Ryan O’Donoghue is an ordinary pasta and chicken man to this day, a simple diet high in protein and carbohydrates that he experienced as a boxer growing up.
“I’m still a very straightforward eater,” said the Mayo forward. “Everyone in my team knows that. I had been eating plain pasta and chicken since I was 11 or 12 years old.
Ultimately, this obsession with good food and, closer to fight time, the need to reduce and lose weight, turned the 2010 national champion “Boy 1” 33kg away from the sport.
“It was a killer for me,” he admits. “It’s a very, very demanding sport. I respect any boxer who does it at any level. Weight is the worst, to be honest. It’s good when you win, it’s great, everyone is mobilized around you.
“But when you lose, there are dark days. It’s literally you, your trainer and your family.
A question asked during AIB’s launch of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship about the commitment required to be a decent boxer attracts an intriguing response.
“I remember at the national school, in sixth grade, getting up at 6 am and my father walking past me in the Berlingo van with the lights on. I would run two miles in the morning, then run home from school. It definitely instilled in me a determination, a never say attitude and I think it will stay with me for a long, long time.
It was this determination that led O’Donoghue, captain of the Mayo U20 team that lost the 2018 All-Ireland final, to claim responsibility for the free-take in Cillian O’Connor’s absence due to injury. .
Belmullet’s man came into the breach against Sligo last weekend, scoring 0-5, with 0-4 frees.
“I like the responsibility,” he says. “I took frees at the club level, I also took them for the Mayo miners. It’s nothing I’m not used to. I like the little extra responsibility.
It wasn’t until last year that O’Donoghue and a team of ambitious Tyros broke into Team Mayo, but he’s already a central player. He has been delivering at a high level for years, also playing juvenile football for Ireland.
“I played for Sligo for three seasons, I have three caps for Irish schoolchildren. The dream has always been to cross the pond. But I realized when I was 18 or 19 that I somehow knew I wasn’t good enough, or that I needed a big chunk of luck.
As he neared his 23rd birthday and graduated from UL, O’Donoghue focused on success with Mayo. Throughout his time boxing and playing football, the desire for success for his county was always present.
“Definitely, it’s about looking at what the players have done before us, which gives us that hope,” he said. “Every day at Croker and all that. Belmullet is just soccer, soccer, soccer. Mayo football is everything. Championship Sundays are what the people of Mayo live for.
It’s hard to see Mayo take off in the short term, even without the O’Connor talisman. They face Leitrim in the Connacht semifinals on Sunday, backed up by Sligo’s 3-23-0-12 loss. Darren McHale hit 1-5 in his debut and O’Donoghue was impressed.
“It’s possible Darren wouldn’t have started if Cillian was there – and he goes and has a 1-5 performance. He has just performed very well.
“It’s pretty much the rest of us stepping up. Aido (O’Shea) still leads all six forwards, 11 or 14 or wherever he goes. It’s just a matter of stepping up to fill that void.