Sunday 16 December 2018

'All our losses in the league have been really frustrating'

Galway flanker says there are lots of positives this season despite recent run of poor results

Eoin McKeon, along with team-mates Jack Carty and Dave Heffernan, has invested in some start-up businesses. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoin McKeon, along with team-mates Jack Carty and Dave Heffernan, has invested in some start-up businesses. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

If he had the time Eoin McKeon jokes about chancing his arm at The Apprentice. But the Connacht flanker has plenty on his plate heading into the New Year and rugby is top of the list.

In one of most competitive divisions at the Sportsground, the Galway native has flourished in the back-row, and seems to have had a new lease off life under the new coaching set-up.

But the 26-year-old flanker argues that his performance levels have remained constant, with maybe just an added touch of efficiency towards his game management.

"I just have a bit more of a licence to play this season. I can get my hands on the ball a bit more and that's what I preferred doing when I was younger," says McKeon.

"I always found myself hanging out in the backline, where I could get the ball. I have a bit more of licence to do that. It complemented my game a bit more that I can get more game-time.

"I have played under Nigel Carolan before, I came up through the academy under him and I know Jimmy Duffy from being around here. I was looking forward to working with the new guys, and knew what Pete Wilkins was like from Edinburgh.

"I was just excited more than anything else to get a fresh start. We changed everything, our S&C coaches as well, with Johnny O'Connor coming in and Dave Howarth and his wealth of experience.

"What I just try and do is keep everything as uniform as possible during the week and on game-day.

"Routine is important there, so you are not doing stuff different just because it's game-day. Things fall into the place then. If you have those building blocks during the week of training, stuff will happen for you during a game. I have matured enough to realise that's what I need to do to play well."

Already in his ninth season as part of the senior set-up at the Sportsground, McKeon has experienced the full rollercoaster at his native province.

He starred in the 2015-'16 PRO12-winning side but knows things weren't always so fruitful in the green jersey. That perspective means he hasn't panicked despite some difficult results in recent weeks.

"When you look at all of the losses we have had in the league they have been really frustrating losses, if you look at home to Glasgow, at home Cardiff, even away to Scarlets and Ulster they are all really winnable games," says McKeon.

"It's good in the sense that we are not being thumped by these teams. The game is there for the taking but we are just not being accurate, clinical and ruthless enough when we get scoring opportunities. We know as a squad that they were games we let go and should have won.

Positive "You can dwell on that and beat yourself up or look at it in a positive light that we are creating the opportunities."

McKeon has scored 13 tries in 113 appearances for Connacht and he will need to employ all of his wisdom over the coming months to build his side back to prominence in the PRO14. A play-off position is still within their grasp, while in Europe a win over Brive this weekend will put them well on their way to qualifying top of Pool 5.

"Because we are away to Brive first, if we were to get a win away there it's a big step for us," says McKeon.

"It's hard to predict what sort of a side a French team will put out. The last time going over to Oyonnax we were like, this is the team that played last week in the Top 14 but it is more than likely going to be completely different. That's how it worked out.

"I don't know will Brive be the same proposition. We had them two or three seasons ago and did pretty well against them. But if we do get the win over there and at home then we will be in a pretty good spot going into the last two games at the end of the January.

"We are just looking to finish top of the group and then go from there. Lads know themselves that's it's not an unachievable goal.

"But in terms of goals we are going to take it one milestone at a time. We will reassess and go from there then."

And in terms of career goals off the rugby field, McKeon is ticking plenty of boxes at the moment.

"I spent our week off doing a bit of work experience up in Dublin. I have an engineering background but I am not sure whether I want to go down that route or go into finance. I was into Cantor Fitzgerald on St Stephen's Green," says McKeon. "There is a place down here called the Portershed. It was one of these start-up hubs, the incubation places where it's all start-ups. The guys who set the whole thing up used to be a guy who we did yoga with. He branched off now and is involved with these start-ups.

"Myself, Jack Carty and Dave Heffernan set up a partnership and tried to get involved in that. We were hoping to get in there and get work experience. But we ended up investing in a fund that was backing a couple of start-ups over the next two years.

"I am involved with a charity in Galway, a local charity called 100Men. A Dragon's Den themed idea.

"I also have a pal of mine, Conor Murphy, his dad Dave Murphy has a company Viviscal that he sold a couple of months back over in the USA. He is looking to set up a new charity now.

"Lifes2Good, it's his company and he's setting up a charity for that. So I've been asked to be on the board for that as well."

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