Tuesday 27 September 2016

Record try scorer keen to add to his impressive green tally

Flying winger hoping Sevens exploits can help reignite career as he looks to nail starting spot

Daragh Small

Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30

Connacht is definitely going in the right direction, it's growing all the time, insists Fionn Carr
Connacht is definitely going in the right direction, it's growing all the time, insists Fionn Carr

At 29, Fionn Carr is one of the experienced faces in the Connacht squad, but despite all the caps and tries, he always has to fight for his position in such a competitive environment.

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Although he is Connacht's record-try scorer - with 41 in 105 appearances - the Kildare man is well aware that there is no place for sentimentality in the professional game.

Carr came through the Leinster academy, having begun his rugby career with Naas RFC and then gone to hone his skills with Blackrock in the Ulster Bank League.

He progressed through the ranks in the east and after one appearance for Leinster away to Glasgow in the 2007-08 season, the then Connacht coach Michael Bradley got in touch.

It began a long affinity with the Sportsground: he arrived in Galway and set records in green before he returned for two seasons with Leinster.

But when he went west again, Connacht had also become a real contender in European rugby.

In his first season back they claimed their most famous victory, in December 2013, away to Toulouse in the Heineken Cup and that side was backboned by their academy.

But Carr has struggled to get game time since then, despite being a try-scorer in that famous win at Stade Ernest Wallon, where Toulouse had not been beaten in five years in Europe.

However, Sevens Rugby became his saviour - he went down to Limerick recently as one of seven players in the province's Sevens squad who had previously featured for the Connacht senior side.

They didn't win the Limerick World Club Sevens, but Conor McPhillips' side finished third and Carr touched down six times.

"I went down to the Limerick and I hadn't really played much of Sevens before that," he says.

"I played when I was a lot younger but it wasn't really serious competition. I really enjoyed it down there, because it is a really enjoyable game to play.

"We went with not that much expectation because we didn't have many of the lads who played it before. There were a lot of good quality Sevens teams there as well.

"But we surprised ourselves and we actually did quite well, and everyone loved playing it.

"I got a few tries and was happy with that, but Sevens in particular is a real team effort. There is a lot of toing and froing so you might just be lucky enough to get on the end of a few scores, and I was.

Confidence

"It is great for the younger guys as well, if they want to go that route first, to get a bit of confidence. Because it is a real confidence game.

"You could see it down there. Some of the younger lads that came down, came out of their shell and started playing really, really good rugby and throwing the ball around," adds the former Heineken Cup and Pro12 winner.

But it's not just the younger guys who need that extra confidence-boost, and a prolific tournament would always work wonders for a winger.

The Ardclough native began with a bang for Connacht this season - he clinched the 29-23 win over Dragons with a 77th-minute try in the Pro12 opener at the Sportsground.

After starting against Glasgow and putting in an impressive show, Carr wants to push forward his claims for regular inclusion.

"The place has changed a lot since I came here first. It's just grown and grown and there have been huge changes in personnel," he explains.

"There's only about three or four of the original guys still playing with the team.

"Connacht is definitely going in the right direction, the club is growing all the time, and it is going places.

"Hopefully we can kick on again this year, and hopefully I can be a part of that and get back into the mix.

"But I just hope that the team can go well this season in the league and the Challenge Cup and make that step up."

The former Newbridge pupil, did an Arts degree with Economics and Geography in UCD, and has since completed a Masters in Finance.

He played twice for the Irish Wolfhounds and also featured for his country at underage level but has never made his mark for the senior side.

"I don't know why it didn't happen really. I supposed it comes down to different games and different coaches and their opinions and that," he says.

"Obviously I would have loved to have played with Ireland, but it just happens like that."

He might not have got his chance to strut his stuff on the national stage, but Carr did play under current Ireland boss Joe Schmidt in his second stint with Leinster.

"It was good playing for Joe, he was detailed in what he did and he has a great mind for the game," he says.

"He was able to read the game really well and I really enjoyed working with him. I thought all of his processes were really good too and he was quite fair with his players at the same time.

"Pat Lam is a great coach as well. He brought in a lot of new ideas to Connacht and he has changed things up.

"It is going well, we have been really successful since he has come in. We have had two seasons of moving ourselves up the table slowly.

"So hopefully we can kick on again this year."

Irish Independent

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