John Hanbury, Software Engineer and Senior Galway Hurler

My favourite thing about hurling is the intensity and speed. It’s a game that is played at a relentless pace – it earns its title as the fastest field sport in the world. It also requires a lot of skill and work. There are multiple skills you must learn and that keeps you on your toes. I think the community of the GAA is another big factor – getting to play with my brother and friends from school is always something I enjoy.

My name is John Hanbury and I’m a software engineer living in Galway, Ireland. I work for a software consultancy specializing in Microsoft technologies. I mainly work on building applications for customers, such as apps and websites.

From a young age, I had an interest in technology, starting in video games and moving into computers and coding as I got older. My passion for coding grew into one of my main hobbies during secondary school. During this time, we were given the chance to do some work experience. I managed to get a place in a local web design company, where I got a chance to see what life as an engineer was like. I really enjoyed the feedback loop of coding something that you could interact with. After that week, I knew I wanted to code for a living.

Outside of my job, I love hurling. I currently play centre back with my local hurling club Rahoon Newcastle, located in the west of Galway City. I’ve been playing hurling since I was 5, and my family is very involved in the hurling community. My mother and father come from hurling backgrounds, and my brother plays with the local team. We had a very active upbringing. We would play any sport we could, and our parents always supported us in whatever sport we wanted to get involved in.

There were two hurlers I really looked up to while growing up: Ollie Canning and Tony Og Regan (Tony Og in particular, as he was from my local club Rahoon Newcastle). It was huge having someone from your club playing at inter-county level. It gave you confidence that it was possible and not just a dream.

I started playing for Galway at the U-14 level and played up through the underage ranks. I was honoured to win a Minor All Ireland medal (U-18) in 2011. From there, I played a couple of years on the U-21 team before making it on the Senior panel in 2014.

There are many great experiences that come with playing hurling for Galway: the atmosphere of playing a big hurling game, the roar of the crowds, and the feeling after the final whistle are all incredible experiences that make the sacrifices worthwhile. The best experience of inter-county hurling is the relationships you build with your teammates. Being around them for so much of the year, you build a tight bond. We’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit as a team to help promote the game abroad.

Winning the 2017 All-Ireland stands out as my proudest moment as a Senior Galway Hurler. We ended a 29-year wait to win the All-Ireland – the joy it gave to both the team and the entire county is something I’ll never forget. This win had such a positive impact on my community in Rahoon and Galway City. Galway City isn’t seen as a strong hurling area, with soccer and rugby being the more popular sports. After the win in 2017, seeing kids out with their hurls in Galway City was a proud moment. Seeing my family after the final whistle was another proud moment. The commitments with hurling don’t just apply to me – my family and friends also set aside a lot to travel and watch the games. My mom and dad have been following me since I was 14, and to share that feeling with them was special.

One future goal I have with my hurling would be to win something significant at club level. It would be a huge boost to the local area if we could win. I mostly just try and enjoy hurling – things have gotten a little crazy with the game becoming so professional in terms of commitment, all the while retaining the amateur status. For me, it’s important that I keep the enjoyment factor at the end of the day.

Nowadays, coding has become a big hobby of mine. I love the aspect that you’re never an expert at it and that there is always something new to learn. The commitments required for playing inter-county hurling can be physically draining, so I like to come home some days and try some new library or learn some design pattern – just as a change of pace.

There aren’t many similarities between software engineering and hurling, but that’s why I like them both. They contrast one another, which helps a lot when it comes to clearing the head. For example, when the hurling season is in full flight, it can be quite taxing due to the amount of training and travel you have to do. So being able to escape from the madness and code for a bit is a nice way to change the pace of things. Everyone has their own way of tuning out from the stresses of the day, and coding has been mine for a while now.

I think the biggest asset that I have taken from hurling into my career is the team aspect. We focus on communication, being honest with one another, and setting standards. I think if you have those things in any team (be it a software dev team or a hurling team), you have something that will be productive.

My advice to anyone looking to take up hurling is to get involved and enjoy it. It’s an addictive hobby, as there’s always something to try and perfect – striking, soloing, etc. I would also highly recommend going to an inter-county or club game. The atmosphere at the bigger games is unlike any other sports event. The one thing about the GAA that is very special is the openness and acceptance of newcomers. So, with that in mind, if you have an interest in getting into hurling, speak to your local club and they can set you up with everything you need.

I think it important to share the various passions of people in tech, as it inspires people to get involved in technology. There’s a stigma that people who work in tech are only interested in computers and nothing else. Publications like this show people that you can enjoy technology as a career, while also having other hobbies and interests.

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