Keeping it in the Family

Sons of All-Ireland winner making it big in the US

Darragh and Shane O’Neill are on the verge of carving out careers for themselves in two different sports.

imageShane O’Neill (left) playing in the MLS for Colorado Rapids. Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images

IN 1993, TWO-time All-Ireland winner Colm O’Neill got the opportunity to start a new life in the US with his wife Christine and their young family.

The Cork footballer, who played in the Rebel team which won Sam Maguire two years running in 1989 and 1990, was accepted to do a two-year masters degree in business at the University of Michigan.

Having become friendly with another Irish man Tom Murray and his family, the pair went about opening two pubs — one in Michigan and the other in Colorado.

O’Neill’s two sons were both toddlers when they departed Ireland but would return to Midleton most summers. There they would get to watch their uncle, Maurice Fitzgerald, line out for Kerry’s senior panel.

Darragh (21) and Shane (20) may have chosen different paths but the strong sporting background has helped them excel in their respective fields.

Having played soccer and basketball growing up, Darragh turned his hand to American football and his kicking ability saw him become a punter for Colorado University. Although it is a hugely competitive part of the game to succeed in, he has been tipped for a career in the NFL.

That said, he isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“It was decent year,” Darragh told Damien O’Meara on RTE 2FM’s Game On. “The team as a whole is getting better but for me personally it was alright.

“For now I’m just focusing on having a good year next year. At the end of the day there are only 30 NFL punters. That is definitely the end goal but I’m just focused on next year.

“This year was a good one but there is always room for improvement and there are actually some Australians who had better numbers than me.

imageDarragh kicking during a NCAA football game for Colorado University. Credit: David Zalubowski/AP/Press Association Images

Younger of the two Shane hit the headlines last week when his solid displays for MLS side Colorado Rapids earned the defender a call-up to Jurgen Klinsmann’s 26-man US squad January training camp.

Eligible to play for Ireland, Martin O’Neill should be doing all he can to persuade the 20-year-old to commit to the Boys in Green and while he says he is keeping the door open, the main priority is to impress with the chance to play at this year’s World Cup in Brazil an outside possibility.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to see the standard and hopefully I can impress,” says Shane. “It’s a good start to the year. I’m really honoured.

“I was over in England training for a little bit and when I landed I had a couple of voicemails and text messages from the US staff and Jurgen to call them back.

“It was pretty surprising but at the same time I had a pretty decent season and they’re giving the younger guys a chance to see what we can do.

“Obviously until you’re fully capped who knows (which country he will represent),” he added. ” I’m going to go to this camp fully in the mindset of playing well for the US.

I’m not really thinking about it right now until I have to make a final decision. I’m not opposed to it but at the same time I’m focused on playing for the US because of this call-up.

Evidently proud as punch of the pair, father Colm says: “It has worked out very good. They have the best of both worlds — The opportunities here and they also know our relations in Ireland like they lived down the road.

“While America has been good to us and it’s home for the kids, Ireland means a lot to them as well.

“Every summer they head to Midleton and the only difficulty is when my wife is bringing them to a Munster final and trying to figure out what jersey for them to wear!

“The genes predominantly come from me. Maurice is an after thought,” he joked.

Listen to the full interview with Damien O’Meara on 2FM’S Game On

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