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Hurling Final - James Merrick Interview

posted 7 Oct 2013, 14:56 by Edenderry GAA

Along with Irish Defence Forces Finest Stephen Murphy, James Merrick will add an International Dimension to this Saturdays Junior Hurling Final.  A Graduate of UCD and MIT, Boston, James is currently furthering his studies at the esteemed Stanford University in California.  However he is returning specially to take part in Edenderrys first JHC decider in 10 years. Hurling titles don’t come too often but James will be looking to add another Junior Title to the Roll of Honour to add to the titles of ’29, ’53, 62 & ’98.

This week the Club Chairman caught up with one great Ambassadors for the Club James Merrick and put to him a few questions about life, Hurling and the GAA. 


Q1. Tell us a little about your Education/Career and how you ended up in Stanford University?

 I have followed an interesting, and I suppose unconventional, path since completing my engineering degree in UCD in 2006. Upon graduation, I worked with a consulting engineering firm in Carlow, designing flood protection works and drainage schemes around Leinster and beyond. While it was interesting work, I had it my head to pursue some further education. I also decided around this time that I wanted to understand more about what climate change, and what could be done about reducing humankind’s carbon dioxide emissions.

 One thing led to another, and I found myself with an offer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a place that frequently comes out on top of the various world university rankings. With the offer in hand, it was hard to turn down. After two fascinating  hard-working years there, I graduated with a dual masters degree in 2010 – a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and a Master of Science in Technology & Policy.

 When I was writing my thesis at MIT, I received an attractive job offer in sunny Palo Alto, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, undertaking research in the Climate Change group of an entity entitled the Electric Power Research Institute. After a few months at home in 2010, I then departed for California. I worked in this very interesting role until I left for home in early summer.

During my time at MIT, I got a sense of the value of a PhD, and how undertaking such research beyond the masters level could have a wide impact. I did not quite shake off this feeling, so I decided to pursue that option when I still could. Similar to 2008, I was fortunate enough to find myself with some attractive offers. This time I decided to accept a fellowship offer from Stanford University in California. It was not an easy decision to commit to some more time being away from home, but I hope in the long term it will work out.

Of course, throughout all this time, I have stayed involved in the home dairy farm just outside of Edenderry.


Q2. As a dual player has GAA helped you in your career to date and helped you in your travels?

 Absolutely. It has helped career wise through the benefits of fitness and health and just how playing and training can be good for the mind. Then on my travels, the GAA has been a huge thing for me, particularly in California. The sense of community it provides when far away makes a huge difference.

 In 2012, St. Josephs Hurling Club, based in Silicon Valley, was brought back to life after ~10 years of being dormant. It was incredible to be part of the experience of building a club from close to scratch. We came a long way in a short period of time from our first game where our jerseys were a bunch of red t-shirts purchased in the supermarket on the way to the game. And it actually improved my hurling a lot to play and train with lads from the likes of Cork, Tipp, Kilkenny - lads who have played at the highest level in those counties.

Q3. How did it feel to be on the field when Edenderry made it to their first Hurling County Final in ten years?

 It was a magnificent feeling. After being away for 5 summers, not being sure if I would ever wear the Red jersey again, and having gone through a fair share of knockout disappointment in the years before I left for Boston, it was just magic to be able to play a role in qualifying for what I understand is only the third final since 1962.


Q4. To what does Edenderry GAA owe its renewed success in Hurling this year?

 I think it is a combination of factors. Each year for some time now, the hurlers have been there or thereabouts. This year I think a few small things have come together. We have had a few very talented young players come through in recent years, while at the same time most of the core group of players who have been close so many times before have put their shoulder to the wheel again this year. And of course, I give huge credit to An Bainisteoir, Jimmy O’Grady – his passion and belief in the team fills the dressing room and I think that belief was shown on the field when we got over the line in the tight quarter and semi finals.


Q5. How are your preparations going for the final on the 12th of October and what are your travel arrangements?

 Preparations have been going well. Kept the training going on my own in California after traveling the Monday after the semi-final. I arrived home this past weekend (October 5th) to be around for the week of the big game, and the associated preparations. Was delighted (but not surprised) to find a good spirit and hunger around the squad when I arrived back.


Q6. What do you feel are your biggest achievements as an Edenderry dual player?

 In football, the U10 community games victory, and the associated buzz, was what got me hooked on all things GAA. Playing for Offaly minors was something I was very proud of. Winning the Intermediate title in 2007 I felt was very important for the club.

 In hurling, I have yet to win a county medal, which is what makes Saturday such a big day. Being awarded player of the year with the hurling team in California in 2012 was really nice, and captaining our new team there to our first victories against the San Francisco establishment teams were great experiences - experiences I hope to apply to winning the final this weekend.

 Overall, despite not winning a lot of titles (yet!), just to have played with the Edenderry senior football and the junior hurling teams through leagues and championships is something I will be always be proud of, and something I derived tremendous enjoyment from.

Q7. Who do you think was Edenderry's greatest ever Footballer & Hurler?

