BY KIERAN McCARTHY
IRELAND and Ulster winger Craig Gilroy has encouraged West Cork’s top rugby talents to have no regrets in their efforts to make it to the top.
A number of local players, including Ireland U20 internationals Fineen Wycherley and Gavin Coombes, are blazing a trail for West Cork rugby with Munster and Ireland, and Gilroy (26) has urged these young guns to leave no stone unturned in their quest to make the professional ranks.
‘They need to make rugby their main priority, enjoy it and train hard, and don’t let anyone tell them that they can’t succeed,’ said Gilroy, who was in Kinsale last week to launch this year’s Heineken Kinsale Sevens, Ireland’s largest rugby sevens tournament.
‘If you have the desire and the ambition, and if you put the work in, then you are giving yourself every chance of succeeding.
‘When I played in school I was far from the star. In my fifth year in school I was playing with the third team. It was only really in the last few years in school that I took it seriously and put my mind to it, and decided it’s what I wanted to do.
‘If you have the right work ethic, then it’s achievable.
‘The game is getting more popular and it’s getting bigger in terms of its reach, plus the game is getting faster and stronger so you need to constantly work on all the areas of your game. If you want to make it, you really have to work hard.
‘You need to enjoy it as well because it’s a great lifestyle and fingers crossed, it can be a long one.’
Gilroy is also advising West Cork’s young guns to not get distracted: ‘When you leave school it’s a transition period for young people, you’re going to university, there’s partying and a social life – but you need to make sacrifices. You need to rest and recover, and you need to get to bed early. It’s worth it for the rewards.’
Gilroy’s first appearance for Ulster came in 2010 and two years later he made his Ireland debut, so he is well placed to talk about the step-up in standards from the PRO12 league and Champions Cup to international level – a jump that Dunmanway’s rugby export, Munster ace Darren Sweetnam could make if he’s called up for the international summer tour.
‘It’s a big step-up, you’re facing tougher opposition and better teams. With the competition that you have with the other provinces when you do get the opportunity with Ireland, you have to take it,’ Gilroy explained.
‘I think it’s important not to over think it too much. Some guys put on the green jersey and can get a bit overwhelmed by it all, but you need to embrace it, enjoy it and relax. Trust what you can do and trust your skills.’
Irish international Gilroy – who scored a hat-trick of tries against Italy in this year’s Six Nations – enjoyed his first trip to Kinsale last week so much so that he’s already planning a trip back to West Cork.
But he won’t be around for the Heineken Kinsale Sevens, a popular fixture on the May bank holiday weekend. This will be the 29th year that it has taken place, with more than 8,000 visitors expected as upwards of 80 teams compete for an attractive prize fund, trophies and medals.
‘This generates a huge boost to Kinsale Rugby Club and the local economy and is staffed entirely by volunteers,’ said tournament director Tomás O’Brien.
‘I wish to thank Heineken, Kukri Ireland and all our partners and volunteers for their continued support.’
Charity partners this year are the Wooden Spoon Children’s Charity and Jayden’s Charity in Kinsale. For further information, visit www.kinsale7s.com.