#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 20 October 2021

5 well-known Irish faces you may not have realised played GAA at minor level

How playing for their county may have contributed to their future success.

Dara O'Briain looks on Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

AS THE INCREDIBLE former Cork dual player Jamie Wall shared last week, playing GAA as a minor can fundamentally pave the way for the rest of your career.

The pride of playing for your local club or county as a youngster can be a rite of passage for so many Irish teens – as was the case for some of the country’s most talented musicians, comedians, actors and athletes.

Might it have been their enjoyment of chasing a football or a sliotar that led these former GAA minors to pursue other career-defining hobbies?

Here are five very familiar Irish faces that spent some of their formative years sprinting across their hometown GAA pitches.

1. Chris O’Dowd for Roscommon

BFI London Film Festival - The Sapphires Screening Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Long before he graced our screens in The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids and Moone Boy, Chris O’Dowd (or Christopher as he was known then to commentators) was a goalkeeper for Roscommon’s minor football team.

In fact, at an event last April at the American Irish Historical Society, Chris joked that long-time manager Kevin McStay was the person who ‘first brought comedy into his life’ with his not-so-flattering comments about O’Dowd’s abilities as a player.

2. Danny O’Reilly for Dublin

90362794_90362794 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

You may know him better these days as the voice behind hits like Heroes or Ghosts and San Diego song and recent headliner at Indiependence 2017, but Danny O’Reilly began his days playing GAA like so many other Irish teens. He was part of the Dublin minor side who were beaten by Laois in 2003′s All-Ireland final replay.

Actually the GAA pitch was one of the places where he and his bandmate Conor Egan first bonded – a friendship that would take them from their club to stages across the world.

3. Dara Ó’Briain for Wicklow

PA-6617481 Source: PA Images

Nowadays, you may know him better for holding court on shows like Mock The Week and QI, or as the quick-witted comedian who bagged 16th in Channel 4′s 100 Greatest Standups.

According to the Irish Independent however, Ó’Briain played both football and hurling for Bray Emmets and once managed approximately half an hour of a league match for the Wicklow minor hurling team. Eventually, knee issues put an end to his GAA career (though in March he re-impressed us with his sliotar skills, below).

4. Shane Long for Tipperary

Shane Long Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

It’s been ten years since Shane Long made his debut on Irish national football team and in that time he has earned 75 international caps playing for his country, along with his success as a striker for Southampton.

Originally however, Long played football and hurling for the Tipperary minor team, making it into not one but two All Ireland Minor Hurling Championships at Croke Park before opting for his other beloved sport – football.

5. Bressie for Westmeath

PA-13458835 Source: Niall Carson

Niall Breslin has garnered extensive success in a lot of different fields – as the frontman of The Blizzards, presenter of The Voice, rugby player for Leinster, bestselling author and mental health advocate. Before all this, he played GAA as a minor for Westmeath.

In an interview with The42, (seen below), Breslin admitted that GAA was his favourite sport and he was forced to choose between it and rugby. He ultimately opted for rugby as it had earned him a college scholarship, but still says, “Gaelic football was always the number one sport for me.”

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

Brought to you by Electric Ireland. Minors have hopes and dreams and ambitions just like these talented former players, but for this one moment in time, the Electric Ireland Minor Championships is the major thing in their lives. Follow the conversation at #GAAThisIsMajor.

Sponsored by:

Electric Ireland

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel