With a heavy heart, Shane O’Donoghue will leave Glenanne this summer to return to Belgian champions KHC Dragons after a superb season in Dublin, captaining his boyhood club to the EYHL regular season crown.
But, with the World Cup on the horizon and assistance in developing his working life, the offer to return to a professional contract with the club he won two Belgian titles with was one that was too good to turn down.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make to be honest and one which was made with a heavy heart when you consider the year we [Glenanne] had winning the EY league title,” he told The Hook but does reckon he has left the club in good shape to challenge again.
“It was my first full season back at my boyhood club and I thoroughly enjoyed last season, playing with close mates.
“Moving to St Andrews was a fantastic move for the mens side of the club and there is a few players from oversees joining next season so I have no doubt that the club will do well again next season.”
O’Donoghue confirmed he had been in discussions with a number of clubs from Belgium as well as some from the Netherlands and Germany but Dragons came with a “complete offer”.
“Dragons managed to find internships with a global psychology company called Mentally Fit and hopefully some work with the Antwerp Giants basketball team so that, in essence, made my decision for me.
“It was a litle different to when I first joined Dragons in 2014, I had just finished my under graduate studies in UCD and I just wanted to play professional hockey for a couple years and improve my game two years out from Rio. Now, I am slightly more career focused.
“I enjoyed two incredible seasons, winning back to back Belgian titles as well as coaching back to back Under-19 Belgium national titles with Dragons. It is an amazing club who went above and beyond to make me, my girlfriend and my family feel at home for two years.
“I found myself playing some of my best hockey and being nominated for world FIH rising star was one of the fruits of that.”
It will be a very different Dragons side from the one he left with nine players moving on this summer and a similar amount coming in.
“The side has changed a lot with some close friends and top international players like Loic and Arthur Van Doren moving on to new challenges in Holland. It will be a challenge for sure but one which I will relish and give my all.
“They have signed some top international players in Tobias Walter and of course Kirky [Shimmins]! With the World Cup scheduled at a rather awkward time of the season, the first half of the league in Belgium finishes at the end of October which fits in nicely with our final preparation before departure to India.”
As for those preparations, like many others in the squad, he admitted his shock at Craig Fulton’s departure, hailing his guidance as crucial in putting “ourselves on the hockey map and have become a force to be reckoned with”.
“He had a vision and with the limited resources at our disposal, we achieved many great things during his tenure, bronze medal at the 2015 Europeans, playing in the Rio Olympics and most recently qualifying for the 2018 World Cup being the most notable ones. I wish him and his family all the very best in near future.
“We still have a world cup to prepare for and we as a team are confident that our High Performance Director Adam Grainger will find a suitable replacement as soon as possible.
“We have games at the end of June against the french down in Cork, then USA shortly after and then the Dusseldorf Masters to finish off our summer program.
“There is a large share of the current squad moving abroad to play professionally which I can only see having an extremely positive impact on our preparation and on our squad as a whole going into the World Cup and then into the Olympic qualifiers for Tokyo”.