Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

Category: Profiles (Page 2 of 2)

Rory Parata profile

It has been a journeyman’s career for Rory Parata, playing rugby across the world and still only 29. But Rory got his breakthrough at Galwegians and found himself playing for an immortal Connacht side which went on to win the Pro12 in 2016. 

Rory was born in Australia began his playing days in rugby league instead of union. That changed when he moved to Ireland at nine years old and started at Dolphin RFC in county Cork, although he struggled to enjoy rugby union at first because it was non-contact.

After transitioning to soccer for a few years, he eventually got the urge to come back and give rugby another chance with his friends. He made the jump and came into under 14s rugby with Sunday Well where he got his first taste of competitive rugby and it to a Munster semi-final. The team just fell short against Waterpark RFC. 

Rory then moved to Rockwell College to play senior cup rugby in his fifth year of secondary school, and broke into provincial rugby with his first cap in the Munster U-18s. Despite not getting called up to the Munster U-19 squad, he was offered the opportunity to join the Connacht Academy. 

“I had the option to play for Connacht U-19s,” said Rory. “I did quite well, and earned a cap for the Ireland U-19s. Then I had the decision to go to either Connacht or Munster academy, and I chose Connacht”.

“Then it was that decision of what club to go for in Galway. There were three obvious choices: Buccs, Corinthians or Galwegians. At the time, Galwegians were in AIL 2A although Buccs and Corinthians were 1B. But for me, Galwegians were the only club I knew in the area and had so much history behind it”. 

Rory was finally convinced by future team-mate Caolin Blade and his Galwegians career commenced, meaning that he played a part in adding to our history as part of the team that rose through the AIL ranks. Galwegians became one of the best sides in the province and Rory played a valuable part in bringing us into Division 1A at the top tier of AIL.

“It was some of the most enjoyable rugby I’ve played. Amazingly, we took it for granted and we made it from Division 2A to 1B and won 1B. I think at the time we just expected to win all the time, but looking back it was a massive achievement”. 

His efforts over the years in Galwegians earned him the opportunity to play for the Connacht senior squad for the first time in 2015. Rory remembers how surreal it was to finally achieve his goal of playing professional rugby as all of his hard work “came to fruition”. 

“I think there was a World Cup meaning that Robbie Henshaw was away. So you were looking at the pecking order and thinking you might be in with a shot here. Luckily the pre-season wasn’t a shock as I had the summer to get ready for the season”. 

Rory was one of several newcomers playing for Connacht for the first time in 2015 with Sean O’Brien, Peter Robb and Blade also breaking into the Connacht squad.

Never in their wildest dreams did they foresee what was coming as this Connacht side will live in the history books as winners of our province’s first ever major trophy, emulating the underdog success story of Leicester City from 2016.

This was a “freak scenario” in Rory’s eyes. “It was all our first years playing professional rugby and we were part of the squad that ended up winning the Pro12. It was the three or four days after the game that stick with me for the rest of my life. It was an unbelievable experience. I will never get the same buzz again!”. 

Rory went on to make 29 appearances for Connacht and scored 25 points across his three years at the club, before starting somewhat of a journeyman career.

This began as he briefly played club rugby in New Zealand alongside Ciarán Gaffney. The two seemed to be inseparable as Rory followed Gaffney to play for Zebre for a season before moving to the UK to play for Cornwall Pirates. He eventually bagged 96 caps across a five-year stint for the English side.

Finally, Rory has returned to his rugby roots in Ireland, playing in AIL Division 1A for Lansdowne RFC. He has made an immediate impact in the opening block of games, becoming the league’s leading try scorer including a hat-trick in the most recent game against Ballynahinch.

“Playing now is more about getting that enjoyment and remembering why you played rugby in the first place, which is quite nice. We are doing well at the moment, but we aren’t looking too far ahead because we have been lucky with fixtures”. 

“We are staying pretty grounded and looking at it as sets of blocks. We won our first set of three games and we have another set starting on Saturday. It’s a matter of not getting ahead of ourselves”.

Erc Dunne profile

Galwegian President Erc Dunne has enjoyed a long and illustrious career, spanning over five decades, starting as a young player bursting through the ranks to his current role as club president. We talked to Erc to discuss what an extraordinary legacy enjoyed here in Galwegians. 

