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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019

10 famous people you'll never believe played GAA as a teen

Everyone from a Premiership winner to a Hollywood star.

IRISH PEOPLE FROM all walks of life have backgrounds in GAA. From well known professional sports stars to actors and comedians, you’d be surprised by the celebrities that once lined out for their counties.

With this year’s Minor Championships nearing its conclusion, we’ve decided to take a look at the ten most famous Irish people to represent their county as a minor.

10. Patrick Kielty

Patrick Kielty Kielty during the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am this year. Source: Presseye/Kelvin Boyles/INPHO

Kielty, who has presented television shows such as Fame Academy and Love Island, was a sub goalkeeper on the Down team which won the All-Ireland Football Minor title in 1987.

The comedian returned to the GAA back in 2008 for a special edition of Celebrity Bainisteoir, when he led London champions Tír Chonaill Gaels to a 1-06 to 0-07 win over Marty Whelan’s Maryland side.

9. Robbie Henshaw

Source: RBS 6 Nations/YouTube

Not many people are aware of this but Robbie Henshaw spent two seasons as a Westmeath minor before leaving Gaelic football to pursue his rugby career.

The young Connacht star’s ability to field Conor Murray’s kick and score the decisive try may have caught out England in the Six Nations, but it would have come as little surprise to his former Westmeath manager and teammates.

8. Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney Kearney in action for Cooley Kickhams in the 2004 Louth Senior Championship Final.

Rugby heartthrob Rob Kearney played minor football for Louth and Cooley Kickhams before moving to become a professional rugby player.

He remains a big GAA fan and told The Independent last year that his ‘heroes’ are GAA county players, who ‘work as hard as us but have a full-time job as well to pay the bills’.

7. Tommy Bowe


In this documentary for RTE, Tommy Bowe’s father reveals that growing up his son wasn’t an obvious future rugby professional. He was a talented runner and Gaelic footballer.

He made his debut at under-10 level for his local club, Emyvale, and played football for Monaghan at minor level.

6. Niall Breslin

Niall Breslin 7/11/2003 Breslin in action for Leinster back in 2003. Source: INPHO

Bressie is a man of many talents. The former lead singer of The Blizzards is best known to most of us as a judge on The Voice of Ireland but the 34-year-old was also a talented sportsman in his youth.

Not only did he win a sports scholarship to UCD for rugby, he actually togged out for Leinster and also played minor football for his native Westmeath.

5. Shane Long

Tipperary team Tipperary team with Shane Long seated fourth from left. Source: INPHO

When Shane Long earned his second cap for the Republic of Ireland as a substitute against Slovakia in 2007, he became the first person ever to play both hurling and international football at Croke Park.

Long was a talented hurler and appeared in two All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship semi-finals with Tipperary in 2003 and 2004. He also played Gaelic football when he was younger, starting out at Two-Mile Borris club St Kevin’s FC before joining St. Michael’s in Tip town.

4. Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin 13/11/1999 Irwin is widely regarded as Ireland's greatest left-back. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Alex Ferguson once said this about number four on our list:

“People ask you who is your best Man United team, it is absolutely impossible. But honestly, I would say Denis Irwin would be the one certainty to get in the team. I called him an eight out of 10.”

But 16 years prior to winning the Champions League with Manchester United, Irwin was apparently a member of St Finbarr’s GAA club in Togher. He even reportedly marked fellow fledging footballer Niall Quinn in a minor match in Croke Park, although that may just be a rumour.

3. Niall Quinn


Way back in 1983, long before he went on to play for Arsenal, Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland, Niall Quinn was scoring outstanding points for the Dublin hurlers at Croke Park.

In the video above, a 16-year-old Niall Quinn scores a point from at least 40 yards out in the All-Ireland Minor Hurling final against Galway.

 2. Tomas O’Leary

Tomas O'Leary O'Leary playing for Munster in 2012. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Former Munster scrum-half Tomas O’Leary first began playing rugby at Christian Brothers College in Cork, a school with a strong rugby tradition. But at the time, he continued to play hurling and captained the Cork minor team to Munster and All-Ireland titles in 2000 and 2001.

1. Chris O’Dowd

Source: MagnaCartaClauses39+40/YouTube

Chris O’Dowd is definitely the most famous person on this list, best known for his role on Channel 4′s The IT Crowd, Moone Boy and Bridesmaids. But as a boy, it wasn’t an actor that was his hero, it was Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran.

O’Dowd played in goal himself for the Roscommon minors in the 1996 Connaught Minor Final against Mayo.

Some moments teach you everything you need to know about yourself.  So many milestones are reached as we come of age – Leaving Cert results, starting college, living life independently. Players in The Electric Ireland GAA Minors Championship are embarking on their adult lives, juggling new responsibilities with their ambitions and are looking to the future. The Electric Ireland GAA Minors Championship – follow the conversation at #ThisIsMajor.

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