Greg O’Shea says his commitment to his Irish sevens team mates was always going to override “two weeks on television” as thewinner looks ahead to potential Olympic qualification.
The Limerick man was a key figure in helping the country earn promotion to the Sevens Series, the elite globetrotting competition for the short-form of the game.
In Sydney last weekend, he dotted down his first try at this elevated level against Argentina to land seventh place. It puts Ireland in ninth place overall in the 16-team competition, a decent return for a first season.
“We are finding our feet in the World Series because we have never been on it before,” he told theat the National Dairy Council’s ‘Everything Starts With Milk’ campaign.
“We are getting used to the back-to-back weekends and the travel. I’m just back from Sydney last night. Ninth in the world isn’t bad for a side in its first year and hopefully we can keep going into LA and Vancouver at the end of the month and leading up to the Olympic qualifier which is the big one.”
O’Shea admits the globetrotting lifestyle — the Series has already taken him to Dubai, Cape Town, and New Zealand — is an attraction of the code.
A Munster academy player for three years, he had been hoping to make it with the province but a freak bicycle injury on holiday in New York appeared to close the door on a career in the sport.
I lacerated my Achilles and it messed up my leg completely. Munster gave me another year to rehab but it never got right; it didn’t work out — I wasn’t right, and they had too many good players.
“The sevens guys picked me up and I have loved it. At the moment, I can’t see myself ever going back to 15s — other than with Shannon when I am an old fella — because I am so happy where I am.
“We don’t get paid much, certainly not compared to the 15s lads. But we love it, travelling and seeing the world. We’re going to LA and Vancouver and then Singapore and Hong Kong before Paris and London. What kind of job brings you all those places?”
The carrot of Olympic qualification remains very much alive. One ticket to Tokyo remains on the line from a 12-team tournament. France are favourites for that place, with Ireland and Samoa in the mix.
“I was always going to come home and play rugby,” O’Shea said. “The Olympics is the pinnacle and I made a commitment before [I went on]; and it is attainable — we beat Samoa in Cape Town and finished above France in Sydney, so it is tit-for-tat.
“I got stick from the British media because I didn’t do the whole, celebrity thing; I didn’t stay in the relationship and do the red carpet or open nightclubs — the unwritten rules — but I had worked so hard with the lads, I couldn’t give it up.”
Indeed, he says his team mates will quickly “chop me down straightaway” for any notions but while they have largely forgotten about hisexploits, trips downtown provide an instant reminder.
It still baffles me. I’m the most followed rugby player in the world but not for rugby reasons! I was in New Zealand and people recognised me.
“In Dubai, people swarmed around, asking for photos. It is all lovely and shows how bigwas.”