World Cup Training Squad

Prop : Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Dave Kilcoyne, Denis Buckley – LH

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, Roman Salanoa, Finlay Bealham,  – TH

Hooker– Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelliher, Tom Stewart-HKR

Second Row– James Ryan, Tadgh Beirne, Joe Mc Carthy, Kieran Treadwell, Ryan Baird-SR

Back Row– Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett (22)

BacksScrum Half– Conor Murray, Craig Casey, John Cooney, Caelan Blade

Out Half – Jonathan Sexton, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley

Centre– Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Antoine Frisch, Stuart Mc Closkey

Full Back / Wing– Shane Daly, Robert Balacounne, Calvin Nash, James Lowe, Jimmy O Brien, Mike Lowry, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan – (20)

As people will see, I have gone with an equal split between forwards and backs for the beginning of training and preparations for the 2023 World Cup.

I realise injury may intervene with some of these selections and I am also short of the allowed 45 players to be trimmed back to 33 to go to France. I am leaving it free as I am sure Andy Farrell will have a few players in around the squad as preparations ramp up.  This is only my selection. I am sure I have missed plenty of players.

Team Of The Six Nations 2023

15 Hugo Keenan

14 Mack Hansen

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Gael Fickou

11 Damian Penaud

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Antoine Dupont

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Thibault Flaminet

3 Unini Antonio

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Andrew Porter

Here is my team of the Championship, A 4th Grand Slam won after 1948, 2009, 2018 and 2023. Ireland are now officially the best side in the world heading to France next September.

Time to celebrate this success and enjoy the moment, these Championship wins are so seldom.

The World Cup can wait but rest assured this group will do everything possible to break another well known hodoo but that’s for another day. Soak it in and enjoy !! Ireland are the Grand Slam Champions for 2023. Say it quietly and often we may just bring another piece of Gold home from France next Autumn. Just whisper it of course….

My 2023 Six Nations Squad

Prop : Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Denis Buckley – LH

Tadgh Furlong, Finlay Bealham, Jack Aungier – TH

Hooker : Ronan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart

Second Row : James Ryan, Tadgh Beirne, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird

Back Row : Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett, Caelan Doris. (18)

Backs :

Scrum Halves: Conor Murray, Craig Casey, Jamison Gibson Park

Out Half: Jonathan Sexton, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley

Centre: Garry Ringrose, Stuart Mc Closkey, Antoine Frisch, Jamie Osbourne

Wing/Full Back: Jordan Larmour, Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O Brien, Michael Lowry, John Porch (16)

Here is the squad I would select to take on Wales in Round 1 of this year’s 6 Nations.

Mam- 6th Anniversary

This week will mark 6 years since Mother passed away on September 10th. It’s amazing that we are now back at the point where it will mark the exact days on the 7th and 10th as it did in 2016. I realise this will happen as the years go on but it also shows how time is moving on. 

In the last 6 years I have moved on and although I have changed my approach to life I feel that when I smile it is real. To anyone who has lost a family member or friend you will know what that lost feeling  is in the years after. You go through many stages and it does take a number of years to find your feet again.

I am still crabby fucker from time to time but I’d like to think that some of Mother’s qualities have been passed on and in the last few years I have been told I sound similar and look like you. The one thing that I have become adept at is looking after myself, cooking is still a weak point but that is slowly changing…

The things I never bothered with or in certain people’s opinion I was spoiled by you and in most respects this is true but it certainly is not the case since you passed away. 

Your decision to be an organ donor has come back into view since well-known campaigner Jillian Mc Nulty received that magical call that a donor had been found a few weeks ago. She is thankfully on the road to recovery as I type.

Some characters from Tarbert have joined you in the past few months and I am sure all got a warm reception from you. It’s been a hell of a journey since you exited stage left on September 10th.  As I say I am getting better at moving on and other stuff you’d hoped I have done before you passed away but better late than never I suppose. One or two other things to get sorted in the next while and It will be full steam ahead.

I hope I haven’t let you down and if I have I am sorry, I am trying very hard to improve myself and live the life you wanted me to. It would be nice on the odd occasion to actually have you here rather than having to look to the heavens and wait for divine inspiration to help answer certain questions.

This is the 6th memorial piece and I sit in the same spot writing this as I did on that Wednesday evening when I was called to help… Thank you for looking out for me in the past 6 years and you’ll hopefully do so as the years go on. I will do my best not to let you down.

To all who have lost family or friends this past year my condolences, take each day as it comes and the pain will ease I assure you…. Mind yourselves….

Shannon “Shotgun” O Connell Interview

Shannon O Connell

Hi Shannon, It’s great to have the chance to speak with you about your career to date…

Can you take me back to the start and explain how you got into boxing ?

