Jackman: IRFU should target Gaelic players
Published 13/11/2010 | 05:00
CARLOW footballer Brendan Murphy could have been playing rugby for Leinster by now if he had accepted a €30,000 offer from Michael Cheika to switch codes.
The claim comes from former Leinster and Ireland hooker, Bernard Jackman who helped broker a rugby deal for the Rathvilly man a few years ago. Jackman also believes talented young footballers and hurlers who had never played rugby before could catch up in three years if they turned their attentions to the oval ball game.
"They might even pass out some of the young rugby stars of the future. Without a doubt, most of the best athletes in Ireland play Gaelic games and I have always been amazed at how, as an organisation, the IRFU never aggressively tried to convert football and hurling stars to our game. I also wonder why Leinster, Munster and Connacht are not trying to convert at least one Gaelic footballer or hurler to our game each season. The top young GAA players are outstanding athletes who possess brilliant hand-to-eye co-ordination," writes Jackman in his autobiography 'Blue Blood'.
He reveals that while touring with the Irish rugby team in 2008 he met Murphy -- a former schoolmate of rugby international, Sean O'Brien -- in Melbourne. Murphy, whose home parish is just seven miles away from Jackman's, had joined Sydney Swans in 2007 and was hoping to make it big in AFL. Jackman talked to some Leinster officials on his return, including coach Michael Cheika, with a view to ascertaining if they would be interested in recruiting Murphy.
"The next time Brendan was on his off-season from Aussie Rules, I got Sean O'Brien to ring him. I wanted to know if he would come to Leinster if there was a contract available to him here. He said he would be interested and I went to Cheika.
"Cheika checked on Brendan with his contacts in Australia and asked me to get him up to Riverview for a meeting. I had never spoken about money to Cheika as I assumed Brendan would be offered the same as the Academy lads (€4,000). To my surprise, Cheika offered him a two-year contract worth €30,000 per year. With his height, 6' 5" and with another 10 kilos of muscle on him, Cheika thought that the young Carlow footballer, who had never played rugby in his life, could be moulded into a blindside flanker."
However, Murphy (21) decided to remain with Sydney for another year but returned home last year and is now playing football for Carlow. He also played for the Irish International Rules team last month.
"He might well have been on his way to making his Leinster debut by now if he had taken up Cheika's amazing offer. It might also have paved the way for many other footballers and hurlers to make professional rugby careers for themselves," writes Jackman.
He believes young GAA players who want to try a professional game would be better off trying rugby than Australian Rules. "Why should we export our best athletes when they could take up a professional sport here," he writes.