Monday 1 May 2017

Rigney hoping Vincent's test is just what doctor ordered

Conor McNamee, left, and Eoin Rigney of Rhode congratulate each other following their team's victory during the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship quarter-final game between Rhode and Simonstown Gaels at O'Connor Park in Tullamore last month
Conor McNamee, left, and Eoin Rigney of Rhode congratulate each other following their team's victory during the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship quarter-final game between Rhode and Simonstown Gaels at O'Connor Park in Tullamore last month

Michael Verney

Being assigned to follow the likes of Diarmuid Connolly or Tomás Quinn is a stiff enough test for any defender without having to worry about further examinations off the pitch but that's the situation Rhode defender Eoin Rigney is in.

Dublin powerhouse St Vincent's are the opposition for the Offaly kingpins, seeking to break their Leinster final duck at the fifth attempt, but win, lose or draw, Rigney will have little time to dwell on the result. Everything will be put on hold as the Faithful full-back prepares for Knowledge of Health and Illness exams early Monday morning as part of his first-year medicine degree in UL.

Former Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey is five years into his training as a doctor while Tipperary's Ciarán McDonald is practising medicine but inter-county examples are scarce.

Rigney, 24, admits it's a "sickener" that the books will have to be devoured as soon as the final whistle goes tomorrow but he also sees it benefits.

"When you're worked up and you're studying you get kind of pi**ed off, but when you go training you can relax from the study. You get so worked up and in the zone that you actually relax when you go back studying," Rigney says.

"You can be stressed by football but during the day I don't get a chance to think about it and then vice versa with medicine. If you haven't got the hang of something you go training and forget about it.

"The two of them are feeding off each other nicely at the moment and hopefully I'll be able to keep that going for as long as possible. Training isn't the issue, it's the travelling two hours up and two hours back, I've lost four hours already before I start, not including training, but nothing worth doing is easy."

Returning to study medicine was always in his head and when his father was taken ill last Christmas, before making a full recovery, Rigney decided it was "now or never" as he strived to improve people's quality of life.

But for now all eyes are firmly focused on an elusive provincial crown and atoning for their defeat to 'Vinnies' two years ago. The 'Village' face huge odds against the city stronghold with a pick they could only dream of.

Manager Paschal Kellaghan is aiming for a unique Leinster treble having already claimed junior (Ballinabrackey) and intermediate (Monasterevin) honours. Having only retired from the senior ranks this year, Rigney admits Kellaghan "schooled" him in many of the game's dark arts growing up.

Another club legend is Alan McNamee, described by Rigney as the "heartbeat" of Rhode. "He's a phenomenal man. He's the life and soul of the team, an absolute gentleman on and off the pitch, well definitely off the pitch anyway," Rigney jokes.

Rigney has progressed from a baptism of fire in 2012, when he was in direct opposition with Kildare legends John Doyle and Dermot Earley on his Offaly debut before later being "surplus to requirements" during Emmet McDonnell's two-year rein.

Having nailed down the No 3 spot shirt already this year, a first Leinster medal would be just what the doctor ordered.

Irish Independent

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