Erc’s first venture into the world of rugby came as a young boy playing in Newcastle, which was steadily growing at the time. A group of parents had organised different sports in the Franciscans for under-nines to get stuck into some activities.  

It was a very unique experience as Erc remarked about the lack of a clubhouse or any general facilities but just playing on an isolated pitch on a Saturday morning with an unusually shaped rugby ball. 

So once Erc joined Galwegians in 1974 and made the trip to Renmore for training, he was blown away by the sheer wonder of the establishment. Recalling approaching the gates with big plumes of smoke in the background, this experience kickstarted his love for the game. 

“Driving up towards the clubhouse, it was the most incredible thing because suddenly, it was a huge change from running to a field. Now you had a place with changing rooms, showers, and a huge bath inside.”

“It was then a case of seeing these big guys, adults, running onto the pitch and training. I suppose from there it ignited a passion that I never had before for rugby. Just to see how it was organised, to see players in the sky-blue jersey, to get the little blue membership book when you joined the club.”

The fine details stuck out for Erc, with this membership being a sense of belonging in Galwegians, feeling that he was part of something important. It was an exciting time to be united with all his friends and be around a variety of coaches. This book would be a memento that would stay with Erc for all his life as a Wegian. 

A particular memory that Erc remembers fondly from his underage days, was when the former Ireland captain Johhny Moloney came down to Galwegians playing for St Mary’s. Starstruck to meet one of his heroes, he asked for an autograph only to his shock to be refused. 

“I remember this knocked me, but he did ask me to write my name and address on a piece of paper and leave it at the goalpost. I did it and went home dejected after being knocked back like that.”

“The following February in the post, I didn’t receive Johhny Moloney’s autograph, I received the whole Irish rugby team’s autograph on the back of a menu. The gentleman had gone and not only sent me his autograph but the whole Irish rugby team”.

For a young child and to receive such a priceless piece of memorabilia, Erc viewed it as a token of inspiration. He knew that when he grew up, he thought about what he could do to inspire other children, who are coming into rugby. 

“I have always tried to say to people, help at some stage in the youth academy. Do something when kids will go and say, ‘I want to be like that’. That would be one thing that would stick out for me in my younger days”.

Erc treasured those Saturday mornings as a young child as some of the fondest memories of his time in Galwegians, realising how this rugby club would become a “second home” for him. 

“You do create a bond with your friends, you are part of something bigger. You feel like it is part of your home. Even after living in London for ten years, Galwegians would always be my club”. 

“That feeling was instilled by the different coaches I had, a passion for the sky blue. I guess that it seeped into my inner being, I am a Galwegian, I have always been a Galwegian, and I always will be a Galwegian.”

Finishing his playing career in 1988, Erc took a step into the world of coaching. After returning to Galway after a stint in London, he received a phone call from the late Joe Dunne, who informed Erc that he would be taking charge of the U20s. 

With a demand for coaches at underage level, Erc took the position and started working on his coaching badges. Trying to comprehend how the game evolved and the challenge of transitioning from playing the game to management, was a learning cycle. 

Taught by coach Eric Elwood, Erc learned the basics and foundations of coaching and the fundamentals behind safety and skills at the youth level. Erc understood the significance behind nurturing this young talent into the next generation and thinking beyond today’s game. 

“You are overseeing the development of what hopefully will be the oak tree of tomorrow, you are planting the seed of passion that may make the transition into not only senior club rugby but maybe Connacht or something bigger.”

One of the greatest achievements throughout Erc’s time in Galwegians came during his time as Director of Rugby in 2013. Asked to take on the role by Billy Quinn, it was a huge responsibility to put on someone’s shoulders. 

Taking on the advice of former directors of the past and learning from their experiences, how they evolved in their roles and laid down the foundations of what the club needed. One of his first appointments came with awarding Corey Brown the role of head coach.

“I suppose you could look at my role as ensuring we had a coach, agreeing on key performance indicators with that coach, what is your plan, how do you see that plan taking us to where we need to be.”

“Where I thought we needed to be was developing our players, stabilizing ourselves and making sure we weren’t relegated and bring Corey in and looked at where we were and how we could strengthen what we had.”

Silverware was not the primary ambition at first, but rather looking towards recruitment and ensuring the steady development of everyone in the squad. Utilizing all the contacts are their disposal to strengthen their side, Erc spearheaded the process to bring depth and strength in numbers.

