'Playing for Cork and Éire Óg again was something I dreamt about from the first day I went to Australia'

'Playing for Cork and Éire Óg again was something I dreamt about from the first day I went to Australia'
A dejected Ciaran Sheehan after the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

ALL-IRELAND medalist Ciaran Sheehan has revealed that he regularly dreamt of playing for Cork again from the first day he embarked on what turned out to be a six-year stint in Australia.

A member of the Rebels’ starting 15 which accounted for Down in the 2010 All-Ireland final, Sheehan signed for Aussie Rules outfit Carlton in November 2013.

Unfortunately, a succession of serious hamstring injuries restricted him to just four appearances in four seasons with the Melbourne outfit, and he subsequently spent an additional two years Down Under before returning home in September this year.

Ciarán Sheehan on Ireland International Rules duty in Australia. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Ciarán Sheehan on Ireland International Rules duty in Australia. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

In the intervening period, Sheehan has featured in three championship games for his club, Éire Óg, and, arising out of the quality of his performances in those fixtures, he received an invitation from Cork boss Ronan McCarthy to link up with the Rebels’ extended panel ahead of the forthcoming McGrath Cup campaign.

“I was delighted to be asked to join the Cork extended panel, and really playing for Cork again was something that I often dreamt about from the first day I went to Australia,” remarked the 29-year-old forward on his call-up.

“Obviously, I would prefer to have got a lot more Aussie Rules games under my belt, but my main priority was to make every effort to get back playing with Cork again as soon as I came home from Australia.

“Now, my intention is to work as hard as I can over the next few weeks in the hope that I will be part of the Cork set-up when the panel is trimmed down after the Christmas period,” added Sheehan, who was first drafted into the Leesiders’ senior squad by team boss Conor Counihan when he was only 19.

And it’s a telling indication of the strong desire that Sheehan possessed to re-immerse himself as quickly as possible in Gaelic football activity that he wasted precious little time in linking up with his former teammates from the Ovens-based club.

“We came home on a Tuesday around the middle of September and I went training with the club the following night,” he explained about his hasty return to the Éire Óg set-up.

Éire Óg's Ciaran Sheehan back in his club colours against Bantry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Éire Óg's Ciaran Sheehan back in his club colours against Bantry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I got a great welcome from the team manager, (Cavan native) Harry O’Reilly, and the players, and after training with the club for a few weeks, I was brought on as a sub in the county intermediate semi-final against Bantry, which we won, and the county final against St Michael’s, which we also won.

“After that, I started in the Munster Club intermediate final against (Kerry champions) Templenoe which unfortunately we lost.

“We were very disappointed with our performance in that game, but it was always going to be very difficult for us against a side which contained four Kerry senior players: Tadhg Morley, Gavin Crowley, Adrian Spillane and Killian Spillane.”

Éire Óg's Ciarán Sheehan leaping over Nemo Rangers' Dean Buckley during the U14 county final. Picture: Richard Mills.
Éire Óg's Ciarán Sheehan leaping over Nemo Rangers' Dean Buckley during the U14 county final. Picture: Richard Mills.

Regarding his Aussie Rules odyssey, Sheehan, who represented Cork at under-age level in both football and hurling, said: “It was very unfortunate and disappointing that the hamstring injuries restricted me to so few games with Carlton.

“But after I finished up with Carlton at the end of 2017, I played semi-professional Aussie Rules with the Avondale Heights team for two further years.

“That situation was somewhat similar to that in football here where we trained on a Tuesday and Thursday and had a match on Sunday.

“And that involvement certainly helped to keep my fitness up to a good level.

“During those two years, I also worked as an administrator with the Aussie Rules Players’ Association, such as helping players make the transition from playing professionally to retiring from the game.”

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