The bouncing 21-year-old is a double All-Ireland minor winner with Galway, and is one of the new breed of young GAA sportsmen that now populate the country.
Hurling is a key part of his life. Nonetheless, it is only a part.
O’Donoghue has numerous strings to his bow. History and Sociology student. Travel. Strength and conditioning. Nutrition. College. Son of a healer.
O’Donoghue won All-Ireland minor medals with Galway in 2009 (sub) and 2011 in a side including current county seniors Jason Flynn and Jonathan Glynn.
Also in 2011, under the guidance of the same manager as the minor success – Mattie Murphy — he helped Gort to their first county senior title since 1983 when they beat All-Ireland champions Clarinbridge. He admits he was only a slip of a lad then with pace and an eye for goal his main asset. Since then he has put on over a stone and a half in weight and power due to s strict diet programme and regular strength and conditioning.
“I work very hard at being in the best condition possible,” he says of his physique. “Loads of younger lads at the club and lots of my friends in college are doing the same. Diet is huge. The right food is crucial. And going back to basics as regards what you eat. You have to be really careful what you eat if you are going to be able to train and compete at the top level. I was too light in 2011 and I needed to bulk up to compete at top level club hurling. Never mind county level.”
He goes to the gym four or five times every week for an hour plus work-out, in addition to hurling training, and he is intensely aware of the fuel he ingests. “Good food and proper hydration and energy supplements and BCAAS — (branched-chain amino acids supplements) are central if a player is trying to get into top shape,” he says as he sips on green tea. “This morning I had a five or six egg omelette with some turkey mixed in for breakfast. I will have a few chicken fillets during the day today (cooked the night before at home) and a dinner in the evening to keep the energy levels high. It is important not to overdo it and take a holistic approach. Eating good clean food — the younger lads coming through are very much into it compared to the older lads.”
O’ Donoghue would like to follow this as a career path. “I intend doing a course in diet and nutrition after the BA, maybe in the UK and perhaps travel for a year or two then. I am really into nutrition and doing things right. It is an interesting area and so many people are into it now. I used to want to be a history teacher, but I am gone off that idea now.”
Gerard’s father, Gerry senior, is from Tubber in Clare originally and has a butcher’s in Gort. However, that is just the day job.
Gerry has a gift. He is the seventh son, of a seventh son, and is well known locally as a healer.
Gerard junior smiles and takes up the story: “As long as I can remember there has been people coming to our house for help off dad, for aches and sprains and back and neck problems. He works on greyhounds on Monday afternoons. People on Wednesday mornings, and then horses out in Kilbeacanty on Wednesday afternoons. Mayo’s Ciarán McDonald and Kieran Fitzgerald (Galway) would be regular visitors over the years. Noel Mullins, who trains a lot of greyhounds and has one running in the Comerford Cakes Stakes in Shelbourne Park on Saturday night, would be a regular client of dads with his dogs. You should come some Wednesday morning see how it works. I’ll ask Dad to fit you in. There was 10 or 15 people at the house when I left for college this morning.”
O’Donoghue (junior) is already making his mark on the world. Two years ago he went to Chicago playing hurling and then in 2013 he and seven pals bought a camper van in Roscommon and went through 13 countries in Europe in four weeks. It was Greece all summer this year, and he already has plans for heading stateside in 2015.
“These are years I will never get back and I want to make the most of them. Committing to club hurling from May to August is not on the agenda at the moment. When a county final is being played 10 days before Christmas Day, you can see the irrationality of young Galway club hurlers putting their summer plans on hold to hopefully play championship hurling. It is not good enough to have players hanging around all year to play club championship. Everyone has lives of their own outside hurling. The championship needs to be condensed and played over a shorter period of time. Club fixtures are a big problem. And not just in Galway. Nobody can expect people to put their lives on hold for GAA and then not play a championship game for six or seven weeks during the summer. I was away all this summer and only missed one group game. People have to be realistic about jobs and summer work for players. Four of our panel from 2011 have emigrated. Andy Coen our captain that year is in Canada and three of the other lads are playing with Kilburn and will be up against Cappataggle in the All-Ireland semi-final in January.”
O’Donoghue is confident that despite those defections Gort can do the business tomorrow. “We have a very good management team with Gerry Spelman, Mattie Murphy (pictured) and Mike Finn and things have been very professional this year. Gerry is a top class coach. Portumna are a class outfit as proven by their four All-Ireland titles. Alongside Birr, they are one of the greatest club sides ever. However, we have a lot of belief in our squad and Richie Cummins and Gerry Quinn are in great form for us and we are going to Kenny Park to win. We are determined to enjoy the occasion and the best way to do that is to be ahead at the end.”