Erc steered the club towards the upper echelon of AIL rugby, leading Galwegians all the way from Division 2A to 1A in the space of a few short years. Laying the groundwork for success for the club, it stands out as an almighty accomplishment for the club.

In 2020, Erc became club president for the first time which obviously in unprecedented times with the pandemic. It was certainly a great challenge to take the role in a time when the world was in disarray and with not much to be done pitch side.

“I think it did harm our development a little bit. But because there was nothing we could do on the pitch; it was a case of pushing the club forwards with fundraising. We did become very active with the Our Club, Your Country initiative, and I think it was the first time we exceeded the €10,000 mark.”

“When you didn’t know when Covid was going to stop when everything was going to be opened again, it’s hard to plan anything else. It was really a case of keeping the club going into the future and hoping doors opened again.”

But the club persevered, and now the future is the focus for Galwegians as they look to climb up the ladder towards the top tiers of club rugby once again. Despite Division 2C not being their “natural environment”, there’s hope that they can carry their early season momentum forward. 

“Momentum this time of the season is really a case of making sure that the lads are focused and keeping their heads up.  Looking at the team and looking at their attitude to training and going out at the pitch, I have no doubt this is going to be a good season”.

“To be honest, the most important thing this season is stabilizing. Ensuring that we build and continue to come together as a team, develop the skills, and go out and play the game not thinking down the road, but just thinking about that game. Ensuring we take our wins and maximise our points and we will be back to where we should be”.

Paul Hackett profile

Paul Hackett had been a long-serving player of Galwegians. We sat down with him recently to hear him reflect and take a brief look back on his rugby career to date.

One day when Paul was nine years old, a group of Galwegians players came back from playing a rugby tournament in London and visited his primary school. Seeing them with glittering silverware and medals around their necks inspired Paul and inspired him to get involved in the world of rugby.

“I thought it was amazing that they were coming back from playing rugby in London. That gave me the bug to take up rugby”.

Paul followed his friends and started playing underage rugby for Galwegians. He used his skillset from GAA to transition to rugby and felt that the oval ball sport “came more naturally to me”. He just fell in love with the sport and the rest has been history.

Paul has achieved no small amount of success in his time during his time with Galwegians. The first major success was the U17 All Ireland Final on the back of an undefeated streak. “I look back at that year fondly. You have so many friends that you grew up with. Tt was a moment when boys became men”.

Another achievement for Paul was being a part of the Galwegians side that made it all the way to AIL Division 1A and the top tier of Irish club rugby. “It was a huge honour to be part of that team. It will always stay in the back of my mind”.

Paul rates his team mates through the years as a constant source of inspiration and motivation to improve as a player and reach the next level himself.

“You get inspired by your friends and the players around you. How much hard work they are putting in, and what they are achieving in life. You take all these little things about what they are doing. That’s what you get your inspiration from”.

Paul is currently in Dublin and, despite being retired from rugby, Paul admits he still has the urge to come back and put on his boots to get back in action. He is contemplating getting his coaching badges, but would like to get some more games under his belt before pursuing coaching.

“I ended up buying a new pair of boots a while back so I might have to start playing a small bit of rugby here in Dublin, I’m getting itchy feet. I don’t know how the people in Galway would feel about that, but I might do a small bit of playing before going back to coaching!”.

Paul has some experience coaching in Galwegians, after mentoring the U20s two years ago to get a feel of it.

Having progressed through the youth ranks to senior rugby, he knows that these young players are the next generation of Wegians and wants to give his expertise with an emphasis on “hard work and learning from your mistakes”.

“I wanted to give back to the club, and the way you do that is coaching and helping the younger players. Giving the knowledge you learnt back to them is extremely rewarding. There were volunteers that helped me along the way along with thousands of other players. So I want to help. It’s such a small yet rewarding thing to do. I was happy to do it.”

Paul is confident that Galwegians can go the way this season. The Sky Blues might be 100 years old but they aren’t going to be slowing down any time soon. He wishes the club all the best for the season ahead.

Referee profile: Dermot Blake

Dermot Blake

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Although a life member of the club many of our community might not know Dermot Blake. Dermot has a deep-rooted connection to Galwegians. He is the grandson of founding member and former president Henry St. John Blake, son of past president Bruce Blake and brother to last year’s president Carl. However, with a long line of club presidents in the family, Dermot took a different approach when it came to rugby.

