It’s not to everyone’s liking but the Sky Sports GAA deal has at least helped out Michael O’Regan; his neighbours around Warwick know now why he’s always carrying that curious stick.
A Corkman, from the Freemount club, emigration to the British midlands in 2014 brought him initially to the John Mitchels hurling club and, subsequently, into the Warwickshire set-up.
John Mitchels are one of just four hurling clubs in the region and, until the controversial Sky deal kicked in, bringing Gaelic games into the homes of UK viewers, many of the locals hadn’t a clue about the sport.
They still tell O’Regan it looks a particularly violent pastime. “That’s it, now when anyone asks me what am I playing, and I say hurling, they actually know what it is,” said O’Regan. “Before, you’d have to go and give a big spiel about it being a game with a stick and all this kind of stuff. I think a lot of people here have probably glanced at it on Sky Sports or flicked through it. It’s definitely raising awareness of the game.”
Still, the bulk of the travelling support for tomorrow’s Lory Meagher Cup final between Warwickshire and Leitrim will depart from Irish households. O’Regan reckons around 15 of his family and friends will be on hand on watch a Warwickshire side containing a few names that fit into the blast from the past category.
There is John Reddan, the former Clare senior and Paul Hoban, who hurled for Galway and, of course, their highest profile recruit, Liam Watson, who knocked 3-7 for Loughgiel Shamrocks in the 2012 All-Ireland Club final.
Anthony Daly tried to lure Watson into the Dublin set-up in 2013 and he played for Antrim last year though is now living in Coventry and working with the company of Tony Joyce, a Belfast man, who manages Warwickshire.
“Liam’s a great lad,” said O’Regan. “Even just listening to him he’d give you a few tips about how to bring your game on. He can devastate a team within a few minutes.”
Corner-back O’Regan never pulled on the red of Cork. At 28, and happily committed to life in the UK where he works as a mechanical engineer with Jaguar/Land Rover, it probably won’t happen for him at this stage. He can leave an important imprint on Warwickshire hurling all the same. A win at Croke Park tomorrow, matching last month’s 2-16 to 1-11 defeat of Leitrim, may just pique the attention of some locals and draw them to the game.
“From an English perspective, it’s easier for the lads to pick up football,” O’Regan said. “But there’s lots of people trying to make hurling more popular here and to get more underage training happening. So that’s all positive.”
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