Irishman Luke O’Callaghan intends to bring the Kazakh team a new level.
In the Fitness Dock gym, the name Luke O’Callaghan is known to everyone, and among them are many members of the Russian community. But those who came to Ireland from Kazakhstan look at Luke as part of their national heritage. He speaks Russian well and has been the prime mover in the development of the Kazakhstan rugby team.
Rugby is hardly the most popular sport in the former Soviet Union but nevertheless, it has existed in Russia, Kazakhstan and Georgia for nearly a century and is now rapidly developing. Luke is convinced that Russia and Kazakhstan have risen in the ranks over the past few years.
He met Nasha Gazeta in a gold and blue uniform, the colours of the national team of Kazakhstan. “In rugby, the rules are not as strict as they are in football,” he explains. “If you live in the country for three years, you can play for its team.”
Luke’s first language is Irish and he hails from Shannon. After finishing school, Luke went to Trinity College Dublin, where he studied Russian. To practice, he went to Russia and worked at an oil company. He initially worked in Novosibirsk, and then in Kazakhstan. “I was the manager for Cultural Relations,” says Luke. “To extract oil in a small Kazakh town, the company has to ensure that everything works smoothly with the authorities. So we invested in public projects such as children’s sports and I oversaw this process.” The charming Irishman is ideal in such a position.
At the same time he never forgot about his true vocation in life, and that was sport. “I have been engaged in rugby since childhood,” he says. “I played for the Garryowen club in Limerick. I continued in Russia and Kazakhstan. I played for the Penza rugby club, then I founded CSKA, the Kazakhstan rugby team and coached the women’s national team, then I was invited to the national league.”
Luke now travels frequently between Dublin and Kazakhstan. In total, he has lived in the CIS countries for over 10 years! He is married to a Kazakh woman, and even speaks in Russian with a slight central Asian accent. Now Luke is preparing to play for the Kazakh team in the Asian Championship. He intends to bring Kazakh and Russian rugby to new levels.
“I often bring the guys to Ireland and arrange for them to play with local teams so that they learn,” said Luke. “I believe that we have huge potential, they are great athletes, so we have everything to look forward to!”
Gym Fitness Dock, where Luke trains can be found:
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- Maria Kiernan, director of the Russian Irish Cultural Association
- Sarah Smyth Irish Slavicist
- Irish hero of Kazakh rugby
- Séamus Martin is the former International Editor of The Irish Times and was Moscow Correspondent for that newspaper