New Zealand’s Rowing team for London contains a name familiar to supporters of the sport in Ireland – that of Sean O’Neill
The Wairau oarsman represented Ireland at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 as a member of our coxless four crew.
It was back in 1998 that O’Neill left his native Limerick to further his Rugby career at St Patrick’s Silverstream College.
He did a little novice rowing at his college, then answered a local rowing magazine advertisement seeking rowers for the Wairau Rowing Club.
There coach Steve Donaldson took him under his wing and in his first season he won a national title in the senior eight event.
How did he feel when he heard his name being confirmed as a team member for the London Games?
“It was more relief than anything. Definitely a nice feeling though,” O’Neill said.
“Four years ago I was back in Ireland training in the four for Beijing.”
He told Stuff.co.nz:
“I had never really had a look in since 2010.
“The coxless four was the boat I wanted to be in.
“I guess my selection is reward for a lot of hard work.
“We came back from the worlds last year and it’s been a big focus for me, getting back in the four.”
At 31 years of age, he is one of the most experienced rowers in the squad.
“It’s a triumph for persistence. I feel like I’m getting better and better. Stronger.
“Holding my weight a lot better. It doesn’t tend to fall off so much now.”
O’Neill though will have plenty of support in the British capital . “They [family] are pretty happy back in Limerick. I spoke to my mother and father. No doubt the family will be somewhere in London.”