had our own job to do. We weren’t listening to the people saying ‘ye have to win the double now’, we focused on the game and took it on.”

At least they had a game. Last Sunday was a wash-out, literally.

“It was just one of those things,” said Kingston “We could obviously see the weather wasn’t the best, but we got on with it and prepared the way we would for any game, we got on the bus and headed for Páirc Uí Rinn.

“When we got there we learned it was off, so we went and trained instead — we move on and do it this Sunday afternoon instead. I was just sorry for the people who made the effort to travel and didn’t get to see a game.”

As for O’Shea’s Maurice Fitzgerald tribute, a few more of those on the horizon this summer?

“I don’t know about that,” laughed the Kenmare clubman. “We’ll have to see if they come along but I wouldn’t be looking out for too many of them.”

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