Seán Óg Ó'hAilpín: 'I don't like hurling from the start. I kind of resent it a small bit'

Cork star Seán Óg Ó'hAilpín has spoken out about his beginnings in hurling, telling how he resented the sport when he first moved to Ireland.

RTÉ's documentary The Game detailed the origins of hurling and featured many players talking about their beginning in the sport.

Ó'hAilpín was "from a unique family". His father was Irish but his mother was born in Fiji and he spent a lot of his early childhood in Australia.

"My dad tells me that he's from Ireland but like to be honest now, Ireland to me at that stage might as well be in between Jupiter and Saturn," says the former wing-back.

Ó'hAilpín playing for Cork in 2007. Picture Inpho

Ó'hAilpín says moving to Cork proved difficult and he has opened up about the struggles he faced.

"I came to Cork in 1988. At that stage, I was 11 years of age, and I mean this with the greatest respect - I found hard to get identity or acceptance because of my different looks and my different background," Ó'hAilpín told said on The Game.

"I mean I, jokingly, look back. They couldn't even get my mum's country right.

"They'd always refer to 'that guy, yeah. That guy Seán Ó'hAilpín. Isn't his mom from the Philippines or something like that?'"

So I kind of don't like hurling from the start. I kind of resent it a small bit because basically, I feel like the parents were punishing me coming in here.

"Above religion the only language that people in Cork speak is hurling.

"You soon realise that when you go around the corridors of the North Mon, you see winning photographs of past teams.

"So not alone that, locally they were all going practising their hurling games and then there I was, like. Stuck in the middle of the green with no one to play with.

"I had no option but to...look if you want to hang around with the kids you got to do what they're doing.

Ó'hAilpín lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2005. Picture: Sportsfile

According to Ger Loughnane, speaking on the same programme being a late starter puts you at a disadvantage and "a late starter is anybody after six years of age really in hurling."

Ó'hAilpín was certainly a late starter in that regard.

"I start off, naturally enough, a fella that hasn't played hurling at 11 years of age. You're red raw. Useless," says the now 41-year-old.

But to me, it kind of didn't matter whether I was good or bad at the game. It was just that I'm with my mates.

"My life in Ireland changed when I started playing hurling.

"As soon as I wore the black and amber jersey (of Na Piarsaigh) playing hurling, the community accepted me as one of them.

"So overnight I went from 'isn't he the guy where the mom is from the Philippines or Vietnam' to 'yeah, that's the kid that's from Parkdale, Parklands, Commons Road. He plays for us U12s'."

Ó'hAilpín in Na Pairsaigh colurs in 2004. Picture: Sportsfile

"Even though hurling has meant a lot of things to me since. I always refer to that point.

"Because it ties in with the greatest human need. It's to be loved and to be accepted."

Ó'hAilpín, of course, didn't stay useless for long. He went on to win All-Ireland Hurling Championships in 1999, 2004 and 2005, captaining the '05 team that also won the Munster title.

On top of his five Munster hurling titles, he also won a Munster Football Championship in 1999.

In 2004, Ó'hAilpín was crowned Hurler of the Year on top of picking up three All-Star awards in '03, '04 and'05.

After the show aired, many were moved and impressed with honesty Ó'hAilpín displayed.


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