The dulcet tones of Denis Hickie will be heard on Setanta Sports Ireland tonight as he narrates a well-made documentary called “Rugby Nomad”, which follows the quest of an Irishman and his Kazakhstan international team-mates to qualify for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The 60-minute documentary, part of Setanta’s Rugby World Cup build-up, starts at 9pm tonight and is preceded by a short look back at the 2003 World Cup. Ireland winger Hickie, no stranger to being behind the microphone after his stint as stand-in host of 2fm’s ‘The Waiting Room’, does the narration.
The “Rugby Nomad” in question is one Luke O’Callaghan whose love for rugby has seen him travel the globe. Born in Galway, Luke currently works in Russia for the national rugby union and plays for the Slava club in Moscow.
But his rugby career took a big twist when a trip to Thailand ended up with him playing for Kazakhstani national team in a match against India.
The documentary follows the him on his intriguing journey and tracks his time with the Kazakhstani side, who are in the top rugby tier of Asia, alongside Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Arabian Gulf.
It is a long way from his first encounter with a rugby ball at St. Senan’s, his local club in Shannon, County Clare.
Luke’s playing days saw him don the colours of Garryowen up to Under-20 level, Trinity College, where he studied Russian, and capital clubs Suttonians and Bective Rangers.
Work and his linguistic skills soon took him to Kazakhstan where he ended up as the development manager for Central Asia with the Kazakhstan Rugby Union.
As to the standard of rugby in the country, Luke said in a recent interview that the national team would give “AIB League Division One teams a run for their money.” As evidence of the growth in quality, half of the Kazakhstan national team now ply their trade with clubs in the professional league in Russia.
The 27-year-old, who is married to a Kazakhstani woman, told Metro Eireann of his international debut: “It felt a bit strange (pulling on the jersey of a different country), I have to admit, but I was very proud the first time I played for Kazakhstan.
“There might not be a Lansdowne roar when we play, but you are still on the national level and expectations are high.
“Luckily for my nerves, we were playing India in Thailand as part of the 2002 Asian championship, and we took them apart (89-10) so when I came on, the pressure was gone. I managed to set up a try and make one big tackle, but I don’t remember a lot else.”
But it was not all plain sailing as in his last game in Sri Lanka, the team got a hostile reception from the crowd and had stones and bottles thrown at them.
Good and bad times included, the documentary, which Luke and work colleague Ross Killeen put together over a three-year period, tells the tale in full so make sure you tune in to Setanta Sports Ireland at 9pm to view it all.