I got in to boxing when I was 20. My grandparents took me down to a local gym where the owner used to race alongside my dad before he died and I soon got hooked. At that point in my life I was starting to make bad decisions so it was perfect timing and I’m definitely one of those cases

What sort of a diet do you follow when preparing for a fight ?

When I’m in camp I try and just fuel my body fir what I’m doing. I do most of my training early in the day so I have carbs for breakfast and my bigger meal for lunch and just try stick to protein and a light dinner. 

I know you have had a tough childhood, can you tell me about your upbringing ?

When I was 2 years old my dad died in a speedway accident. My mum turned to drugs (heroin) to cope with her grief so I grew up from a very young age around that scene. We had all types of people coming in and out of our house and we moved a lot. My mum didn’t really take drugs as a party scene, it was more to take away the pain so she wasn’t often sober and attempted suicide more than once when I was young. 

You’re a mother to three kids, what do they think of Mammy boxing for a living ?

I have 3 kids now, a 16 year old boy Cooper, 14 year old girl Taylor and a 3 year old boy Felix. My son (Cooper) has been my rock through a lot of my career and I remember when I was pregnant with Felix he begged me not to retire saying that he would do home schooling so that he could look after the baby while I train lol. My kids have been around if their entire life so I guess they don’t know any different but I would like to think that I’m teaching them that if you want something bad enough in life that hard work will get you there. 

Where did the nickname “shotgun” come from ?

My amateur coach gave me the name Shotgun. He was watching from home while I was fighting at the world championships in 2010 and you couldn’t see the fight just the scores changing and he just came up with it at the time and it stuck since then. 

What are your views on social media, is it a help or hindrance ?

Social media has definitely been a good thing for boxing and sport in general to get athletes of all levels recognised for what they’re doing. 

You have called out fellow Australian Ebanie “Blonde Bomber” Bridges, do you think this fight will happen and if so when and where ?

Yes, the fight with Ebanie Bridges for her IBF World title will be happening only next month. Exact details on location and date are still being negotiated but the fight is happening which is awesome news. 

Away from training, how do you like to relax and get away from things ?

Away from boxing I really love spending quality time with my kids and giving them the life experiences and fun times that I never had as a child. 

Lastly Shannon, with surname like O Connell, is there any Irish blood in the family ?

Hahaha the Irish question I get that a lot. My dad was born in England and I believe that his great grandfather was Irish. The name Shannon is Irish too but funnily enough my mum just always liked the name. 

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me Shannon, I really appreciate it, all the very best next month….

Ireland Test Squad For NZ Tour

Forwards – 24

Prop – Andrew Porter, Denis Buckley, Josh Wycherley, Cian Healy LH

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, John Ryan, Findlay Bealham – TH

Dave Heffernan, Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher – Hooker

James Ryan, Ross Molony, Jean Kleyn, Ryan Baird, Joe Mc Carthy, Ian Henderson- SR

Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Jack O Donghue, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Nick Timoney – BR

Backs – 21

Craig Casey, Neil Doak, Conor Murray, Jamison Gibson Park – SH

Jonathan Sexton, Jack Carty, Joey Carbery, Ben Healy – FH

Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Stuart Mc Closkey, James Hume- Centre

Keith Earls, James Lowe, Robert Balcounne, Jordan Larmour- Wing

Andrew Conway, Michael Lowry, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O Brien- Full Back

Here is the squad I would select to tour New Zealand in July. They play New Zealand in 3 Tests and then play New Zealand Maori in 2 mid-week games.

Darkness Into Light 2022

Having signed up for the Pieta House Darkness into Light Walk that will take place on May 7th at 4.15am here in Tarbert I have spent much of my time in recent days reflecting on my journey.

I know some of the issues that have surrounded this walk nationally due to questions surrounding funds being given out has caused much discussion and anger but I suppose the walk on Saturday May 7th is about just supporting those like myself who in the past have contemplated ending our lives but I thank my lucky stars that I am still here and  can say with real conviction I would not be here only for the intervention of my late mother and a first cousin of mine.

I have seen in the years since my attempt to end my life what impact actual suicides have done to families and those close to the person who has chosen to end his or her life.

It certainly is not the answer but in my experience I do think that the person who is contemplating ending their life that they feel this course of action would solve all the apparent issues that may or not be happening. I certainly thought this way myself in 2014 and it’s only now I truly see that thinking this way is so harmful.

I write this piece trying to say to anyone that might suffering that you should go to someone you trust and explain your situation if you can of course. I have gotten better at this, still not 100% at it but getting much better.

