Tuesday 20 February 2018

Back-row revelation Reidy bringing it all back home to Ulster

Ulster's Sean Reidy (SPORTSFILE)
Ulster's Sean Reidy (SPORTSFILE)
David Kelly

David Kelly

More than a half century after Bill Reidy emigrated from Kerry to New Zealand, his grandson Sean travelled nearly 12,000 miles to return to his ancestral home.

Just as the nomadic instinct had fuelled the journey of his grandfather all those years ago, a 21st century version of wanderlust infused the young man's quest for travel. So, too, a sense of reconnection with home.

The old farmhouse is still there in Castlegregory, on the tip of the Dingle peninsula; when Sean first visited it, the distance travelled was reduced to a mere footstep as he reunited with cousins Pat and Sean.

An Irish passport accompanied him on his first trip across half the globe; but the old country his grandfather once toiled had always been embedded within his soul.

"There's always been a strong heritage," says Ulster's 26-year-old back-row who, after a difficult, injury-stricken start since arriving two summers ago, is now flourishing.

"My father (Paul) would come back and forth frequently to visit cousins so it was always ingrained in our DNA, that Irish heritage," says the Irish-qualified Reidy, who signed a two-year extension to his contract earlier this year.

When he decided to travel to the northern hemisphere with his girlfriend, he tasked an agent to send his CV to potential suitors, with a preference being to reside in Ireland.

Ulster were the first out of the blocks to reply and he snapped up their offer. The Ravenhill faithful have begun to see what the fuss is all about; a beautifully balanced ball player, thanks to a Sevens background, the erstwhile team-mate of Connacht cult hero Bundee Aki at Counties Manukau has become increasingly prominent.

Last week, Ulster faced one of their most significant games of the season and, despite Reidy playing much of his rugby as a natural, free-flowing No 7, the absence of Cardiff-bound Nick Williams for the rest of the campaign prompted Les Kiss to make a key decision. Reidy didn't disappoint and, who knows, a green jersey may arrive in years to come too.

"Coaches have put faith in me and I like to think that as my confidence improves, I am delivering for them," he enthuses. "I just want to put my best foot forward. I back my skills, that is my background. It's not how big you are, but how good your ball skills are and I'm always trying to find a few holes."

He has bulked up too, filling out his frame to 105kg with some familiar fuel. "Lots of potatoes," he smiles, recalling the produce that Bill Reidy grew all his life, from the harsh Kerry soil to a land far, far away.

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