Ian of­fers Kerry team words of in­spi­ra­tion: ‘Just beat the Dubs’

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN FERNANE

IN­SPI­RA­TIONAL Kil­lar­ney teenager Ian O’Con­nell cap­tured the hearts of the na­tion this week with his Late Late Show ap­pear­ance and rub­bing shoul­ders with UFC icon Conor McGre­gor.

But the Spa man also left his mark on the Kerry team re­cently when he vis­ited a train­ing ses­sion. Ian had one sim­ple piece of ad­vice: ‘Beat the Dubs in 2018’.

“I was in­vited to a train­ing ses­sion last week and they are a great bunch of lads,” Ian said. “My mes­sage to them was a straight up: ‘beat the Dubs’.

“It’s great to be back home again as a day out of Kerry is a day wasted. I’m get­ting physio every day and just set­tling back into home life again and meet­ing up with friends,” Ian added.

Ian’s dad, Mike, is ex­tremely proud of his son’s pos­i­tiv­ity which has res­onated with the en­tire coun­try. “He’s just an amaz­ing young man and you couldn’t help but be in­spired by him,” said Mike.

IT’S not of­ten a UFC star lets their guard down but that’s ex­actly what Conor McGre­gor did at the Three Arena last Satur­day night where the world fa­mous fighter was blown away by the in­spi­ra­tional at­ti­tude of Ian O’Con­nell.

Just 24 hours ear­lier the 16-yearold Spa man halted the at­ten­tion of a na­tion on The Late Late Show with his defiant and ea­ger at­ti­tude in the face of his ac­ci­dent in Au­gust 2017 that left him paral­ysed.

“It was some week­end and a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to say the least,” Ian told The Ker­ry­man.

“I wasn’t in the slight­est bit ner­vous about go­ing on TV. I just said ‘how bad can it be’. But I was speech­less when Conor [McGre­gor] came over to me. He said he had no­ticed me from The Late Late Show and I just burst into tears straight away,” he added.

Ian and his fam­ily have en­dured a tough time of it lately with Ian un­der­go­ing treat­ment at the Mater Hospi­tal in Dublin and at the Na­tional Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in Dun Laoghaire. But Ian has met every stage of his re­cov­ery with the kind of pos­i­tiv­ity that’s im­pos­si­ble for many peo­ple to com­pre­hend. Ian also gained a huge amount of in­spi­ra­tion and de­ter­mi­na­tion learn­ing of how the folks back home in Kerry and Cork - es­pe­cially the Spa GAA Club had ral­lied to help him.

“I was very aware of what was go­ing on at home as my dad was keep­ing me up­dated. The level of work peo­ple did was crazy when you think about it and what peo­ple were do­ing re­ally helped mo­ti­vate me. It gave me a 100 per­cent lift. Look, the way I see it is there’s no point in cry­ing over it as it’s not go­ing to change any­thing,” he said.

Ian was re­cently in­vited to at­tend a Kerry team train­ing ses­sion in Kil­lar­ney and here too he left his mark on the play­ers. Dar­ran O’Sul­li­van tweeted after the Late Late ap­pear­ance: ‘an in­spi­ra­tional young man’, while Bryan Shea­han tweeted ‘what an amaz­ing at­ti­tude’.

“I was in­vited to a train­ing ses­sion last week and they are a great bunch of lads. My mes­sage to them was a straight up: ‘beat the Dubs’. It’s great to be back home again as a day out of Kerry is a day wasted. I’m get­ting physio every day and just set­tling back into home life again and meet­ing up with friends.”

Ian’s dad, Mike, is ex­tremely proud of how Ian’s story has res­onated with the pub­lic and he ad­mits it was a hec­tic week­end in the cap­i­tal.

“I’m very proud of Ian. He’s just an amaz­ing young man and you

couldn’t help but be in­spired by him,” he said.

“Be­ing on The Late Late Show and meet­ing Conor McGre­gor on Satur­day night was the ic­ing on the cake. McGre­gor’s coach, John Ka­vanagh, is good friends with Ian who he got to know when he was in hospi­tal in Dun Laoghaire. He promised he’d get him tick­ets and you can just see from the pic­ture how emo­tional Ian was meet­ing Conor.”

LOOK, THE WAY I SEE IT IS THERE’S NO POINT IN CRY­ING OVER IT AS IT’S NOT GO­ING TO CHANGE ANY­THING.

Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

Spe­cial guest Ian O’Con­nell with Prin­ci­pal Sean Cof­fey and Kieran Her­lihy team Man­ager at the pre­sen­ta­tion of Frewen and Dun­loe Cup medals in The Bre­hon, Kil­lar­ney on Thurs­day.

‘A dream come true’ as Ian meets his hero Conor McGre­gor .

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