I had a moment a few weeks ago when I was down the island and standing on the pier that 8 years ago I had planned to jump off of and for a split second I was back in that moment in March 2014 and then as quick as the thought arrived it left me….

I spoke to a friend about this and we worked out that it was only a moment !! I do my best to be a listening ear for people if they are willing to open up, which I know can be so hard to do…. I have no formal training but I have been that person that was struggling and didn’t know what to do next and managed to find a way to help myself out. I am still learning as the years move on but with age comes experience.

Look what I am saying is that the walk on Saturday May 7th is an option for people to get out and show support for a cause that has impacted every community across Ireland. It’s a situation that continues to cause families and those suffering in silence real and genuine torment. There is light at the end of the tunnel take it from one who went to the edge on more than one occasion and thankfully I saw the light and also I owe those two family members I mentioned earlier my life….

Look after yourselves and I might see some of you on May 7th at 4.15am…



My Ireland XV to face Argentina on Sunday at the Aviva Stadium

15 Hugo Keenan

14 Keith Earls

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Stuart Mc Closkey

11 Simon Zebo

10 Joey Carbery

9 Craig Casey

8 Gavan Coombes

7 Peter O Mahony

6 Caelan Doris

5 Tadgh Beirne

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Cian Healy

16 Dan Sheehan

17 Andrew Porter

18 Findlay Bealham

19 Josh Van Der Flier

20 Jack Conan

21 Jamison Gibson Park

22 Harry Byrne

23 Andrew Conway

Here is the XV I would select to face Argentina on Sunday. I made some slight alterations to the teams that have taken to the field to play Japan and New Zealand. I looked at other members of the squad that haven’t been involved in either game over the past 3 weekends.

5 Years – Time Fly’s

So it is almost 5 years since I was called down stairs to help my father with my Mam. I am sitting in the exact same position, doing exactly the same thing scribbling away about some topic !! Weirdly the only thing that has changed is the laptop..

I had said I wouldn’t write another piece but I had a change of heart. In the last 5 years many things have changed in particular in the last 2 years where Covid 19 entered people’s lives and altered much of the things we took for granted to such an extent we were unable to do many of them for large periods of time but as I write certain dates over the next 6 weeks will see life slowly come back.

I can only imagine how the past while would have impacted on mother but knowing her character she would have managed, I would go as far as to say that we may have even ended up with a new house phone !!

Many times I have heard from people that I sound like you and I am really starting to realise this fact as I can actually hear you as I talk to people about certain things. I can’t believe this is the 5th piece I have penned since that faithful few days that will come into view from 6.40pm next Tuesday.

I have certainly managed to begin to say No more frequently and also I have found a backbone which you would be pleased about I am sure. The few final pieces of advice you passed onto me are truly beginning to be used and have proven so useful when I have sized up a situation in recent times.

The one thing I have learned over the past few years is to really appreciate each day and given how Mam passed away I can honestly say to people please don’t take the relationships you consider to be important to you for granted and tell the people that matter to you how much they mean to you. I didn’t do it enough when Mam was alive and if I am honest I still don’t do it enough 5 years on but I am getting slightly better at it.

As always to anyone that has lost anyone in the past 12 months you have my sympathy. I can also feel the “real” Cian is back and may be here to stay. To those people who reached out to me in the past 5 years and before then and of course who still do look out for me, I thank you all. I will never be truly able to thank you for the support shown to me when I was on the canvas.

Mind each other and support each other because as the past few years has shown how quickly the stuff we take for granted can be taken away without warning !!!!

Mam’s anniversary Mass is next Saturday at 6pm….

My British and Irish Lions XV vs South Africa in Test 1

Here is my XV to play South Africa in Test 1 of the Series next Saturday July 24th. Many challenges have been seen by this squad since they met up in Jersey back at the end of May. Covid cases, the chosen captain being injured against Japan in Murrayfield and then making a recovery to take his place back in the squad to play the Stormers this afternoon in Cape Town.

All players in the squad will have had the chance to show there worth over the last 3 weeks, some have had extra game time owing to some players being ruled out due to isolation periods. This evening is the final chance for players to stick a hand up and be selected for the opening Test next Saturday.

I will now select the XV I think will start Test 1,

15 Anthony Watson

14 Josh Adams

13 Elliott Daly

12 Bundee Aki

11 Liam Williams

10 Dan Biggar

9 Ali Price

8 Toby Faletau

7 Tom Curry

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 Maro Itoje

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Jamie George

1 Wyn Jones

16 Ken Owens

17 Rory Sutherland

18 Kyle Sinkler

19 Adam Beard

20 Hamish Watson

21 Conor Murray

22 Owen Farrell

23 Duhan Van Der Merwe