Donnellan out to seize day

There are those who rave over the thoroughbred racehorse, the lines and the speed of Frankel and so on, but what if you have a field to be ploughed, what good is your Frankel then?

That’s when the Clydesdale comes into his own, the big, broad-backed auld plough-horse.

For all its pace and precision hurling too needs its Clydesdale artisans, the plough-horses who do the work less glamorous but the work still very much necessary. For Galway that’s Cyril Donnellan.

There are those who might object to such a description but not Donnellan. From the Pádraig Pearses club, the villages of Gurteen/Ballymacward, he’s a late-comer to the big stage. So the likeness of a work-horse in the Bonner Maher mould is something he is fine with.

“We’re both left-handed anyway! But if that’s how we’re seen, doing the grafting, I’ve no problem with that. Since a very young age I’ve based a lot of my game on hard work so that [description] doesn’t bother me one bit.”

It’s not that he can’t score, his five fine points against Kilkenny in the Leinster final win testimony to that, it’s just that he’s happy to plough what Joe Canning, Damien Hayes, Niall and David Burke can harrow.

“Games go very differently. Some days you have to do more grafting, other days the ball just falls for you and if you have to put a score on the board you put a score on the board. But I’m happy enough grafting away.”

Off the field Donnellan has a similar attitude. A qualified Civil Engineer, for four years he worked in that discipline with Finnerty Plant Hire, Galway before the construction industry went over the cliff-edge. He could have drawn the dole, waited for things to change or emigrated like many of his peers but took the hard option and, at 26, decided to go back to college.

“I went to UL to do a HDip, become a secondary teacher. I have two brothers who emigrated to Australia, Barry and Keith, my first cousins down the road the same thing, and they were wondering if I was going to hop on the plane with them. And you’d wonder yourself. The winter months are tough but I went down this road.”

Not that the temptation wasn’t there though.

“Absolutely, yes, I have plenty of contacts over there, plenty of friends around my own age. All rural clubs are affected. We’re a small rural club in Gurteen, seven or eight from the village are gone. But you have to get on with it. You have to make a decision. I said I’d stay around for days like this Sunday.”

Ah yes, days like this. That’s what swung it. Being an inter-county hurler and the prospect of doing with Galway what hasn’t been done since the heady days of the late ’80s — winning an All-Ireland senior title.

“Absolutely yeah, it was the biggest part of my decision. The training you’ve done over the years, the experience you’ve gained, you have all that banked. Are you going to leave all that to head for Australia?”

Not that anything was guaranteed, certainly not winning an All-Ireland medal, nor even reaching the final. Why, he wasn’t even sure of making the cut for the Galway panel, such was the ruthlessness with which the axe was wielded by new manager Anthony Cunningham in favour of young blood.

“When you’re bringing in youth you’re bringing in lads who have no sense of fear. They mightn’t realise the importance of this game the way the older lads do. That’s a good thing. They’ll go into it like any other game, just get on with it, and that’s a good thing.

“We see this now as an opportunity. If they want us to do something we’ll try to go and do it.”

So far it has brought them to an All-Ireland semi-final and justifies his decision to stay.

“It does, and my friends see it as well as worthwhile, that I stayed around and did something different,’’ he said.

“Seeing lads going that quick you realise this opportunity won’t be there every year, you might start running out of steam, so all these opportunities that are coming up are more important than ever.”


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