Shane O’Donnell’s Clare future remains uncertain
Hurler is close to finishing PhD and is unsure about his plans after he finishes at UCC
Clare’s Shane O’Donnell in action against Kilkenny in February at UPMC Nowlan Park, Pennefatherslot, Kilkenny. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Clare hurler Shane O’Donnell has revealed he is uncertain about what his future holds beyond the completion of a PhD in autumn with one option being to return to the United States.
In what will go down as good news for Banner County supporters, gifted O’Donnell said he’s “leaning towards” remaining in Ireland and working here.
The 26-year-old, the star of Clare’s 2013 All-Ireland breakthrough when he struck 3-3 in the final replay defeat of Cork, spent six months at Harvard University in late 2018 and early 2019 on a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.
The microbiology student is currently wrapping up a PhD in the area of gut bacteria and the hydrogen cycle within the gut at UCC and expects to be finished in October.
Having started all five of Clare’s National League games this year and contributed 3-7, he looks set to feature prominently in this year’s Championship though beyond that he will have decisions to make about his future.
In a fascinating interview on high performance with the Sleep Eat Perform Repeat podcast, in which he also spoke of getting sick of the attention thrust upon him in 2013 and of his dream of becoming an astronaut and getting into space travel, O’Donnell was asked about his plans beyond the PhD.
“That’s a very good question that I ask myself a lot these days,” he said. “I’m not 100 per cent certain. Everyone when they finish their PhD in science has the option of staying in research or going to industry, that’s the two completely opposite decisions you have to make.
“At the moment I’d kind of be swaying towards going into industry which is working in pharmaceutical labs and that kind of stuff. I did get the option to . . . I got offered a post doc in the lab that I left from Boston so it’s definitely weighing on my mind, do I want to maybe, not give up, but put hurling on pause for a while and move there.
“My girlfriend is in Dublin for the next couple of years so that’s also something that I have to take into account. There’s so many things I’d be losing by going to Boston, even though it’s a great opportunity, it’s probably not something that I want to do really.
“Then it’s kind of looking at probably going into industry labs and working. As much as I love science and research, I’d probably be kind of more business minded than I would pure research.
“So to get involved in a company and an industry side of things would certainly pique my interest. That’s probably where I’m leaning towards at the moment but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion either.”
Asked about the potential legacy he might leave, O’Donnell revealed his space travel ambitions.
“I like the path I’m going at the moment,” he said. “I’d try to encourage people to marry education and sport. I like that people associate both things with me, or that they’d look at me and say, ‘Okay, you can do both’, or at least to some level, you can do both. That’s 100 per cent something I want, not so much to be remembered for, but something I would advocate.
“As for what to be remembered for legacy [wise], there’s a lot of things I would like to do. I would definitely like to get involved in space travel and that kind of stuff, getting involved ideally in being an astronaut or something, that’s the end goal but I think that’s everyone’s end goal or a lot of people’s end goal. It’s definitely something that if you asked me what would be my legacy, in ideal circumstances, that would definitely be it.”
The Cork-based Ennis man, whose club have been drawn to play 2019 runners-up Cratloe in the Clare SHC, also recalled the intense focus on him after bursting onto the scene with 3-3 against Cork in 2013 as a teenager.
“Immediately after, as in the moments after, were obviously incredible but after that, in a space of weeks, I was quickly quite sick of the attention that all that brought,” he said. “I don’t know, I can never very eloquently explain what I felt at the time but it wasn’t enjoyable is how I try to summarise it.”
* The full interview with Clare’s Shane O’Donnell on the Sleep Eat Perform Repeat podcast can be accessed at sleepeatperformrepeat.com