Carruth inspires Kilkenny’s O’Neil to drop the hurl
LIKE all Kilkenny people Darren O’Neill was born with a hurl in his hand.
However when he witnessed Michael Carruth claim Olympic boxing gold in 1992 the Irish Captain’s grib on said hurl started to loosen.
The vest and head guard didn’t quite replace the black and amber jersey and hurling helmet as O’Neil played hurling at a high level up and until under 21.
However Olympic success rather than Croke Park success became his dream and the Drimiangh fighter, who jumped so high with joy after being proclaimed a gold medal winner in Barcelona 1992 that he was in contention for high jump gold too, has proved an inspiration to the 26 year old middleweight.
O’Neill was gripped by the 1992 Olympics and seeing someone from his country achieve ultimate success in his sport left him dreaming of the Olympic Podium and not the steps of Croker.
“Obviously you dream of being a hurler for Kilkenny, and I did so until I was 21. But I suppose my Dad got me into boxing. And when I was six or seven, Michael Carruth won the gold medal, and that was all I wanted to be,” said Paulstown man O’Neill.
“I remember the likes of Merlene Ottey, Linford Christie and Haile Gebrselassie running around the track and thinking, wow, I just want to be in the Olympics. I think the fact that Carruth was there that time [at Barcelona 1992], within my own sport, and being an Irish person. And when I got to breaking through to the national team at junior and senior level, I realised this dream could become a reality. So, it was just something I concentrated on and left the hurling behind.”
O’Neill played on underage team’s with some of the games most decorated hurlers. If he had of taken the Croke Park route he could have All Ireland hurling medals instead of his Senior boxing titles sparkling in his trophy cabinet, but with a spot on the greatest sporting event on planet secured the Kilkenny teacher certainly has no regrets.
“I played on the Kilkenny team until under-21 and colleges with the likes of Richie Power and the Hogan brothers, Cha Fitzpatrick, the Tennysons, all of those. I could have made it on to the senior team, but I won’t look back and wonder you know.”