But four and a half years ago O’Hare’s life changed irrevocably. “I just collapsed in school. I was only on the ground for a couple of seconds and got up but after tests and things they found a heart condition there that requires you to give up playing.”
O’Hare was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity. He now wears a pacemaker.
“The heart-rate is slightly elongated. It was pure chance they picked it up because in a 24-hour period it only came up once or twice. But to give a definitive diagnosis. I had a permanent device put in that just records the heart-rate. It doesn’t do anything else. That was in for about two years and then two years ago it picked up that my heart-rate had missed three or four beats.
“In 2013, I got a pacemaker put in and that’s been in ever since. I’ve had no problems since the time in school. I’ve never collapsed or felt anything out of the ordinary. It’s just sports-wise that it could come on because your heart-rate is high and with adrenalin and pushing yourself so far that’s where the danger zone is really.
“It’s one of the things they believe may contribute to the deaths you see of sports people on the field of play. That’s why sport just became a no-go zone for me. There’s no middle of the road on it. I just played in goal in hurling but they said no to it because the adrenalin rush you could get could put you in trouble.”
Playing sport was out of the question but O’Hare has immersed himself into what was once a pastime. He responded to the grim news about his playing future by becoming more involved in coaching, starting with Ballinacourty’s U21s, the team with whom he should have been playing. Then he was appointed physical and skills coach with the seniors.
It’s helped he has the qualifications. Earlier this year, he picked up a first class honours degree in sport science from UL and is now studying physiotherapy in UCD. His third year in Limerick saw him spend eight months with Perth AFL club West Coast Eagles where he worked as a sports science assistant in their strength and conditioning department. He also joined the Waterford senior hurlers’ stats team at the start of this year.
“For the first year or two, it was more water and hurleys but with more education I’ve become more involved in training. It’s good for me. It’s what I want to keep doing anyway. I enjoy training teams. It’s as close to being involved as you can be without being on the field. You’re still in a team setting, you’re still part of it but it’s a different side.
“The transition from being a player to a selector and a trainer took time. I would have played at some point with 12 or 13 of the team that played in the semi-final (his older brother Sean being one of them). It’s just about getting the message across. At the start, it was a bit awkward because some of them were dealing with a younger person and it’s always harder when you’re younger because they don’t think you have the experience.
“But once I went to Australia and came back, there was a massive difference with the attention I got. Having had that experience with an AFL team, they felt I knew what I was on about.
“There are so many personal trainers around the place so it’s hard to differentiate between the good and bad ones and ones who have day courses and those who have done degrees. It’s more about who you’ve been with more so than the course you’ve done.
”After being in Perth, they were much more receptive to what I was saying and were coming to me with questions because they’re trying to get as close to being a professional athlete as they can.”
The presence of Ballinacourty’s old local rivals Stradbally at the other end of the field this evening means there is absolutely no talk of what might happen should they win this evening – a Munster quarter-final date with Nemo Rangers 23 hours later.
“We’d a tough game against Kilrossanty and if they had got their goal chance before half-time they would have gone five points up,” says O’Hare. “We got the breaks and a goal at an important time. Stradbally have been in 13 of the last 15 finals and knocked off The Nire last week who could have won Munster last year. We’re going to be up against it, hopefully the ball falls our way.”