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The All Black out-half who honed his skills on the GAA fields of Co Meath

You may not know that Beauden Barrett played U10 football in Ballinacree, but he did.

Beauden Barrett runs at Cian Healy and Paul O'Connell during their clash in 2013.
Beauden Barrett runs at Cian Healy and Paul O'Connell during their clash in 2013.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

WHILE THE GAA-playing childhood of Rob Kearney and Simon Zebo is often cited as having a fundamental role in their development as rugby players, it also had an unlikely part to play in the making of an All Blacks out-half.

As a child, Beauden Barrett — along with his brothers Kane and Scott — played Gaelic football with both St. Brigid’s GAA club and St. Fiach’s National School in the town of Ballinacree.

Somewhat fittingly, Barrett would win his first cap for the All Blacks when he came off the bench to score nine points as New Zealand hammered Ireland 60-0 in 2012.

The 24-year old — who plays his Super Rugby with the Hurricanes — is seen by many as the  natural successor to Dan Carter with his speed and propensity to attack with ball in hand making him a firm fan favourite.

Indeed, in a poll run by the New Zealand Herald earlier this summer, Barrett was the preferred public choice at out-half for the Kiwis at this year’s World Cup.

But how does a young lad born in Taranaki end up playing U10 football in Co Meath?

“Beauden’s father and mother — Kevin and Robyn — came over here to live in Ballinacree in Autumn 1999,” family friend Barney Tighe told The42 this week.

“They were managing a dairy farm and Kevin was playing with the Buccaneers in Athlone. He had finished his career with Taranaki at that stage and they came over to experience Ireland and it was an opportunity to play rugby and work in a different country.

“The kids — there were five of them at the time — they went to school in St Fiach’s National School and played Gaelic football there and with the St. Brigid’s club in the town.”

Beaudin-Barrett-006-1024x634 Beauden Barrett with pupils from his old primary school St. Fiach's Source: St. Fiach's National School

Another Ballinacree resident, who wished to remain nameless, told The42 that young ‘Beaudy’ — as everyone in the town calls him — played his football in his bare feet. Tighe says he doesn’t remember the specifics but it wouldn’t surprise him.

“They certainly used to spend a lot of time in our house because we had kids the same age and during the summer the Barretts used to tip across the field on lots of occasions in their bare feet.

“A lot of the time they’d be here for the mashed potatoes, they couldn’t get enough of them, it was their favourite meal.

“Beaudy in particular adapted to Gaelic football extremely well. There were three of them on the U10 team with Scott and Kane playing too. They were very popular in the community and great athletes altogether. We’ve great memories of them.”

Beauden Barrett Barrett putting his GAA skills to good use against Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Tighe and Barrett families remain in touch to this day and Beauden’s father Kevin will be visiting them in Ballinacree next week.

However, Tighe admits the close relationship made for divided loyalties during Ireland’s heart-breaking last-gasp loss to the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium in 2013.

“Kevin’s coming to us for a few days and my son Ryan went out to live with them for a while to milk cows and play some rugby with the local team there.

“After Beaudy came on as a sub [in 2013], he was instrumental in New Zealand getting the win. I met him directly afterwards and the first thing he said to me on the field was ‘Jeez, I’m awfully sorry about that.’”

“So he has great attachment here and after the game he stayed with us for the week and gave a coaching session to the U16s of the Virginia Rugby Club where I’m involved.”

While Tighe says his children didn’t have much affinity for the oval ball at a younger age, hanging around with the New Zealanders obviously paid off as son Dylan is now in the Ulster rugby development squad.

But did Meath miss out on a potential inter-county star when Barrett and his family left Ballinacree in 2001?

“Absolutely,” say Tighe.

“There’s no question about it because, even at that age, he was just a natural athlete and took to Gaelic football so easily.

“I like to say he learned his high-fielding skills with us.”

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Steve O'Rourke

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