Wrestling superstar Sheamus has come a long way from North Dublin to become one of the top names in the WWE. KEVIN JENKINSON chats to the man mountain about life inside and outside the ring.
I made a big sacrifice to leave Ireland and take a chance because I wasnt guaranteed anything when I came over here
Red-haired giant Sheamus O’Shaunessy had a dream to become a true wrestling legend while growing up in north Dublin — and now he is living it.
The 34-year-old has risen to the very top of the professional wrestling world — his fights are watching by millions around the world and he even has his own action figures.
Since signing with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2007, King Sheamus — ‘The Irish Curse’ — has won US and world championship titles, beat 29 other wrestlers in a ring to win the prestigious Royal Rumble, and is now home in Ireland for a Wrestlemania world heavyweight title fight.
The modern-day Fionn Mac Cumhaill takes on reigning world champion Bryan Danielson at the O2 in Dublin on April 12, and he says: “I know that things have been tough in Ireland overall in the past couple of years and nothing will make me more proud than to become world champion in my home town.
“This was something I always wanted to do since I was about four years old watching WWF wrestling,” said the 6ft 4in grappler from his home in Tampa, Florida.
“It was the old cliche about having a dream and making it happen.”
The fighting Irishman said he took “a big risk” leaving a secure and well-paid job in IT to pursue his dream in America, having spent some years training and wrestling in Ireland and Britain.
“I made a big sacrifice to leave Ireland and take a chance because I wasn’t guaranteed anything when I came over here.
“When I first came over I went into the developmental system and I didn’t want to come back with my tail between the legs.
“It’s something about us Irish. We always keep the head down and get through it. We are doers. I think our success is down to our attitude.”
Sheamus — who grew up in Cabra and has family connections in Miltown Malbay in Clare — worked at Symantec in Clonsilla and at the Hartford in Swords, but was also doing security at the Point Depot and the RDS, and helped build the rings when WWE toured here.
He also worked in security at Lillie’s Bordello night club in Dublin where he would take care of VIPs like rock star Bono.
“When Bono came in I would make sure nobody stole his pint,” he joked.
He was also training in his spare time while his pals were out drinking and partying, and was heavily involved with Irish Whip Wrestling, which toured around the country.
“I sacrificed my social life for years before getting signed by the WWE,” he said.
Sheamus — whose real name is Stephen Farrelly — is now a huge global star, especially among Irish-Americans. The key to his success was his wrestling character as a Celtic warrior king, and some of his best wrestle moves have names like the High Cross and the Brogue Kick.
The 19-stone giant says he spends about two days a week at his Florida home with his two dogs and his American girlfriend of two years — but is constantly training and on the road.
He said his home is “no mansion” and reckons we won’t be seeing him on the MTV Cribs show anytime soon.
“I wouldn’t let them in the door,” he joked.
“There’s nothing extravagant about my house. It’s like when I am in the ring. I am not a bling, bling type of person. When I get home I like to put the feet up and watch TV and chill out.”
When asked if he is a millionaire he said: “You won’t find me busking on Grafton Street anytime soon.
“I won’t be buying yacht or my own private plane, but I am doing okay.”
He misses Ireland and has only been home “six or seven times” since signing with WWE.
“All my family and friends are still there,” he says.
He keeps up to date with current events in Irish society, and described the austerity measures being imposed on Irish people as “scandalous”.
“The majority are paying for the mistakes of a small minority, which is wrong,” he said.
Surprisingly, he never took part in amateur wrestling or boxing, but learned how to wrestle professionally at the Larry Sharpe
Monster Factory in New Jersey.
He hopes to keep wrestling for “at least another 10 years” but said it “feels like just two weeks ago” since he hit stardom.
And he has some advice for other Irish hopefuls wanting to make it as a professional wrestler.
“You have to make sacrifices,” he said.
He adds: “No half-arsed attempts. It has to be full-on. If you’re gonna do it, then do it, don’t be making excuses.”