Rory O'Connor - Aiming High in Sport and Life

Wexford senior hurler, and DCU Business Studies graduate Rory O’Connor has just completed a MSc in Finance with DCU Business School. In this piece, he discusses how DCU Sports and Wellbeing has enabled him to combine high performance sport with academic success.

What are the main challenges for a student athlete trying to combine high performance sport with university life?

Sport has always been a huge part of my life. Even before coming to DCU, I combined playing hurling and football for my club and county at underage level with the demands of school. So I guess you could say I was somewhat prepared for the challenges of university.

But when you get to university, these challenges are multiplied by ten. The college work comes thick and fast, and unlike in school, there is nobody there to spoon-feed you. It’s sink or swim and it’s up to you to keep on top of it.

It’s not just academically that things step up a level, at that age, your training also becomes more intense. When I started in DCU, I had also moved up to play with the Wexford senior hurlers, which in pre-season could mean travelling to Wexford for training four nights a week, plus your own gym work in between.

How did DCU Sports and Wellbeing help you with these challenges?

 I always think that balance is critical. You need to look at all the different spheres of your life – your sport, your education and your social life – and it’s important not to focus too much on just one area. That’s where DCU Sports and Wellbeing comes in for me. They have always helped me to achieve that balance throughout my studies.

“They really put in place everything that I needed to succeed. In first year, I was guaranteed on-campus accommodation with other sports scholarship recipients. It really helps to live with other sports people who are doing the same thing as you – you tend to feed off each other.”


I had access to the high performance gym facilities and the pool in DCU and St Clare’s, top class set-ups with everything you would need. That gym access has definitely been a big factor in my development over the last few years. The DCU team were also always there to give advice when training clashed with course work, or to offer access to tutors around exam time. The sports scholarship helped a lot too with keeping a car on the road to get up and down to training.

The best thing for me though was how flexible my coaches were. I was never under any pressure to get to DCU for training, they understood if I was training in Wexford. Their flexibility really made me want to give more back to the DCU teams I played with over the years.

You’ve mentioned in the past that you think the Fitzgibbon Cup, the top competition in men’s university hurling, is a very special tournament. Why?

 Playing Fitzgibbon Cup with DCU was important to me from both a personal and sporting perspective. Those early years in college can be a tricky age, where players can either progress or drift away from their county teams. Playing Fitzgibbon gives players a chance to make strides, playing against lads who are mostly the same age, and to potentially showcase themselves to managers. Playing in the bad weather over winter improves you for the opposition in the summer too. I enjoyed playing alongside players from other counties as well, learning about their standards and how much training they do.

When I think about my college highlights though, I think about all of the friends I made and the unbelievable craic that we had. Those friendships came through sport mostly, from the matches on winter nights and the laughs coming back to DCU on the bus.

In 2021, you decided to continue your education by doing an MSc in Finance. Why did you choose further study and how do you feel your academic and sporting pursuits have prepared you now for life after DCU?

After doing a general degree in Business, I felt the need for a more specific qualification in finance. I think that my degree and masters have now given me a good grounding in how the world of finance works, but it takes more than just knowledge to be the best you can be at anything in life. Combining sport with my studies has taught me other vital lessons, like the importance of working hard and managing your time. Through sport, I have also learned skills such as how to take constructive criticism from a manager, which I think will be really valuable for the workplace in the future too.

Become a Supporter of DCU Sports and Wellbeing

Rory was one of 232 elite student athletes supported at DCU in 2021/22. To enable DCU Sports & Wellbeing to continue to bring the wellbeing benefits of participation in sport and physical activity to 18,500+ students each year, and to support our elite student athletes to excel in sport and in life, we are urgently seeking support. To find out more about our exciting partnership opportunities, contact Jason Sherlock, Director of Development by emailing