Kieran O’Malley was born and raised in Halifax but he speaks with a Dutch twang.
It’s not a whopper of an accent like Schteve McLaren’s infamous attempts to befriend the local media when he first arrived at FC Twente. But it is enough to earn O’Malley a bit of stick from his mates back home, and is indicative of the road much travelled by British volleyball players.
“I get told that a lot when I’m home,” when asked about his Dutch inflections. “When you’re living abroad people don’t tend to understand you when you go at them with the full Yorkshire accent. But I do get a lot stick for that from my friends when I’m back home.”
O’Malley started playing volleyball under the guidance of his dad at the Boathouse Club in Dewsbury when he was 14. When it was decided he was good enough to play internationally, O’Malley – like many of the 24 GB volleyball players across the men’s and women’s teams – went abroad to enhance his game.
“To be part of a professional team, where it’s just about the sport, is vital, because it’s not possible to make a living from the sport in the UK,” said O’Malley, 24, who has spent the last two seasons in Holland. “It gets everybody focussed plus you’re playing at a higher level, and when the GB squad meets up in the summer at Sheffield, we’ve all developed and progressed. We bring it all together and it improves the team.”
The men’s team – captained by Hull’s Ben Pipes – begin tomorrow morning against Bulgaria. It’s a busy schedule for the squad, with a minimum of five group games at Earls Court.
O’Malley said: “The schedule is you play one day and the next day is free, so it will be pretty intense, because those spare days will be spent training, recovering, talking tactics and studying footage of our next opponents. I’m going to try and enjoy the experience but at the same time we’ve got goals to match, and that’s minimum two wins. The home crowd will be a massive help for everyone on Team GB. Noise and atmosphere always helps you as a player.”