Dermot grew up in Dublin but attended Glenstal Abbey where he later became a housemaster. Although rugby was engraved in the Blake’s DNA, Dermot didn’t play much rugby growing up “I played a bit at under 10s or minis and junior cup was pretty much the extent of my rugby career”. It wasn’t until he became housemaster and rugby coach at Glenstal in 2005 that he found his true rugby calling picking up the whistle and taking charge.

“I took the course because I had to,” says Blake. As the U14s coach, he had to be equipped to take charge of some of the in-house games that took place in Glenstal. Having enjoyed his first year as a referee, Blake soon received a phone call asking if he’d like to join the Munster rugby roster and referee some other games around the province, he happily accepted this challenge.

By 2007 Blake had begun to take charge of some important games around Munster. As the assessments began so did the Branch’s method of testing. They threw Blake in at the deep end, appointing him to games above his current level. Blake took each one in his stride and progressed at a very quick pace taking charge of Junior cup games and the Junior plate final.

Within a year Blake had been nominated by the Munster branch to progress to the IPAS level and started refereeing the AIL. Following a move back to Leinster and Dublin, the 41-year-old started to make a name for himself in the province.

It wasn’t until Blake realised the importance of match preparation, that he began to fully excel on the pitch. Blakes says that there are two different types of preparation one of them is theory and research-based. He does his homework on each team he has been appointed to referee, to ensure he has all the tools and knowledge to referee the game to the best of his ability, “as soon as I get my fixture I start to do my research, looking at the team’s last games and making notes”, after the game phase two commences with self-evaluation, “you have to be your own biggest critique”, says Blake, “I watch back every match I do at least twice, the first time to get a feel for how my game went and to make time stamps and the second time to look at specific points or moments in the game”. 

The other method is on-field preparation. In Malahide where he lives Blake along with about 10 other referees come together each week to train on the pitch. Together the group work on fitness through interval training and sprints which replicate a match tempo. They also work on scenarios to better their positioning and to attempt to replicate a match.

During the 2016 season, Blake took charge of The Leinster schools Senior cup quarter-final, and quarter-final replay between Blackrock and Belvedere college, which he remembers fondly, “I still watch it on Youtube and it is, without a doubt, the greatest game of rugby that I have ever been involved in”. Due to his excellent performance in both games, he earned himself the appointment for the most prestigious game in the Leinster Rugby calendar, the Leinster schools Senior cup final. 

At the end of the 2016 season, Blake was awarded the Alain Rolland award for ARLB Referee of the Year Award, which he says was all down to the change in his attitude toward preparation that aided him to reach his full potential.

Blake has reached the highest level of refereeing possible in Ireland without becoming a professional, he has assistant refereed in URC games, and even in some European games which he has thoroughly enjoyed, but he knows without a doubt that he never wants to take the next step and become a pro.  The loneliness experienced on the road week in and week out is the main reason why he is happy with where he is right now. His only goal now is to continue as national panel referee until the age of 45, “my goal is to get to 45, and every year after that is a bonus”.

Although Blake has been a part of many prestigious games down through the years one, in particular, stood out. Back in 2020, he took charge of the first Bruce St John Blake Memorial cup between Galwegians and NUIG which honours his father. This would be the first and only time that Blake would referee Galwegians. Being a life member of the club, there are rules that prevent him from refereeing Galwegians, but due to circumstances, the two teams came to a mutual agreement and allowed him to referee the game which Blake says was “a real privilege” to be a part of.

Blake believes that the reason he loves refereeing so much is that, “it’s like having a front-row seat to the action” he loves “the sense of satisfaction when I have a good game, just being so close to the action of a high-level game is really enjoyable. I would never have been involved at this level of the game without refereeing”. 

“After my wife and daughter, refereeing is the most important thing in my life”.

Dermot Blake

As a mental health OT he knows the benefits of being active, and for him refereeing is a fantastic way to do so, “it keeps your mind engaged, it’s an interest outside your daily life, and you can only benefit from having extra interests, I say to my wife, after her and my daughter, reffing is actually the most important thing in my life because I love it, I absolutely love it. When I’ve finished refereeing, she already knows that I will be involved in referee administration because I love refereeing and I’ll need that for me and my mental health”.

