Loving life in Sydney, but I miss home too

TIMOTHY O’MAHONY continues his series of interviews with Corkonians abroad. This week, he chats to a former GAA rival of his in Cork city, Damien O’Callaghan. ‘Cally’ tells him about his life down under with his girlfriend Lauren Neville, from Ballincollig
Loving life in Sydney, but I miss home too

Damien O’Callaghan in Sydney with girlfriend Lauren Neville, from Ballincollig

I ATTENDED the same secondary school as Damien O’Callaghan, Farranferris, and we became GAA rivals - with Damien playing for Na Piarsaigh while I played with St Vincents.

Now ‘Cally’, as he is called, has made a new life in Australia, where he has a Cork girlfriend, Lauren Neville, from Ballincollig.

Damien is from Blarney Street, on the northside of Cork city, and he currently lives in Bronte, Sydney.

“I left Cork In 2010 and I moved to Perth for a few years working in the desert,” says Cally. “It was a brilliant experience and I then went to Melbourne before eventually settling in Sydney about five years ago. This is where I met my beautiful girlfriend Lauren, who is from Ballincollig.

“The main reason I would have left home was the lack of job opportunities back in 2010 when I had not long finished an apprenticeship and didn’t want to see it go to waste, especially when I had friends in Australia who had jobs waiting.

“So it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“At the moment, life is very busy with lots of things on the go.

“I’m working now in music producing and Dj-ing, as well as working in engineering. but outside of work and my passions, like a lot of the Irish people in Australia, we stay close to the beaches, so we have a laidback beachy life.”

Cally says Australia “is still a very young country and is still trying to find its feet in terms of culture, I feel, on comparison to European and Asian countries.

Damien O’Callaghan in Sydney, where he works in music producing and as a DJ
Damien O’Callaghan in Sydney, where he works in music producing and as a DJ

“So, it’s a real melting pot of cultures, depending on which area you are in, but in the area where we live there are a lot of European influences and backpackers living the beachy lifestyle, especially this time of year.”

It is just coming towards midsummer in the land down under, and Cally described his laidback down-time there.

“To unwind, I love to hang out with Lauren, our friends and our dog Pablo, a 5-year-old King Charles cavalier.

“We love to eat out, especially in Sydney with there being so many cultures and their individual cuisines to try.

“The other main thing we do is hit the beaches - any spare time we get we will always go to the beach and just chill and listen to a podcast or read a book.

“I love listening to the Tommy, Hector & Laurita podcast, it’s a lovely taste of the humour from home every week.”

Cally describes his various work projects and passions.

“‘I’m very fortunate to be able to work and then also follow my passion at the weekends as a form of work.

“For my 9-5 Monday to Friday work, I set up my own engineering consultancy business and work as a consultant on some of the biggest projects in Australia.

“During Covid I really applied myself to music, which anyone that knows me will tell you is my true passion. I have always wanted to work in music and am lucky enough to be able to work as a DJ in some of the best venues in Sydney and play for some of the biggest record labels and DJs in the world recently.

“I have also been learning to produce electronic music and have been lucky enough to have had three records signed to three different labels in 2022, with more planned for 2023. I’m very excited to keep pursuing this and see where it will take me.”

However, as with all the Cork exiles in our series, there are disadvantages to living abroad.

Damien O’Callaghan in Sydney with girlfriend Lauren Neville, from Ballincollig
Damien O’Callaghan in Sydney with girlfriend Lauren Neville, from Ballincollig

“I definitely miss family the most,” says Cally. “Everything else you could almost imitate in some form or another, be it food or drink, or even friends with the amount of Cork people over here!

“But you only have one family, and it is the hardest part about choosing to live over here. Especially my extended family, I won’t say how many of us there are, but it would be enough to turn the Echo into a broadsheet.”

Trips back home are cherished, and Cally managed to make it to Cork recently enough.

“Being home recently in August, I more or less had the perfect day! A beautiful sunny day, walking down strawberry hill, across the Shakey bridge to play with my nephew Alex and my dad in Fitzgerald Park, before heading off on a tour of cork by foot on my own with my headphones in, walking from the Mardyke down to Cork Marina and back through the city.

“I went record shopping, grabbed some lunch and a sneaky pint, before heading home for the evening.

“Lauren, my brother and his wife, my mam and dad, a few cousins, aunts, uncles and even my best friend Alan Kearney, who was coincidentally back from Sydney, were gathering to have a bit of a get-together in my parents’ place, which turned into a night of singing and laughter with all my nearest and dearest. It was a perfect day.”

Cally says both his private and professional lives are happy in Australia.

“Meeting Lauren is the most memorable thing on a personal level, and on a professional level playing music for defected records and Glitter box is stuff I would have dreamed of growing up.

“I would love to wish all my family and friends a very happy Christmas and New year, especially my mother and father, Noel and Jean, and my brother and sister-in-law Robert and Sinead.

“But a special mention to my nephew and godson Alex, who I hope gets spoiled for Christmas, and also my goddaughter Betsy, who flew home from Australia to get christened with Ellen, Roy and Alfie. Warm wishes to Lauren’s family in Ballincollig also.”

As for the festive season down under, Cally is looking forward to some good times.

“Christmas in Melbourne with a big group of us meeting up. We have a close friend of ours from home coming over to us in January which is exciting, then we have the glitter box tour here in Australia, where I will be involved, and then we will be planning our next trip home and trying to fit in as many DJ and music things as I can while I am back in European summer.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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