 I am going to cheat in hurling, and assign it to two of my teammates on Saturday – Cillian Farrell and Sean óg Farrell. Winning All-Ireland medals with Offaly in the 90s were magnificent achievements and that they are still making such a large contribution to the Red jersey in 2013 is a testament to the men.

 In football, there are many, many greats around the town, but I think Finbarr Cullen deserves the nod for his performances with Edenderry, Offaly, Leinster and Ireland. Like all great players, he made the game look very simple by seemingly always being in the right position at the right time and always taking the right option on the ball.


Q8. Will we win the final?

 I hope so! The most important thing is that we play to our potential. If we do, and we still lose, fair enough, and very well done to Crinkle. But I am confident that if we show up on the day, we will be champions Saturday night.


Q9. Who are the potential match winners on our team?

 Sean Og and Cillian always are. The two Kellys, Eoghan and Shane, have saved us many times, and can produce the goods again on Saturday. Those of us in the backs will just keep trying to get the ball up to them.

 Often in a final, it can be someone unexpected who pops it to make that crucial tackle or score the winning point, and I know the ability is there throughout the panel for there to be an unexpected hero Saturday night.

 Q10. Would an Edenderry win give Hurling a much needed jolt in North Offaly ?

 I certainly hope so. I probably would not be playing Saturday only for the lads winning in ‘98. I remember going over with my father to the game and then pucking a ball against the wall as soon as we got home. If we could have the same effect on young lads on Saturday, that would be fantastic. A memorable Jimmy O’Grady line: “we can tell the young lads how to win a championship, or we can go show them”.

 I think it is very important to note the huge contribution of the Daingean, Rhode, Croghan, and Clonbullogue lads to the hurling team the last few years. We wouldn’t be in the final without them – and I suppose joining forces with us has allowed them to be involved in a Junior A final too, and be now only 60 minutes away from playing intermediate hurling.

Q11. What was your greatest moment personally with Edenderry GAA?

 The semi-final win a few weeks ago in O’Connor Park is right up there.

 Nobody remembers it I am sure, but scoring 1-2 on my adult hurling debut at the age of 16 in a hurling league game meant a lot to me at the time.

 Kicking the point to put us 4 ahead in the last minutes of the 2007 county final was a special moment personally in football.


Q12. Who was the greatest manager you ever played under at any level?

 I have learned a lot from every single manager in football and hurling. On the spot, Willie Kelly and Kevin Farrell stand out from underage football – not just in skills and tactics, but in how to think about the game and conduct yourself on the field.

 In hurling, Jimmy deserves special mention for his championship winning record alone, which hopefully we can add to this weekend.

Q13. Who were the stand out players when you were at school?

 On the hurling field in my class at school, Ger Hanlon always stood out, and I am glad he is on the field with us Saturday.

In football, my good friend, Keith McGuinness was always a class act and he is still showing that today with Edenderry and through his involvement with the Offaly setup.

In secondary school, Niall McNamee was the year behind me and we all know what a tremendous footballer Niall is.


Q14. Who was the most committed player you can remember?

 For me, the most committed players are those who never miss a training and who don’t get much game time. It is easy to be down training when you are starting all the time – yet a championship can’t be won without a strong panel effort.


Q15. Who had all the talent, all the potential but no dedication?

 That is a long, long list!! The only one I can call out in public is my younger brother Brian. During the summer I came across all his underage player of the year awards in football and hurling from U10 through U16. But some lads drink and don’t do anything in life and that is always tragic – Brian however just chose to apply his dedications elsewhere and he has been very successful on his own path, and I fully respect that and am extremely proud of his achievements to date.


Q16. What does the GAA mean to you?

 It means a huge amount. From the buzz of playing a knockout champtionsip game, to the sense of community around the game, to the joy of watching all the exciting games from Croke Park. And being away, I got a perspective of how uniquely Irish it is.

 Out in California, I see people my age, in their 20s, having made their millions/bilions. But I have come to realise, money can’t buy the feeling in the dressing room after the semi-final, or the feeling we will have if we win Saturday. That is a very, very special thing about the GAA.


Q17. Have you any message for the people of Edenderry to galvanise their support for the final?

 It means the world for all the lads to put on the red jersey and represent Edenderry, and everyone wants to put on a good performance in front of the people we grew up with.

 And there are a core group of people who support Edenderry hurlers through thick and thin, up and down the county, have kept the old hurling tradition in the area alive – would love to win this title for them.

Q18. How do you feel the Club is going at present and what are the prospects for Edenderry GAA going forward?

Coming home this year at the start of the summer after being away, I have been struck by the fantastic work that has gone on around Edenderry GAA these past few years.

 On the field, adult and youth teams have been going very well. I particularly like the opportunities young players have coming out of minor. Also, the inclusiveness of the ‘go games’ is a great idea for late developers.

 Off the field, clearly things are extremely well run. The facilities are in great condition, and are just a visible symbol of the hard work going on behind the scenes.

 With all that,  I think the future is bright!