Blake believes that refereeing is a great way to “give back and to stay involved in the club”. For Blake refereeing was a way to continue his relationship with rugby without playing and that’s why he would encourage more people to get involved in that side of the sport. Blakes’s message to anyone who is starting out as a referee is the most important thing for a young referee to do is “not to be too hard on yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes because you never stopped making them. Learn that early, accept it, and just enjoy it”

Referee profile: Katie Kilbane

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Katie Kilbane

Katie Kilbane is a wealth of experience when it comes to wielding the whistle. Having refereed for 12 years now she has taken charge of games at as high a level as Women’s AIL, J1 and U20s in both Connacht and Munster.

Kilbane first played rugby during her time in university, “I had wanted to play for years but dad wouldn’t let me, he thought it was bad enough that I was breaking myself playing football, so I definitely shouldn’t play rugby.” But by that point, she was an adult and instead of joining the college football team, she signed up for rugby.

While playing with the university she also join Galwegians and played a season in the Women’s AIL, but says she didn’t keep it up due to other commitments “I was rowing, I was playing county football, I was playing rugby with the college and then I took up reffing on top of that so it was just a lot”.  

It was clear that once Kilbane had a taste for the sport she fully immersed herself in it. After playing for about a year she had already signed up for a refereeing course. When asked what the appeal to refereeing was she responded with a laugh “baiting literal baiting”, from a friend and referee Mike Forrestal who ebbed her to “try refereeing a real game”.

Having refereed GAA from under 12s and getting her qualifications as a GAA ref at the age of 16 Kilbane says she was always “weirdly interested”, in refereeing “I spent my Junior Cert results night refereeing a camogie match instead of going out”, so with the interest and experience it was a decision that just made sense to her.

Since becoming a referee the 29 year old has worked her way up through the ranks where she now takes charge of games in J1 U20s and in the Women’s AIL.

Some might imagine that being a female referee in the men’s game would be difficult but Kilbane says otherwise “men can be easier than women, I guess it’s a little different for me as I have played with the women and some of them know me personally where as with the men they don’t care if your male or female, donkey or a dog as long as you’re doing a good job. But it’s a very enjoyable sport and a very welcoming sport that’s a good degree of respect there from men’s and women.”

A highlight in Kilbane’s career came in 2017 while she was refereeing in Munster.  She was chosen to officiate as a touch judge during the first-ever women’s Barbarian series.  “it was probably the closest to a professional environment that I’ve been in”. The Barbarians came out as clear winners over Munster in Thomond Park with a 19-0 victory. 

Kilbane stopped playing the sport a couple of years back through various different injuries and that was when she decided to focus on refereeing which in return gave her the outlet to stay involved in the sport “It was my way of competitively staying within the game not everybody joins refereeing to be competitive about it and to try and get to the top, I do. It gave me a sense of purpose within the game when I couldn’t physically play it anymore.”

Without referees our game wouldn’t be able to function but refereeing isn’t there just to facilitate the player but for people like Katie it’s away to stay involved and competitive and an overall  great sport to be involved in “So if your falling out of the game it’s a great way to stay involved in it at a high level and it’s also just a great way of giving back if you want to volunteer but coaching isn’t for you it’s a great way to get involved and there’s something there for everyone.”

Referee profile: Eoin Staunton

Eoin Staunton

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

At the age of just 20 years old Eoin Staunton is the youngest Referee affiliated with Galwegians.

About six months ago Eoin began his journey to become a referee. The decision came following a loss of interest in the playing aspect of the game. Having spent 14 years playing with Galwegians joining at the age of 6, rugby had a strong place in Eoin’s life but he had begun to lose interest following a year with the 20s.  

Rather than hanging up his boots, Eoin took an alternative route to stay involved in the club.

“I nearly prefer it to playing myself. You’re there in the middle of the action without being in the play.”

Eoin Staunton

When a message came out from the committee that the Connacht branch were to be running referee courses Eoin said he’d chance his arm at refereeing. “One of the guys showed me the link to the reffing course and I said sure why not I’ll give it a go. I went and did the course and I learned a lot, and now I really enjoy reffing.”

Following his decision to start refereeing Eoin underwent 2 months of online modules on the laws of the game and on how to identify concussion.

Once these modules were completed Eoin went on to touch judge two games before taking charge of his first U13s game which took him by surprise “It was a high enough pace and the game kind of flowed because both teams had a real willingness to play rugby.”

Fitness is a key part of being a good referee for Eoin. “You have to be able to keep up with the play, because if something happens you have you be there to make the decision”.

