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ClubSpotting With Colm Begley

Colm Begley’s career is one of huge intrigue. He made his Laois senior debut at the age of 19 before being scouted to join Brisbane Lions in 2006. He would receive their ‘Rookie of the Year’ award in 2007 before joining AFL opponents St.Kilda in 2009. A year later he returned home to his native Laois and has since became a key figure for the O’ Moore county for the last decade. He is also one of only six men to represent Ireland in twelve or more games in the Compromise Rules series versus Australia and one of only two players to win nine matches in the series along with Derry man, Sean Marty Lockhart. When speaking to him however his pride and passion for his homeplace shines brightly like the Aussie’ sun he spent 3 years under. This week we went Clubspotting to Stradbally.

Describe your first memory of Stradbally GAA Club?

I think my first memory, or memories more so, of Stradbally GAA Club would be of two of my earlier coaches. Two people who played a big part in me starting and continuing GAA. Joe Oakley was one of them. He was very passionate, had some great one liners (“On the bar”) and genuinely had the young players enjoyment at the centre of what he did. He had a gift of making every child feel part of it and involved, which I think is a talent that can be very underrated especially in the younger years. We had some great battles with him as our manager at the younger u10/12 ages.

The second would be Padraig Ashe. He was the principal of my primary school in Stradbally and he has coached numerous future Laois players and senior county champions in Stradbally. Again, someone who had genuine passion for the game, and for the players. Playing in the Cumann na mBunscol Mini 7’s with him as our manager and coach, I started to develop a very positive sense for work rate, both on the field and off it. I also remember him being a strong influence on how we conducted ourselves on the field, along with how we handled winning and losing games. Always show respect. That is an important lesson for all young players to learn.

Two men who have helped me and Stradbally GAA club in a hugely positive way.

Who was your childhood sporting hero?

My favourite player was Seamus Moynihan. At the time I was admiring players a bit more, he was one of the most influential players on the Kerry team. Superb defender, marking some of the best forwards to play the game, but also showed great confidence and skill when breaking out of defence.

Colm Begley in action for Laois
Colm Begley in action for Laois

What makes Stradbally GAA club special to you?

The people. Like all clubs, it would be nothing without the people in it. We are very fortunate to have wonderful members who want to grow the club and keep the community close. There are volunteers who give so much to the club, without looking for anything in return. It’s because they see the value and the reach of its effect. Friendship, support, joy and connection all can stem from a strong GAA club. We are in an exciting place in our club, because I think we are seeing an injection of new volunteers who are now giving more back and hopefully we continue to see the club grow and strengthen, not just on the field but off it too.

What has been your proudest moment in a Stradbally jersey?

The 2005 and 2016 Senior Football County Final wins are my two proudest moments in a Stradbally Jersey. 2016 probably edging it for the way in which it was won, and the celebrations that followed.

Colm Begley in action for Ireland
Colm Begley in action for Ireland

Who’s the toughest opponent you’ve faced in Laois?

Few different types of toughest here. But as a defender, Donie Brennan was one of the most difficult forwards to mark. In my minor years and early senior, he was an exceptionally skilful forward. Always had to be top of my game when marking him.

Colm Begley in action for Ireland
Colm Begley in action for Ireland

What are your hopes for Stradbally GAA club in the future?

I think the club is in a very good place. Moving forward, I hope to see the club continue to be a central pillar for the community.

I would love to see continued increase in our numbers at younger ages, we now have a positive nursery programme that has been building each year. Participation and development being the key aim.

I would like to see a bigger connection back from the teams and the club with the full Stradbally Community, getting involved in fundraising events for positive projects not just linked to GAA. Also engaging new families who may have just moved to our town, making them feel welcome.

I hope to see more of my generation start to give back, through coaching, committee involvement, etc. This has started to happen and I hope it continues and grows.

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