Glenanne’s famous fighting spirit has transferred directly to Shane O’Donoghue in almost exclusively moulding his attitude and ability for the game, making him one of the biggest talents on the world stage.
Looking across the biographies of the Irish men’s Olympic panel, schools hockey trophies feature prominently in the respective CVs with plenty of All-Ireland schools winners involved.
But, perhaps more than any other player, the schools game does not feature in O’Donoghue’s background with his formative years played mainly outside of the schools’ system before switching from Templeogue College to High School for the last few years.
He did reach a Senior Trophy final but ended up missing out to Kilkenny who won after extra time. As such, when he talks about the things that moulded his career, they are primarily from his days with the Glens.
“I only played two or three years of schools hockey and I did feel I kind of felt I was missing out in some ways,” he told The Hook. “I did put more emphasis on my club hockey so I made sure that I was doing whatever I could in training to get noticed and each week and learn things.”
When it came to role models, he did not have far to look for some of the best in the game.
“I was immediately brought into the family club aged seven and pushed on from there. I was lucky enough to watch players like Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw in the club. From that point of view, they were the two players I wanted to be like and follow the path they had taken.
“With Stephen and Graham there, watching them playing on a Saturday at age 10, 11 and 12, it helped me aspire to try and play for the first team in the club. In Glenanne, there is a lot of passion and it’s a real family. That transfers into the young lads.”
As part of that family tradition, he jumped into the third team soon after his 15th birthday. With them, he played with his father Rory who had won most things with the Tallaght club around the turn of the century before swiftly moving up the teams.
“It was weird – there is a bit of an age gap there! But I think it was good to do. In Glenanne, regardless of your standing in the team or which team it it, they do help you develop that hunger and passion, the level of determination to bring success to the club.”
He was talented at other sports. Playing Gaelic football with the St Anne’s club in Bohernabreena, he was included in Dublin development panels at Under-14 and 15 level.
Hockey, though, was always “the most exciting sport to play” and became his focus once he hit 15 and he soon claimed an Irish Senior Cup crown in 2010 when still in school.
An international debut followed in April 2011 before he earned an elite scholarship to UCD and, on graduation from sports and exercise management, picked up a professional contract with KHC Dragons in Belgium, following Shaw and Butler’s path.
With two Belgian leagues under his belt, Rio now comes into focus and there is no thought of making up the numbers for the FIH Rising Talent of the Year nominee.
“Our first aim is to finish top four in the group which guarantees us a place in the cross-over games. From there, you take each game as it comes. We have individual standards and then, as a team, we’ve exceeded expectations each time for the last while, raising our level [and we want to continue that].
“We have a strong belief in the squad and that’s part of what has put us where we are today. It heavily contributed to a successful 2015.
“We know we have the ability and things are in place to enjoy it, to carry out our roles individually. When we do that is when we are really strong and can put it up to anyone.”