Monday 16 September 2019

The Big Interview: Jordan Coghlan - 'I miss the Leinster lads but I'm a lot happier down here'

Latest man to switch from blue to red hoping backline skills can help in push for back-row berth

Jordan Coghlan
Jordan Coghlan

Daragh Small

There's no room for sentiment in professional sport - the Munster and Leinster rivalry is arguably the biggest on these shores, but the divide has been diluted.

Felix Jones was the first big name to swap blue for red in 2009, Andrew Conway followed suit four years later and Jordan Coghlan is the latest to make that move.

The 22-year-old back-row has made Limerick his home now, and despite four years in the Leinster academy, he already feels accustomed to the Munster way.

In Castletroy, Coghlan lives with Matt D'Arcy and Conor Oliver - three Dubliners who now don the Munster jersey.

Coghlan grew up in Raheny, beside Clontarf; he played rugby for his local club, and he also took up cricket there.

"I have known Matt since I was six - growing up and playing rugby with him. I played cricket with him as well, so it was pretty funny how it worked out," says Coghlan.

"I played rugby for Clontarf, pretty much until finishing school. Then I played with UCD when I left Clongowes.

"I had to give up cricket when I was in fifth year in school. I had a few offers from counties in England with academy contracts. I was mad for it, but once the Leinster academy chance came up, I thought I would give it a go.

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"Cricket is getting bigger every year in Ireland, especially with the World Cup. More kids are getting into it and hopefully it will get better."

Coghlan is only starting out on his professional rugby career, and he says Conway has been a great influence, especially with the switch south

Coghlan lives near Conway and Dave Kilcoyne, and that has helped ease him into the Munster set-up.

"Andrew rang me once I was coming down. He just let me know that if I needed anything to come and chat to him. It was just a chat, but it was a massive help having a few Leinster lads here," he says.

"I trained with Conway in Leinster, he was there for about two years while I was in the Leinster academy and left in the last year I was there - I knew him well.

"And I knew a few of the other lads from the Irish U-20s - Niall Scannell, Shane Buckley and those guys.


"I miss the Leinster lads - my best pals. But I wouldn't say I miss the set-up really. I am more at home down here, being in the squad. I am definitely a lot happier here to be honest."

Coghlan has just two replacement appearances in the Pro12, and they have come three years apart.

However after successive injuries he feels in much better shape now, and ready to make a name for himself as part of Anthony Foley's team.

He came on in the final ten minutes of Munster's brilliant away victory over Ospreys last month, and can't wait for his next opportunity.

"I had my first cap here recently and I have been in and out of the squad week in week out. So I am delighted with it.

"I did really well in all of my scores during pre-season. Your first impression is a huge impression so I was happy with the way pre-season went. I played all of the three games.

"I wanted to stand out during pre-season. I am usually good running and fitness-wise. I knew if I just did my thing I would come out of it reasonably well. I didn't set any fitness goals. I just wanted to impress the coaches - that was my only goal."

Coghlan has only had a few months to showcase his talents, but after a successful surgery on his shoulder, while he was with Leinster he has a lot to offer the Munster back-row.

Paddy Butler and Sean Dougall, both exited prior to his arrival but the back-row battle has never been so fierce.

Dave O'Callaghan's performances have been the highlight, while CJ Stander will look to build on a superb season last term. And last season's Greencore Academy Player of the Year Jack O'Donoghue is a rising star.

But Coghlan is supremely confident about what lies ahead - he has the added versatility of being able to revert to the backline.

"If Munster needed me in the centre I would play there, but I am happy now sticking to the back-row. Saying all that, I have taken a lot from being in the centre," he says.

"My handling skills and my footwork have all upgraded hugely, which I am thankful about. If there is ever any injury during a game, at least Axel (Foley) knows I can slot into the backs.

"Hopefully it's a bit of a plus for me. I wouldn't say I would go back there. But if there is an opportunity to wear the jersey in the centre I will take it.

"But it's great having a fresh start. It's all about meeting a new bunch of lads who I call my mates now, and a new coaching staff. It is a breath of fresh air.

"You are able to express yourself more. The coaches don't really know that much about you. You have every opportunity to do your thing, and try and get them on your side, and hopefully get a spot in the team.

"There's great competition, in a young back-row. Hopefully with the World Cup lads away there is more of a chance for me now. So it's all about trying to nail down a position.

"I'm trying to push to get that starting spot."

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