Saturday 21 September 2019

'It was a massive honour for myself and my family'

Galway centre Eoin Griffin tells Daragh Small that making his 100th appearance was special but he is eager to chalk up many more

Eoin Griffin scores a try against Zebre. Picture: Sportsfile
Eoin Griffin scores a try against Zebre. Picture: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

When the rest of his team-mates are planning their summer holidays at the end of 2018-'19 Eoin Griffin will have his head stuck in the books.

Away from the Sportsground you will likely find him in the NUIG library as he prepares to delve deep into the 25,000 words that are due in June.

The 28-year-old studies a part-time Masters in Business Management and Leadership and as he is in the final year of a three-year course, the thesis looms large.

"It's actually OK. The first couple of years there were no exams just continuous assessment and you had a couple of workshops. A lot of it was on blackboard," said Griffin.

"This year then I actually have virtual tutorials. They basically put it up on a video link on Blackboard (online learning system), you sign in and then you can ask questions and it goes through things with you.

"Everyone else that is doing it is working part-time. The people running the course understand that people can't be giving all of their time.

"A lot of it is just dealing with what you need to do. What is an annotative bibliography, what is a literary review, what is the proposal, all of that. And trying to steer everyone in the right direction.

"It's been quite manageable so far but I haven't got into the nitty-gritty of the writing yet. That's probably where the fun times starts."

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Griffin has become the latest player to hit 100 caps for Connacht and has scored eight tries since his debut in 2009-'10 but the Galway native did not travel when the province toured South Africa, instead he joined up with Buccaneers.

"It's different playing in the AIL but it's good, especially with Buccaneers. They are a really good group of lads. I played with them a couple of years ago when I was coming back from an injury and it's a lot of the same lads that are there," said Griffin.

"It feels a bit different playing in the AIL. It's not as structured in terms of you only have a Tuesday and Thursday night to go through stuff, so you can't have the same level of detail across the board.

"It's probably not as quick in terms of the intensity and that sort of thing, as the PRO14 or European rugby. But it's enjoyable to get 80 minutes under my belt. It had been a while since I had 80."

Dreamed

It's been some journey for the former Coláiste Iognáid student, who had a stint with London Irish before he returned home to the Sportsground, where he always dreamed of playing.

Griffin made his 100th appearance for Connacht in their bonus-point win at home to Dragons at the start of November.

"It was a massive honour for myself, my family and friends. A couple of people have asked me about and it creeps up on you quite quickly. You don't notice it," said Griffin.

"Someone mentioned it to me earlier that week, that it was my 100th cap, and it like: 'oh, really'. You don't really count caps, until someone mentions it to you.

"When you are a kid, it's the old cliché that playing one game is what you want when you are 13 years old. When you have done that 100 times it's definitely something that I will look back on really fondly.

"It's something I will be really proud of when I'm eventually finished."

But despite a great start to his career, where he starred for the Ireland U-20, and numerous standout performances for Connacht and London Irish along the way, Griffin has had to contend with a dreadful run of injuries.

"I am 28 now, some of the other lads hit 100 caps when they are 24 or 25. I have done it in the roundabout route," said Griffin.

"You wouldn't really put it down as a career goal at any stage. It's just a cool milestone to hit. At the same time, I really enjoyed playing in England for two years. Injuries are a part of it as well and that's not ideal. But that is part and parcel of the job now.

"It's such a high attrition rate in pro rugby at the moment. It's not around the corner, but you know that it's there. You just have to deal with it whenever it comes.

"There is no point in getting too down about it because it is not going to do anything for you. You just have to get back on the horse as soon as you can."

He returned to Connacht when Robbie Henshaw headed for Leinster but Griffin still has massive competition for a jersey every week.

Fellow centre Tom Farrell emerged on the scene after he arrived from Bedford Blues in January 2017 and he joined up with Ireland at Carton House during the November internationals.

"I was delighted for Tom, I sent him a text straight away," said Griffin.

"He was unlucky enough not to be involved from the get-go with the squad, with the way he has been playing.

"Obviously Bundee Aki has continued on with what he has been doing from the Autumn internationals last year to the Six Nations and the tour. It will be great to see Tom kick on and get in the squad off his own bat.

Flying

"Then you have the two of them flying and Kyle Godwin as well. He is playing a fair bit, he is an Australian international. Even behind that you have got Peter Robb and Kieran Joyce in the academy who are pushing as well. There is a lot of competition in the centre at the moment."

Griffin wants to get back in the team fast with three huge interprovincial derbies just around the corner. Perpignan could be the ideal opportunity to stake a claim.

"They have been struggling a small bit domestically, they are bottom of the league," said Griffin.

"But it's such a tough league in the Top 14 with the amount of money that is over there and the top quality players in every side. With them having just come up from ProD2 it was always going to be difficult. It will be interesting to see where they are at."

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