Zach attack: English hockey star who broke Irish hearts has Limerick hurling in his genes

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Zach Wallace in action for England and below, with cousins from Kilmallock and Ballymena

Zach Wallace in action for England and below, with cousins from Kilmallock and Ballymena

WHEN Zach Wallace scored the winning goal for England to beat Ireland 3-2 in a hockey international there was some in the crowd who didn’t know whether to cheer or boo!

A large contingent from Kilmallock went to Pembroke Hockey Club in Dublin to see their cousin represent the ‘auld enemy’.

Aged only 18, Zach plays on the English U-21 side and has aspirations to be on the plane to Tokyo with the senior Olympic Great Britain squad in 2020.

He has strong Kilmallock connections through his uncle and well known butcher, Denis O’Sullivan, aunt, Catherine Slavin and many cousins.

His mum, Cathriona, is from the O’Sullivan butcher dynasty and grew up in Tipperary Town. Dad, Mark, is from Northern Ireland.

“We have very close connections to Kilmallock. That is where the family live. He spends an awful lot of time in Kilmallock and Tipperary. We are over here two or three times a year. He is used to spending a lot of time in Catherine Slavin’s house and the O’Sullivan’s,” said Cathriona.

Zach has been fast-tracked through the English hockey system and his mum says pucking around in Kilmallock with his cousins has had an influence on his hockey playing style.

“Zach has a very unusual style in hockey. I always say it is because of the hurling gene. He lifts the ball on the stick which people don’t in hockey. It gives him a unique style that tricks players – they don’t know it is coming.

“His cousins gave him a hurley with his name on it when he was younger – they were always messing about in the garden in Kilmallock. Everybody comments on this unique style he has that tends to bamboozle the opposition – he gets by them quite quickly. I have often said that has come from messing about with a hurley,” said Cathriona, who adds that her eldest son is very proud of his Limerick and Tipperary roots.

However, being born in England means his allegiances now rest there. Cathriona moved over in 1993 and is a teacher, while husband Mark is a headmaster.

They live in Surrey with their three children – Zach, Mai and Rory, named after Rory O’Sullivan in Kilmallock.

Interestingly, Mark played hockey for Ireland and his daughter Mai could pull on a green jersey too! “Mai is 15 and plays lacrosse. She is going to have a trial with the Irish U-19 lacrosse team. She could be playing for Ireland and Zach playing for England,” smiled Cathriona.

Unfortunately Denis O’Sullivan couldn’t attend the three match hockey series as he was down a staff member and Easter is the second busiest time of year for butchers.

“There is a stick involved anyway,” joked Denis about the hurling connection. “I wish him the best. I hope he plays well but I hope Ireland win,” he said before the tournament.

Little did he know that it would be his grand nephew that would score the winning goal for England!