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‘You think that’s good, wait until you see John Hodnett’

June 13th, 2023 4:30 PM

By Matthew Hurley

‘You think that’s good, wait until you see John Hodnett’ Image
Munster rugby star John Hodnett pictured with the West Cork Sports Star monthly award he received at the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery. Also included, back from left, Daniel Hodnett and Eabha Walsh. Front from left, Laura, Margo, Dan and Orla Hodnett. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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JOHN Hodnett was back home in Rosscarbery recently, stepping outside the Munster rugby bubble to make sense of an incredible few days.

From scoring the winning try in the URC final in Cape Town to picking up the man-of-the-match award to leading Munster’s homecoming celebrations at Thomond Park to earning the front page on the Southern Star Sport to accepting a West Cork Sports Star monthly award, Hodnett packed a lot in.

The 24-year-old spent a few days at home in Ross, not too far from Clonakilty Rugby Club where it all started for Hodnett.

‘John has been phenomenal right through his career. The try against the Stormers in the final was enormous and obviously made a huge difference to the game, coming when it did four minutes from the end,’ Clonakilty RFC chairman Eoin Hurley told The Southern Star.

‘As a club, we couldn’t be more proud of him. He has always been exceptional.’

Rosscarbery man Hodnett was also a talented footballer with Carbery Rangers, but always stood out on the rugby pitch for Clon, according to Hurley. Eventually, Hodnett chose rugby.

‘John was extraordinarily good from an early age, from U8s up. He then became a real standout at U16 and U18 levels,’ Hurley said. ‘We always felt that he would do well and it’s no surprise to us where he is today.

‘John is still very young, only 24 years old,’ he added.

Malachy Boohig first coached Hodnett at U13 level and couldn’t be any prouder to see the levels the Clon rugby export has reached.

‘It’s fair to say that everybody that was watching the URC final, myself included, just went ballistic when he scored; it wasn’t something that surprised me. To take the pass from Shane Daly, shrug off the tackles next to him and blow his way over, it was typical of his performance. Exceptional,’ Boohig said.

Award winner John Hodnett (centre) with, from left, Kieran McCarthy (Sports Editor, Southern Star), Neil Grant (General Manager, Celtic Ross Hotel), Helen Wycherley (Director, Celtic Ross Hotel) and John Paul McNamara (C103 Radio).

It is clear to see why Hodnett is highly regarded by Munster head coach Graham Rowntree, the guy never gives in.

‘He is very determined, very self-motivated,’ Clon chairman Hurley said.

‘He is a single-minded thinker with a very strong will to compete. He’s not the tallest man in the world and certainly growing up, he didn’t stand out in terms of height but he stood out in terms of strength.

‘He was a strong player from an early age and that gave him an advantage.’

Malachy Boohig can remember John at U13 level. Highly rated then, it’s fair to say he is fulfilling his potential.

‘I first worked with John when he was U13 and I remember the second or third game of that season,’ he said. ‘On the touchline, I said to the head of our coaching group, Maurice Shanley, that I was very happy with the way the team was shaping up. He said to me, “you think that’s good, wait until you see our best player”. He said his name was John Hodnett.

‘John turned up the following week and straightaway, from the very first minute, you could see what Maurice was on about. You could see John’s potential, he was just exceptional from day one. He had wonderful skills, a fantastic attitude. He’s probably the most humble, understated lad that you could come across. The success he has had has never gone to his head. He remains level headed as always.’

Up to U18 level, Hodnett, who went to secondary school at Mount St Michael in Rosscarbery, played with Clonakilty RFC. Once finished with the U18s, he lined out with UCC at All-Ireland League level. It was in the Ireland U20 Grand Slam win in 2019 (the same year he joined the Munster Academy) that Hodnett began to get traction, and he hasn’t looked back since. Hodnett was more than just a back row in that successful year.

‘The coach, Noel McNamara, was very clever. He had John sometimes playing as a third centre for lineouts, basically to carry the ball up, which he did incredibly successfully that year,’ Boohig added. ‘Whenever he’s been asked to do something, there’s never a question, never a grumble, he just does it. Typical of the guy. He’s been a model student.’

Hodnett, as well as Cian Hurley, are two former Clonakilty players involved with Munster, and their rise has given belief to the younger players within the club too.

‘They can see that it is achievable. It’s about hard work at the end of the day. If somebody wants to give it a go, believe that they are capable and have the confidence in themselves, it’s an achievement very much within reach,’ Hurley said.

Credit has to go to the Clon coaches too, given the success of their two graduates.

‘Our coaches are excellent. Irrespective of a person's ability, we encourage them to play and participate. Everybody gets equal gametime, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the best in the world at the game or average, you’re given the same gametime up to U16. At U18, we become a bit more competitive for sure but at all stages we are very fair to everyone. That’s our philosophy, that’s our ethos,’ Hurley concluded.

In recognition of his significant contribution to Munster’s URC final win, the province’s first major piece of silverware in 12 years, John Hodnett was presented with a Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star monthly award. These awards are run by the Celtic Ross Hotel, The Southern Star and C103.

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