Sport: Rugby

How did you become involved in your sport?

Rugby has always played a big part in my family life, my Dad played rugby for Clogher Valley, so from as far back as I can remember we were always playing with a rugby ball. I joined the minis for Clogher Valley Rugby club when I was six years old with Stephen Bothwell as my coach, he really made me fall in love with the game.

What is it that you love about your sport?

I love the physicality involved with rugby, it keeps me focused and challenges me both physically and mentally. It’s great to be able to get out on the pitch and let go of all the frustration.

It is also one of the few sports where you can be involved in some very hard hits and tackles on the pitch yet come off the pitch still good friends with your opposition.

I have met so many people through rugby, my team mates at Enniskillen Royal are my best friends, we support each other through the good and bad times, we are always there for each other.

Rugby teaches us respect and discipline which are valuable traits both on and off the pitch wherever you are in life.

What are your earliest sporting memories?

Obviously Clogher Valley rugby club is my earliest memories of rugby. I remember the excitement I had at the end of each season when we went to the Omagh Blitz to compete against lots of different teams, it was fun and score lines weren’t meant to be kept but obviously we all knew exactly what the score lines were, the competitiveness is always there, every year as far back as I can remember, we won it and went unbeaten apart from our P7 year. We will say no more about that.

Also In P7, my final year of minis, Stephen took us to a tournament in Athy. We spent two days in Kildare taking part in the tournament where we won every game we played. We then camped out that night after the tournament, it was a great fun and was an enjoyable night which I still talk about with my friends.

Who was, or is, your biggest influence?

Stephen Bothwell has been my biggest influence to date, he was my coach right through the mini’s for Clogher Valley where I started at six and up to Medallions at Enniskillen Royal where I was 16. To have had that continued support, guidance and dedication from such a good coach has been invaluable for my growth as a rugby player.

Who do you look up to in your chosen sport?

For me, I think Michael Hooper for Australia is someone who I really look up to. People say that rugby is changing into a giants game but from watching Michael Hooper, who plays the same position as me, he has proven that you don’t need to be a giant to be the best Flanker in the world, it just takes hard work and dedication.

What do you think are the key to being successful in sport?

To be successful in rugby, and in any sport, you have to be committed and give it your all. You have to do those tough strength and conditioning sessions in order to enjoy the matches on the Saturday when you win.

I’m a strong believer that you get out what you put into something so I think that no matter what you are doing, you have to give it your all.

What have been your biggest successes to date?

I am quite lucky with this actually, I have had quite a few successes in my short life so far. I have been very lucky in that, I have had the chance to play with some very talented players. Stuart Brown, Taine Haire and Matthew Bothwell are three of the players who I have played with since we started together in P3 and till this day we are still playing together at Enniskillen Royal.

I suppose the first success I’ve had was being the Captain of our Medallion team in Fourth year. We had a very talented team that year and got to the medallion shield semi final. At the time we were disappointed not to win the whole tournament and I still am disappointed, but for a small team from Enniskillen we competed with all the large schools from Belfast who have much better facilities than what we had. So overall it was a good achievement.

Another one is when I got the chance to Captain Ulster U17s vs touring Canadian team Ontario. I will always remember this success as it was a huge honour for me to get the chance to captain Ulster U17s to a win against international opposition.

A final success which really stands out for me was when I scored a hat-trick of tries for Ulster U18s vs Rugby IQ in the Interpros in Limerick. I will always remember that as it is something I am very proud of.

What are your goals for the future?

Well, I have another year of school’s rugby to go and it will be my final year. I am a very optimistic person and I am excited about the upcoming year. I hope that we win the Schools’ Cup in 2021 as we have a team which is very capable of doing it with lots of talent and hard working lads.

Looking past school, I would like to obviously make it into professional rugby with Ulster. However I do know how hard it is to do this and what it will require, although as we have seen over the past two years what Robert Baloucoune has done, it is very possible if you put your head to it.

Obviously Clogher Valley is where my heart is and I would like to return to where rugby all started for me and go back to Clogher Valley with Stephen Bothwell as coach.

What bit of advice would you offer to anybody starting out in your chosen sport?

Rugby provides opportunities to all abilities, you don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest, there is a position for everyone to play. Rugby is a huge part of my life and it could become a huge part of yours too, you just need to give it your all and see where it brings you.