Barcelona may be known in the sporting world for Lionel Messi, and one of the greatest soccer clubs in the world, but it also now homes a Donegal intercounty hurler.
Sean McVeigh has been one of Donegal’s most talented and consistent hurlers for the last decade.
However after studying in LYIT, he is now based in Spain, where he enjoys his work and lifestyle.
“I finished off my Masters in Murcia last year and I went straight into work.
“I’m working as a sports scientist for Vald Performance.
“We have three monitoring/testing systems- NordBord hamstring testing system, GroinBar Hip Testing System, and HumanTrak a 3D movement Analysis System.
“They give clinicians objective data that help them to develop their programs and keep their athletes robust and injury free. Hamstring and groin injuries are the most common in field -based sports so this data is pretty useful for them teams.
“We work with a lot of pro clubs in rugby and in La Liga. We get out and meet people such as S & C coaches, and physios, and it’s unbelievable to see some of the professional set-ups that are out there.”
Despite living in Barcelona, McVeigh is still just as committed to the Donegal cause as when he was based in Letterkenny.
He missed the first two games of the league, as he couldn’t arrange work, but was determined to earn his spot on his return.
The 27-year-old has been in the team ever since, and after helping Donegal to a Nicky Rackard Cup win against Tyrone last week, he will be back in the green and gold for the visit of Leitrim this Saturday.
“I’m living out there with my girlfriend, Amy McColgan, who is a blogger with ‘Green Leafy Gael’. We moved here the guts of a year ago from Murcia which is further down south.
“During the league, I was flying home on Friday morning, and then flying back again on Monday morning.
“I would have had a flight at half six, and I would be in for work at half nine, so I wouldn’t miss anything. I might be tired for a few days but that was the worst of it.
“It’s easier now in the championship when most of our games are on Saturday.
“My work is flexible enough, so I can work from home this week ahead of the championship.”
The St Eunan’s clubman is grateful to team manager Mickey McCann and his teammates for allowing him to commute over and back and continue to play for Donegal.
It’s not ideal that he doesn’t get to train with the panel, but he just tries to make the best of what he can do.
“I’m working away by myself, trying to keep on top of things in the gym and out running.
“I’m lucky enough that the management and players don’t have a problem with it, and are happy for me to train away from home.
“There’s a basketball court close to where I live, and I get the odd funny look as I run up and down that, with a hurl in my hand.
“I try to do a bit of stickwork against a wall, but it’s not the same as having a puck around with someone.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s just about trying to get the maximum out of what I can do.”
Donegal have made an excellent start to 2018, and there is a feel-good factor surrounding the county hurlers at present.
McVeigh says that has a lot to do with the maturity of the panel, and their desire to improve as a group.
“We have a very good set-up this year, and there’s a great vibe around the team.
“Mickey (McCann), Gabriel (O’Kane), and Paul (Campbell) have come in and everyone seems to be really putting it in, and rowing in the one direction.
“With the exception of a few fellas, we would all be between 26 and 30, so there’s a good age profile there, and it’s just about getting more consistency.”
Donegal found themselves in Division 2B of the National Hurling League this spring, and in past seasons, that usually meant a demoralising campaign.
However, that wasn’t the case this season, as Donegal made great strides forward, and recorded excellent wins over Derry, Down, and Armagh.
While they didn’t get the better of Mayo or Wicklow, they still produced encouraging performances.
Donegal haven’t always built on promising displays in previous years, and McVeigh wants that to change in 2018.
“I think we have always had the hurling – it was just upstairs, where we maybe lacked the belief.
“I think when we got that first win, we maybe realised that we are capable of playing at that level, and we went on to get a few more wins, and take a couple of scalps.
“We ended up beating the three Ulster teams, and that was real progress.
“It’s about pushing on now and consistently getting high-level performances.
“We’re not focussing too much on other teams, it’s more on where we can improve.
“There’s a lot of good work going on in Development squads as well, and it’s just about having that belief that we are good enough.”
Donegal opened their Nicky Rackard Cup championship last week with a superb 1-26 to 1-12 win over Tyrone in Killyclogher.
Considering that Donegal lost to the Red Hands by 15 points in the same competition last year, that shows the work that is being done, and the talent in the team at present.
“We’re sick of the sight of each other by this stage,” quipped McVeigh.
“We have played each other a lot, and I don’t think either team is too keen on the other.
“We would have played each other three, four, or five times over the last few years, and it was always two each or something like that.
“Last year, we beat them in Celtic Park with a really good performance, and then the next week, they hammered us, and there was a 30-point swing or something ridiculous like that.
“We’re hoping that this year, we will have better consistency.
“We had to dig in for 10 or 15 minutes last week, and then we were able to go out and express ourselves.”
McVeigh has been hurling for Donegal since he was 16, and was in the engine room against Tyrone last week.
After impressing in Division 2B, his side are favourites to win the Nicky Rackard Cup.
However, he isn’t getting ahead of himself, and the focus is all on Saturday’s clash with Leitrim in O’Donnell Park.
“If we win our two group games, we’re straight through to the semi-finals.
“So this week, it’s just about getting the business done, with no drop in performance, and just try to keep pushing on.”