Sully's explosive power well suited to rugby field

 

Mark Roddentalks to legendary Cork full back Diarmuid O'Sullivan about his decision to join Highfield and finally try his hand at rugby

RUGBY WAS always an interest of mine but the idea of playing it never really entered my head too much. Even though at times I thought I would like to try it, the opportunity never came my way. But I've got an opportunity now with Highfield and I'm absolutely delighted with it and I'm sorry it's something I didn't try to pursue years ago.

I never played rugby when I was growing up but I watched it a fair bit. The Ireland-England games were always the huge ones.

Simon Geoghegan was one of the reasons I used to watch rugby because he was probably the charismatic figure of the Irish rugby team at that stage. He had the blond hair, he was up and down the wing and he got some great tries in his time.

He got a fantastic one against England at Twickenham in 1994 to help win a Five Nations game and that's one of the standout memories I have of watching it.

I've been involved with Highfield, who play in AIL Division 2, since August. I met Dave Barry and Paul Young, the coach there, on a Monday evening and by the Tuesday evening they'd convinced me to go to training.

That was probably a good thing in itself because it was a couple of weeks after the Kilkenny game - it changed my focus and gave me something new to concentrate on.

It's fairly intense. If I said to the lads I play week in, week out with that it wouldn't be at the level of a Munster final they wouldn't take it too kindly because there's a lot of lads there who are Highfield out-and-out and are all about the club. I think their nature has started to rub off on me. They treat every game as a final because it's a massive game for the club and a massive game for Highfield.

I've played one game in the AIB Cup and a few AIL league games at this stage. I knew when I came in that I was at the bottom rung of the ladder, having never played or tried to experience rugby before. But all the lads have done their best to bring me on and I think I've started to repay them a small bit in the form I'm showing.

I played Gaelic football for Cork as well in the 2002 championship and, without a shadow of a doubt, having played it has helped with the rugby. Especially your ball-handling skills, your catching, your passing - the fact you're used to playing with a football does make it easier. It helps your co-ordination especially.

I've been playing on the wing so far. It is a bit different than playing full back in hurling but in the attacking sense it's down to our forwards and depends on how much possession we can get.

In hurling it's very similar - it's all about trust. You have to trust the fella beside you that he's going to make the right decision. And if he doesn't that you're there to cover him and vice versa.

Rugby is an explosive game. I suppose the most you're going to have to sprint is 40 yards at any one time because you're not going to have a dream game every day where you catch the ball on your own endline and run from one end of the field to the other.

You need to have a bit of explosive power about you and I think that's one thing that's been underestimated about me over the last couple of years.

Over 30, 40 or 50 yards, when you need pure explosion of power to get through or to get over the gainline, I'm lucky enough in that I have a fair bit of it.

There's definitely a couple of things that I've taken from rugby. The trust factor is one of the big things but one of the real standout factors for me has been the discipline and the way players conduct themselves, both on and off the field. It's been incredible to see the way they address the referee.

If there's a decision given against them - that's it, you walk away. I think the GAA as a whole could probably have a look at it and say 'fair play to these guys', because rugby's a lot more physical than hurling or Gaelic football and to show the discipline they do is incredible, really.

In terms of goals for the rest of the rugby season, it's not only about me but about Highfield as a club . What we want to achieve can be achieved by the players, which is to make the play-offs and get right up there in contention for the All-Ireland League at the end of the season.

I think if the momentum stays with us and we stay injury-free we've a great chance of doing that.