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Greg O’Shea: Ireland fly-half discusses Olympic dream and Love Island experience

Greg O’Shea won the popular reality show in 2019; fly-half aiming to win an Olympic medal with Ireland in the rugby 7s; Ireland play South Africa in the early hours of Monday morning

Last Updated: 24/07/21 9:55pm

Greg O’Shea and his side will be looking to earn a historic medal this summer (Credit: IRFU)

Two years on from his Love Island triumph, Greg O’Shea discusses just how much it will mean to him and his team-mates to represent Ireland at this summer’s Olympics in Rugby 7s.

On Monday morning, fly-half O’Shea will be part of an Ireland squad competing in their first 7s campaign at the Games.

O’Shea won the popular reality show in 2019 and is now aiming for more success, this time at the Tokyo Olympics.

Ireland and O’Shea overcoming the odds

Before Ireland’s Rugby 7s team knew they would be competing at this summer’s Olympics – they had to play and win a World Rugby Sevens tournament in June with the other 11 nations who had not booked their ticket to Tokyo.

With the team ready to compete, O’Shea himself was on the fringes of the squad and had to go through a rollercoaster of a journey before making the final squad for the tournament.

In 2015, he was in a bicycle incident which in his own words ‘destroyed my leg’ and left him with a lacerated Achilles tendon. He has had five surgeries and numerous niggling injuries since but found a home in the 7s team after leaving Munster, the club he had been playing his rugby for four years.

O'Shea featuring for Ireland in Rugby 7s (Credit: IRFU)

O’Shea featuring for Ireland in Rugby 7s (Credit: IRFU)

“I actually wasn’t picked to go to the qualifier [tournament] in Monaco. I hadn’t been training and I picked up too many injuries but the Sunday before the head coach rang me and said a team-mate had picked up an injury and asked me to come on the plane the next morning,” O’Shea said.

“I went with the lads, I was just happy to be involved but turns out I trained well and the coach started me in most of the games and I played all the minutes in the final.”

O'Shea will be hoping to make an impression this summer in Tokyo (Credit: IRFU)

O’Shea will be hoping to make an impression this summer in Tokyo (Credit: IRFU)

Ireland came up against France in the final and eased to a 28-19 win.

“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had on a rugby pitch. It was the last-chance saloon and France had a star-studded team. We were so confident in our prep and ability and I think on the day we wanted it more – it was complete elation,” O’Shea said.

Goals for the Olympics

O'Shea has struggled with injuries this year but featured heavily for Ireland in their final quailifiers for the Olympics (Credit: IRFU)

O’Shea has struggled with injuries this year but featured heavily for Ireland in their final quailifiers for the Olympics (Credit: IRFU)

The Ireland 7s begin their Olympic journey against South Africa in the early hours of Monday morning and they have a 1 in 12 chance of earning a historic medal.

“This is the first time I’ve thought about bringing a medal home. To give the country something to shout about after the pandemic and bring home a medal… it would be a dream come true,” O’Shea said.

“I’m not going to let myself get there as we need to do a job first but it would be great for the country and the sport – it’s a great pathway for people to go into professional rugby.”

When asked what it will mean to himself and the team to represent their country at one of the pinnacles in world sport, only one word came to mind.

O’Shea said: “The first word that comes to my mind is pride. Pride for the country and pride in how much work the team has put in for this dream to come true. It’s common knowledge 7s players do not get paid anywhere near as much as 15s players.

“We all have second jobs that we do to fund our lives but we do it for the love of the game.”

And what about Love Island?

Some may know O’Shea for his rugby but he is also known to many for his adventure on Love Island in 2019. He won the competition and has since gained a massive social media following since.

“I’ve taken a lot of flack from the lads for going on the show but Love Island was an incredible experience,” O’Shea said.

“Rugby and Love Island are worlds apart but if I had to make one similarity it would be that in both you are locked in with the same group of people and you have to get on with them or there’s going to be drama.

“I think there’s a big mixture when people follow me, they know Greg O’Shea the rugby player or a Love Island contestant. I think over time I’ve developed that hybrid life of a ‘celebrity’ and rugby life and I’ve really enjoyed it – who can say they are a Love Island champion and an Olympian?”


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