While many of the Irish men’s hockey team have cited the inspiration of the women’s World Cup run to silver in the summer, Shane O’Donoghue has probably been the beneficiary of their know-how more than anyone.
The former Glenanne man – now playing professionally in Belgium – has been a long-time protegee of women’s coach Graham Shaw and he told the Dublin Gazette it has helped shape his approach to the game.
He was speaking ahead of the men’s World Cup bid which gets underway on Friday in Bhubaneswar when Ireland take on reigning champions Australia before facing China and England in the group stages.
Speaking about the inspiration of the women’s run to success, O’Donoghue has seen the coach’s influence first hand as his start in adult hockey dovetailed with the peak of Shaw’s career, the pair both part of the Glens’ 2010 Irish Senior Cup success among other trophies.
“Graham was definitely one of the lads I looked up to. For me, it was so infectious as a youngster, watching the intensity he trained at. Himself, Stephen Butler and Joe Brennan were the top men at the time and it gave something to inspire to and then carve a path to go even further.
“As a 15 or 16 year-old, going up to St Mark’s for training, there were very few trainings you didn’t come home black and blue, even at that age. They would tear into you. It was character-building!”
Since then, he has risen to be a central figure for the national team who have been trailblazers themselves in recent years, winning a first ever European Championships bronze medal in 2015 and then qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games for a first time in over a century.
O’Donoghue, now 26, has been a pivotal figure in midfield while scoring 92 goals, leaving him one off the national record held by John Jermyn.
And he is hopeful a slightly more direct approach with Ireland under new coach Alexander Cox will produce dividends in India.
“Personally, it would be a very proud moment in my career [to reach that milestone] but certainly wouldn’t be possible if the guys didn’t win the short corners. It certainly won’t be a focus of mine – it is purely on performing for the team first and foremost and enjoying the experience.”