O'Connor will be 'Lead Athletic Development Coach' with Shefflin's Galway hurlers. James Crombie/INPHO
Here's Johnny

Ex-Irish rugby international O'Connor lands Galway hurling S&C role

Former Connacht Rugby S&C coach looking forward to ‘an opportunity to work with elite athletes in a different code’.

FORMER IRISH RUGBY international Johnny O’Connor said he is looking forward to working with Henry Shefflin after being appointed to head up the fitness programme for the Galway senior hurlers.

The 43-year old will take over as Lead Athletic Development Coach from Lukasz Kirszenstein, who was part of Michéal Donoghue’s 2017 All-Ireland winning management, and it is the latest move by the Galway native in a varied S&C role since retiring from playing a decade ago.

O’Connor, who won a Triple Crown with Ireland in 2006, had decided to leave his role as senior strength and conditioning coach at Connacht Rugby during the summer and was working out his period of notice when Galway GAA advertised the role.

O’Connor has worked with numerous GAA teams in the past, including Clarinbridge hurlers and Salthill/Knocknacarra footballers, and felt this was the perfect opportunity and challenge at this time.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I was, of course, more than familiar with them and knew how good their structures were, but even the appointment process was so impressive and detailed.

“It’s an opportunity to work with elite athletes in a different code. There will be different structures but the bottom line is helping finding success with a bunch of players and hopefully I can contribute to that.

“I’m moving from dealing with full-time players to players who are amateur, but I know the commitment GAA players make. I’ve seen it first-hand and it is awesome and I’m looking forward to now working with these players and coaches,” said O’Connor, who enjoyed two playing stints with Connacht but who tasted most success when Warren Gatland brought him to Wasps and they won two Heineken Cup titles and two Premiership crowns.

He has met and started planning with Shefflin, coach Richie O’Neill and selectors Damien Joyce and Kevin Lally and has been impressed by what he has seen so far.

“I’m looking forward to working with them. You look and see what Henry has achieved, the high standards he has maintained throughout his career and the manner in which he goes about things. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and working with them,” added O’Connor.

O’Connor cut his S&C teeth with Setanta College and Arsenal where he worked alongside current Limerick S&C coach Cairbre Ó Cairealláin, before returning to Ireland and taking up a role with Galway United.

He then moved to Connacht and for the past year has been working with Mikey Kiely, who headed up Limerick’s S&C for the All-Ireland wins of 2020 and 2021 before moving to Ulster Rugby for a season.

“Yeah, I have chatted a lot to Mikey and Cairbre and learned a lot from them and I suppose it will be a bit strange having worked with Cairbre in Arsenal that we will now be looking after the Galway and Limerick hurlers, but it’s a great challenge and I’m really looking forward to it,” added O’Connor.

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