Sunday 21 July 2019

No regrets for Hawkshaw as he opts for rugby over hurling

David Hawkshaw has absolutely no regrets swapping his sliotar for a rugby ball. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
David Hawkshaw has absolutely no regrets swapping his sliotar for a rugby ball. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Less than three years on from being part of a full-back line attempting to nullify the threat of last season's young hurler of the year, David Hawkshaw is now set to captain his country for the upcoming U-20s Six Nations.

Dublin came up short against a Kyle Hayes-inspired Limerick that day as the Treaty County marched on to the 2016 All-Ireland minor hurling final.

Hawkshaw started corner-back at Croke Park and while it seemed like he might opt to go down the hurling route, as soon as he began to make a name for himself in schools rugby, there was always going to be just one outcome.

A two-time Senior Cup winner with a Belvedere College team that included Hugh O'Sullivan, who made his Champions Cup debut for Leinster last weekend, Hawkshaw was marked out as someone with big potential from an early age.

Focus An excellent out-half during his school days, he has since turned his focus to inside centre, where he is likely to start for Ireland in their Six Nations opener against England in Irish Independent Park on Friday week.

Like most youngsters growing up, Hawkshaw juggled several sports until it came to a point where he had to focus on one or the other. When that time eventually arrived, even at a such a young age, he was mature enough to take stock of the bigger picture.

"I would have thought of that (making a living) in making the decision," Hawkshaw admits.

"It was hard to let go of the hurling as well but at the end of the day the decision had to made.

"I played a bit with St Brigid's and was lucky enough to be selected with the Dublin minors as well. I have stopped playing it now.

"I played a championship game October two years ago against Cuala in a championship quarter-final, which we unfortunately lost by four points.

"I think I came on in midfield. I was on David Treacy for a bit but I was taken off him pretty swiftly. He was doing a job on me.

"It was tough but I was passionate and I loved both sports.

"I had a few of the GAA coaches to thank a lot, the likes of Keith Barr, Johnny McGuirk, two past Dublin players, they put a lot of work into me in previous years and that helped me a lot with the rugby.

"It was busy enough but I loved it. It was very easy to go to the sessions and play games when you were enjoying going to them. The body would have been a bit sore by the end of the week."

Having taken up rugby at under-age level with Coolmine RFC, Hawkshaw quickly moved through the ranks in Belvedere before he went on to play for Clontarf in the All-Ireland League and with Leinster in the Celtic Cup.

Combining the skills required for both sports has helped his development, as he explains: "Little things like movement, the pace off the mark, little things like that. The aggression would be a big thing. I would like to say I have a bit in me.

"I think it was more, you are playing different games and you are learning a lot the whole way. It was more of learning process for me for playing the both of them especially in the later years.

"Rugby was always something that I loved playing since my first few days down in Coolmine. It was something that I always loved.

"Watching my older brother, he is a few years ahead of me now, in Belvedere. It was something that I was always very passionate about and always something I wanted to give my best shot in."

Hawkshaw's aim now is to impress enough for Ireland during the Six Nations that he will follow his former schoolmate O'Sullivan into the senior ranks at Leinster.

"Hugh is different class in a way in that he is always someone I would have looked up to since he came into first year once I got to know him," he adds.

"His attitude to the game and the way he conducts himself is just top class.

"He deserves it; he's been absolutely flying this year and had a great year last year with the 20s. There is always someone there that you want to chase and I'm just delighted to see him up there."

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