Monday 19 November 2018

Local centre on his toes and ready to shine when called upon

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Dan Goggin

Dan Goggin is fit and firing again after his return from a knee injury. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Goggin is fit and firing again after his return from a knee injury. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Massive European fixtures were a feature of Dan Goggin's youth. A Thomond Park local, he grew up in its shadow and could very well feature in the latest instalment.

It's arguably the biggest Munster game in Limerick in years. Toulon looked back to their best when they dismantled Clermont in the Top 14 last weekend, and now Munster are tasked with imposing their game on the French giants.

Last year another French heavyweight rocked up at Thomond Park, but Toulouse were a team in transition. They resembled nothing of the greats who lorded Europe in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Toulon won the Champions Cup three times in a row since 2013 and after a couple of years away from centre stage, they look a huge threat to reigning champions Saracens this season.

But Munster will have huge momentum on the back of victory over the reigning PRO12 champions Scarlets last week. And maybe a young, versatile, French-speaking centre could be of use with injuries aplenty.

"I am studying a French speaking course to add something else," says the 23-year-old Goggin.

It could come in handy were he to be opposite the lambasting France international Mathieu Bastareaud on the hallowed turf.

But then again maybe two All Blacks might link up for Toulon instead. With Malakai Fekitoa and Ma'a Nonu they aren't short of options.

"It is something I would love to be involved in especially with the team they have at the moment with the likes of Nonu and Bastareaud, two world-class players, it would be great to get a chance to play against those guys."

Goggin was out injured for most of this season. He was injured during Munster's clash with Benetton Rugby on September 1.

However the former St Munchin's man has made four appearances since his return from that knee injury. And playing a Champions Cup quarter-final would be a big boost for his confidence.

"Originally I am from just behind the maternity hospital. I am about a two-minute walk from Thomond Park," said Goggin.

"I grew up in the area and on match days it was always great walking up to Thomond Park and seeing all the big crowds. It has always been a part of my life."

Goggin went to Ardscoil Rís originally before he moved across to the rugby dynasty in Corbally. He believes it was one of the best decisions he has ever made, along with the choice to swap UL Bohemians for Young Munster.

Helped

"Being in Munchin's really helped me figure out what I wanted to do. It pointed me in the direction of rugby and helped me with my skill-set as well," said Goggin.

"Then I moved out to Young Munster after school. I was originally with UL Bohs. But Young Munster had looked for me to come over and promised me that I would be playing senior rugby straight after school.

"Because I went to Young Munster and it was Division 1A, the games were viewed by Ireland coach Mike Ruddock and that gave me the opportunity to get called up to camp. Luckily from there I was involved in an U-20 Six Nations and World Cup."

Goggin played 10 times for the Ireland U-20s between January and June 2014. And that put him on track for a Munster place down the line.

He went on to make his debut at outside centre for his native province against Scarlets on September 3, 2016. And 18 appearances later Goggin is on the verge of a huge outing in his local Thomond Park.

But none of this could have been possible without the brilliant S&C team in Munster, the renowned Ray Moran in Santry, and Goggin's positive mindset and approach to his ruptured PCL and Grade 2 MCL tear.

"It was tough going in the rehab stage but after a couple of months it was refreshing to take the time off from competing in rugby. But then when it came to getting back to playing again I was quite refreshed," said Goggin.

"It was the first game of the year against Treviso. I had come on in the 70th minute and within a couple of minutes I carried my first ball into contact. The tackler brought me down and landed on my left leg. My studs got stuck in the ground and twisted a bit.

"For the physios at the time it's hard to move it about when it's under so much stress and swelling. You really need a scan to figure it out. But unless you get the swelling down the scan won't work. For the next few days I was icing and trying to get it down for the scan on the Monday so I could get the results.

"I tried to go in with a positive mindset. I knew Ray Moran was the best knee guy in Europe. Whatever he had to tell me I would have to take it. I trusted him. After looking at the scan, he held my knee, touched it for a couple of times and knew exactly what was going on. He said: 'four months, back around January'.

"I was delighted with that because we thought the MCL might have been ruptured along with the PCL, or a bit of the ACL even. I was just delighted it was only a four-month job and not six or seven.

"I was back around the end of January. I got a game with the As and then a club game before my first Munster game against Zebre. I hit all my targets.

"But it was great to take the mind off the rugby and competing seen as it was my first ever injury that kept me out."

Irish Independent

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