New University of Limerick graduate Rory O’Neill who has twice represented Ireland at the World U23 Rowing Championships has spoken of how was able to thrive both in the lecture theatre and on the water during his time at UL.
The highly rated international rower, who hails from Castleconnell in County Limerick, is among over 3,500 students being conferred at University of Limerick this week.
Rory, who graduated with a BSc in Sports and Exercise Sciences from the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences this Thursday, has had some remarkable achievements on the national and international rowing stage including two appearances in finals for Ireland at the U23 World Championships in 2021 and this summer.
The talented Limerick oarsman finished fourth with Ciaran Purdy, of Queens University Belfast Boat Club in the Lightweight Men’s Double A final at the U23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria this July.
Rory has also competed for Ireland at international regatta Coupe de la Jeunesse in 2018 and 2019 and the Homes International in 2019, and at national championships and the London Metropolitan Regatta with the UL rowing team.
The new UL graduate’s interest in rowing began at ten years of age when he joined his local club in Castleconnell.
“I started rowing with Castleconnell Rowing Club in fourth class. I spent a couple of years going to summer camps there and then joined as a member in 1st year of secondary school.”
Coming to UL to study was a natural progression for Rory.
“Being from Limerick and the economy being what it is, with rent and accommodation, it made sense. I was interested in the programme itself, and the top-class rowing facilities available made the offer all the more attractive.”
This innovative BSc in Sports and Exercise Sciences is underpinned by cutting-edge sports science to support modern sports performance, which Rory found he could apply in his own rowing training.
“Coming from old school training methods, it is refreshing to take on a scientific-based approach for rowing,” he explained.
During his time at UL, Rory managed to strike a delicate balance between his academic schedule and the rigorous training sessions. With the support of his lecturers and coaches, he thrived both in the lecture theatre and on the water.
“Managing both was tough, but ‘student-athlete; student comes first’ is the ethos here. Coaches and other rowers in the squad were always understanding with managing training sessions to give time for coursework. You have to be disciplined and manage your time well. Waking up before 6 am to be on the water for 7 am to be back for class at 9 am. The early mornings help you set up for the day.”
As he stands on the brink of graduation, Rory’s sights are set firmly on the future.
“I am considering a few options. For now, I want to keep pursuing my education. I am looking into a few Masters programmes. My long-term plans would be to go abroad and do some rowing coaching, somewhere like New Zealand or the US.”
When asked about the advice he would offer to those starting in UL, he shared: “I would say put yourself out there more than I did. Everybody coming into UL is a bit apprehensive; talk to people, embrace new experiences and new sports, try new things.
“In UL, we have novice rowing classes that I used to coach, so there is space for being new to rowing and high-performance rowers, a whole spectrum of opportunities. Four novices competed in the varsity championships in 2022/23, so it is never too late. I have made some of the best memories and some lifelong friends,” he added.