Monday 23 October 2017

No Time To Look Back For Eager Coghlan

Jordan Coghlan
Jordan Coghlan

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Last week Shane Jennings announced his retirement. He has 204 caps for Leinster and is one of the province's most decorated players. However, it goes without saying that not every player to pull on the Leinster jersey will get the chance to leave in such circumstances.

Of the current squad, Quinn Roux and John Cooney have signed deals with Connacht from next season. Last season, Darren Hudson, Jack O'Connell and Conor Gilsenan headed to pastures new.

Two weeks ago, Jordan Coghlan announced that he had sealed a move to another provincial rival, Munster.

"A huge decision," reveals the 22-year-old of his decision to head south. "But ultimately it's a decision that I am very happy with and I am looking forward to the challenge ahead.

"The Munster set-up is very competitive and I will have to work very hard to make an impression on Anthony Foley and the rest of the staff.

"There will though be opportunities with lads away at the World Cup so I hope to put the hand up then.

Encouragement

"There is plenty of room for encouragement when you look at the progress of Andrew Conway and Felix Jones who went there before me from Leinster but they had to work hard for it and it wasn't just handed to them.

"But the body is feeling good and it's something that I'm looking forward to."

The body "feeling good" is no throwaway remark. Coghlan made his Leinster debut in September 2012 against the Dragons but hasn't played for the senior side since.

"Of course I look back and say 'I wish' but I can't change the past. I can't make that knee injury go away so I don't dwell on it at all. I can't control what's gone before me but I'm working very hard on what's ahead of me."

A talented cricketer, the former Clongowes player ultimately chose rugby after Junior and Senior Cup wins with his school. Some game-time at centre, some in the back-row but more often than not, game-time denied by injury.

"My knee injury happened in the British & Irish Cup final against Newcastle at the end of the 2012/13 season. So a season that started with my senior debut ended with a knee injury," he says.

"So last season the focus was on rehab but it didn't go to plan. I'd be back on the pitch but the knee would go again or I'd feel it so in the end I had an operation last April to finally address it.

"It's not easy looking on and seeing your mates making progress. You are delighted for them but you want to be the one kicking on and making those gains.

"But look, I am in a great place now. The knee feels great and I'm backing myself to do a job between now and the end of the season."

Coghlan is in the fourth year of his Academy contract. Usually an Academy contract lasts three years but in light of the injury he was granted an extension of a year. He has enjoyed the experience.

"I can't speak highly enough of the Academy and the fact that I got the extension. I started with Collie McEntee and he took me under his wing straight away," he recalls.

"I came straight in from Clongowes and immediately you're impressed by the set-up.

"Girvan Dempsey then took over and he has really taken to the role. He knows so much from his years as a player and has a great mind for detail. Little things that maybe people wouldn't see like what he brings to his pre-match speeches and the way he connects with his players.

"You can tell by the performances and the results that what he and John Fogarty are getting across is working."

With a move to Munster on the horizon but also the small matter of a B&I Cup semi-final on March 14, in what position does Coghlan see his future?

"It's a question that I've been asked before and will be again I'm sure. I'm just happy to have a jersey on though. I've had a few runs in the backs lately and that has gone well and I'm enjoying that but at the same time I'm at ease in the pack," he explains.

"But either way and either jersey, I'm just looking to do my best for Leinster between now and the end of the season. I will have a chat with Munster in good time but I'd like to maybe challenge for a position in the back-row."

Happy to have a jersey is one thing and you can be sure that the sentiment rings true.

But while it isn't unheard of and Peter O'Mahony have been known to pop up on the wing in the green of Ireland, it's not a common feature of modern wing-forward or centre play. It can't be easy to juggle the two.

"I suppose there's a lot more thinking involved in the backs - and that's no disrespect to the forwards!" says Coghlan.

"When you're in the centre there's far more movement and plays. You are also far more likely to come up against a fella who is light on his feet, good pace and a turn of direction so that challenges you and your positioning.

"In the pack there is a huge focus on the set piece but also getting in your hits and getting over the ball when needs be.

Appreciation

"Alternating between the two is not ideal but I've really enjoyed it and it has given me an appreciation for both facets of play which I wouldn't have had otherwise."

Another player to hit the headlines last week was Coghlan's former Clongowes and Leinster Academy team-mate Conor Gilsenan, who left Leinster last year, - he has just signed a two-year extension to his contract with London Irish. Further encouragement if it were needed for Coghlan.

"It's great for Gilly - we were in school together for six years and came in to Leinster together so I'm delighted for him. He's been playing regularly so while there is mixed emotions to be leaving my home province I look at it as a great opportunity for a fresh start," he says.

"I've had a fantastic time here, made great friends, have had some great highs and some lows. But look, not many can say that they have pulled on a Leinster jersey at any level and I am very proud of that fact.

"For me, I'm looking forward to finishing the season as strongly as possible and taking it from there."

Irish Independent

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