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'Some Monday Mornings Are Easier On Me Than They Are On Other Lads'

'Some Monday Mornings Are Easier On Me Than They Are On Other Lads'

Darragh O'Connell thinks he resembles Harry Potter with the cut he's sporting on his forehead. The Cuala and Dublin hurler doesn't want to elaborate too much on how he got it - it wasn't a clip in training.

"A bit of clumsiness. I think, yeah. I wish I could blame someone, it was more my own fault. You don't want any more information! I was like Harry Potter there when I was taking the pictures earlier."

O'Connell is sitting in the offices of a PR company near St. Stephen's Green to promote this weekend's AIB All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship semi-final against Galway champions Liam Mellows.

It's put to him that he's been described as a health freak in the past. That's a label with which he doesn't fully agree. Though, he has a suspicion has to why he has been called as such: his teetotaller status.

"I try to keep a wrap on things alright. I suppose I don't drink which is a help - that's a start anyway. I'm not sure I'm as much as a health freak as may have been said.

"If you're trying to perform and get the best out of yourself, you're trying to prepare as best as you possibly can. I don't think I'm any different to the rest of the lads. That's there in the group.

"At this stage every team across the country, no matter who you are, if you're trying to perform to your best at the weekend you have to be at your best during the week."

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Though he hurls with Dublin, his inter-county allegiance was not always with the capital. He's originally from Abbeydorney, a village in the heartland of Kerry hurling. He switched clubs to Cuala in 2015 and a call-up to the Dublin panel soon followed.

In the years previous he won a Christy Ring Cup with the Kingdom along with All-Ireland U21 B titles. The move to Dublin has seen a more notable addition to his medal collection: an All-Ireland club title with Cuala last year. That may well be augmented this year - Cuala are second favourites behind Munster champions Na Piarsaigh.

Growing up in North Kerry, the decision to not take a sup was one which was always going to be tested. "There's always going to be that pub aspect there after games or whatever."

I suppose I grew up and I never drank in college - it wasn't something that I was taken to or interested in. It's something that I suppose came from when you were 17 or 18 and then, you know, it's a little harder during college.

I didn't really think about it too much at the time, it was just something that I decided on and nobody is going to question you, I think. It's maybe going back years ago it might have been different but now you have more and more younger people deciding not to drink.

Ultimately, he believes that the choice made a decade ago has benefited his hurling career.

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"You probably would [have benefited]. Some Monday mornings are easier on me than they are on other lads.

"Lads playing at the highest level aren't going to be out drinking too often during the season, you don't get too many opportunities. At this level, it doesn't make too much of a difference."

Cutting out those arduous trips back to Kerry for training sessions with the county has also helped him become a better player. Living in Dublin for his job as a primary school teacher in Greystones, he spent two years on the N7. During the week, he would train with Cuala to maintain his fitness. Transferring clubs was just a natural progression.

Being a teacher, I might have had the months at home, but it’s very difficult really to play with a team when there’s that amount of travelling involved. You’re up and down, your house is in Dublin like, I might have had a couple of weeks at home, but I spent a lot more time on the road.

"I suppose you would [improve] because when you're doing that much travelling it's very hard to get yourself 100 per cent right for the game at the weekend. You might have been travelling up and down during the week and it's obviously difficult then as well.

"So, yeah, I think everything, as in you're better prepared than anything else to help the group or help the team."

Cuala’s Darragh O’Connell is pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Senior Hurling Club Championship Semi-Final where they face Liam Mellows at Semple Stadium on Saturday, February 10th. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB GAA & Camogie Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

PJ Browne
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