When starting up college with ATU, Eoin returned to athletics where he trains as a middle-distance runner. “I do athletics with the college and that kind of training would keep me fairly fit for reffing. Some of the stuff I do in training would be similar to what I would do in match situation”.

As a ref, you get to see the fun side of rugby and the banter between teams. While reffing a recent Wegians vs Jes game Eoin had plenty of moments when he had to “hold back on laughing”, as both sides were very familiar with each other with and some players playing for both sides. Eoin recalls one player asking the other to “ease off a bit” in the scrum.

Since qualifying Eoin has been in action most weekends, sometimes taking charge of 2 games a day which he says can take its physical toll. “You can definitely feel it in the legs”. 

Staunton is very much enjoying his switch to refereeing and even though he is taking it one match at a time, he one day hopes to progress from club level.

“I guess I’m just taking it day by day and listening to those more experienced people and just trying to improve after every performance. Eventually I would like this to be a career”. 

For Eoin it’s a great way to stay involved with the sport without actually playing and that’s why he thinks more people should get into refereeing. “I would definitely recommend that people to get into reffing a lot more. It’s not the easiest job in the world but you definitely get enjoyment out of it”.

And it’s not just about your own enjoyment. Eoin says it’s great for the next generation of rugby players too. “For younger age groups you’re kind of like their coach. You’re coaching them on how to play. Not only do you benefit but you know you’re helping someone else benefit from getting experience and improving them for when they get older”.

If you have an interest in becoming a referee or would like to learn more please contact your local branch officer.

Hugh Gavin profile

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Hugh Gavin playing for the Ireland U20s in a friendly. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

“That’s always been the big dream but, I suppose your dreams change when I was 12 and 13 all I wanted to be, was a Wegian.”

This February the U20 Six Nations and among the up-and-coming young prospects representing Ireland is Galwegians own Hugh Gavin.

The 19-year-old Salthill native began playing rugby in Crowley Park at the age of six and from there on his love for the sport grew. Hugh played the age group above his own for the first couple of years under coaches Mickey Sherlock, Gerry Lowry, and Gary Gillanders along with his Dad and former club captain Barry Gavin whom he credits for his success and also that of his teammates “that coaching panel were really good for the club with so many of us going up and playing with the seniors and even playing provincial it’s a real credit to the coaches.”

Gavin impressed at the underage level earning himself a spot in the Connacht development squads before going to the next step representing the province in the u17 squad when they played against Munster.

The following year Gavin progressed into the Connacht U18s Inter Pro squad where he began to flourish “the first taste of a more professional environment and I really enjoyed that, I took to that and then I got my first Inter Pros start against Ulster”. Gavin went on to score two tries that day before coming off with a torn quad which would see him miss out on the rest of the competition.

After this Gavin worried that he might not be able to make his goal of reaching the Irish u18s Club squad but “luckily enough they took the chance with me and brought me in and that October I got my first international cap against Italy.

Since then the Galwegians man has gone on to play on the wing for the Connacht eagles in the summer development games, which lead to a conversation with Galwegians and Connacht legend Eric Elwood who offered Gavin his first Academy contract “it was a surreal moment in my rugby career, just to think that I put my head down and my hard work has paid off.” 

With many special moments coming in different shades of green jersey, Gavin made some special ones in the sky-blue jersey too. His favourite of which being his first AIL cap for his club “I was in Crowley Park watching the Seniors pretty much every Saturday from a young age and to finally run out myself in front of the fans and the club legends when the club means so much to them its nice to get out and do your bit for the team”.

While most 19-year-olds are enjoying college life Gavin is making sacrifices to ensure he can put his “best foot forward”, with training four days a week in the Connacht academy, the first-year Commerce student says it can be difficult to balance rugby and college work but he always finds time for his mates “You obviously have to give up a lot of the night Iife and you’re early to bed most nights but apart from that see my mates the days I’m in college and weekends it’s just the weekday stuff you can’t be at and you can’t be getting a takeaway with the lads the whole time”. 

Since being selected for the U20s squad Gavin has been training hard at different camps all over the country. With great squad depth, Gavin believes the squad is reaping the benefits of healthy competition “We’ve all been getting better week on week just pushing each other its class”.

 The Irish Under 20s take on Wales Friday the 3rd of February and we will be hoping to see Hugh get some game time under his belt and kick on for the rest of the campaign. 

By Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

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