Friday 16 November 2018

Offaly's Jordan Conroy chasing down Olympic dream after clocking 36kph to leave one of the fastest men in sport in his wake

Conroy: Speed machine. Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Conroy: Speed machine. Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire
David Kelly

David Kelly

Even when Jordan Conroy was a small boy, he freighted Olympian dreams.

At times, it seemed he couldn't get there quickly enough. Breaking records for fun.

As an 11-year-old, he ran the outdoor 60m in 8.54 secs. Two years later, he did it in 7.98 and timed 9.26 for the 60m hurdles. All three were then national records for his age. He was going places. Fast.

Except he never expected Twickenham to be one of the stations.

Or that the race he might win would come while he was holding an oval ball beneath his oxter as one of the fastest men in world sport trailed in his wake.

He clocked up 36kph when he bested Sevens superstar Carlin Isles last weekend; enough to earn him a couple of penalty points in Conroy's hometown of Tullamore.

Fair to say the 24-year-old Buccaneers man will remember his weekend in London.

"For me, I try to keep a cool head," the speedster says. "I tried not to worry about the names I was up against. Even at home, people were telling me I could do this.

"There were really fast men up against me. It was a big challenge for me, I felt pressure and it was a little overwhelming at the time. But once the games started, I stayed calm and did the things I did.

"The atmosphere and the whole stage was amazing and something we will probably never forget. It was just an unbelievable experience."

His athletic aspirations have long been on hold but his Olympic ambitions are not; now he dreams of playing rugby for Ireland there.

"The only reason I got tired of athletics was because it was a very lonely sport," he explains. "But it was my first real passion.

"If I'd stuck with it who knows? I could be on the Irish team but you can't worry about stuff like that. Things happen for a reason."

So he switched tack from track to field, his mum ferrying him devotedly to pursue his new sporting life; after being spotted playing tag rugby, he played with Tullamore for a few years.

"Then I went to Buccs and it sky-rocketed from there." He has yet to slow down.

He craves the "knitted family" of the team and this one, who won a bronze medal on Sunday, may have exploded on the global stage but this has been a long time coming.

And their race is not run yet.

Despite not being an established member of the main tour - like Paris this weekend, they were only extended a special invitation - Ireland's three-year existence in the shortened format has shown steady improvement.

In truth, they should already be amongst the big-hitters but a loss to Japan late last year resigned them to another year in the second tier, another Grand Prix event in Marcoussis this month is a more important French engagement for their development.

"That's very important for us, we need to finish strong in a couple of tournaments to secure our spot in Hong Kong next April to get on to the world stage off our own steam.

"London was a chance to show us if we could compete against the leading countries and now that we have finished third, it shows we can be contenders at the World Cup this summer and hopefully if we can make the world series demonstrate that we have the ability to win tournaments.

"We had a good mentality, we had the mindset we could win every game if we stick to our tactics and make our green lights. It gave us the assurance that if we stick to our systems, we can compete and succeed."

It's only three years since the IRFU were dragged kicking and screaming - chiefly by David Nucifora - into this brave new world.

Like many - Barry and Tom Daly, Dan Goggin, Adam Byrne - Conroy once aspired to the larger format; for now, this size fits snugly.

"It's a jam-packed schedule at the moment, that's my priority. And I always like to keep focused on the present.

"My main ambition is to wear a green jersey if that's sevens or fifteens. Right now, my head is in the Sevens. We've the World Cup and then the Olympics down the line.

"To even make it there would be an achievement, and to make a medal would be out of this world. There's so much that can be achieved.

"Who knows what the future holds in fifteens? I'd still be very open to it but personally the Sevens is where it's at for me now."

Blink and you'll miss him.

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