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Getting To Know Liam O’Connor

2nd February 2016 By Munster Rugby

We get to know front-row forward Liam O’Connor, who, in his first year with the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, became the eleventh player to make his senior competitive debut for the province this season.

We get to know front-row forward Liam O’Connor, who, in his first year with the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, became the eleventh player to make his senior competitive debut for the province this season.

Taking up rugby at the age of 8 with Dolphin RFC, the talented and versatile young sportsman also excelled at GAA, playing initially with Delaneys before moving to St Nicks, where, at just 16-years-old and as their goalkeeper, he took part in the Cork Senior Football Championship.

Continuing with rugby while attending Christian Brothers College, Cork, it was his exploits in the Schools game that put him on the radar of provincial and international age-grade rugby. Representing Munster U18 Schools, ‘Boomer’, as he’s affectionately known by his peers, also lined out for both province and country at U19 and U20.

Focusing solely on rugby since joining the Munster sub-academy ranks in the summer of 2014, O’Connor is appreciative of his GAA skillset in the looser elements of the game, and this coupled with solid set-piece play has seen the young loosehead make immediate inroads in the professional game.

“GAA really stood to me in the skills part of rugby, especially my handling. Like lots of props I fancied myself as a number 8 when I first started but I was slowly pushed up to the front row.

“I came in last year into the sub-academy but I was lucky to enough to train a lot with the seniors because of injuries and then I got the opportunity to play Munster ‘A’ games in the British and Irish Cup. To go straight from Schools to ‘A’ games was a big step up but it was wonderful experience and stood to me very well.

“Playing in the AIL (with Cork Constitution) has been really important too. In the B&I Cup and ‘A’ interprovincials you are often playing alongside and against young guys like myself, but in AIL there are guys there with massive experience and you learn a lot from how they play the game.

“As well as the AIL, playing the Bateman Cup final was only my second start with the Cork Con seniors and playing in any final brings a different type of pressure. Everything has to be right, there can be no mistakes, and when you play in situations like that it prepares you for other pressure situations down the line.”

Such ‘pressure situations’ came to pass when the Cork-man received a late call up to Word Rugby U20 Championship in June, while as recently as last month, Munster Head Coach Anthony Foley included the 20 year old in his first senior matchday squad as Munster welcomed reigning French Top 14 champions Stade Francais to Thomond Park for Round 5 of the European Champions Cup.

“We had a pool decider against New Zealand in the Junior World Cup last year. Whoever won went through to the semi-final. It was a big occasion with big crowds and a lot of talk about it. I was able to draw on that experience in preparing for the Stade Francais game.

“I remember watching Sergio Parisse as a kid. My Dad also loved watching him on the TV and to be named in a team against him was hard to believe. I was excited at first but then as the game got closer, going to Limerick for the team run on the Friday, I started to get nervous and of course there was loads of people on to me as well which didn’t help either. I did appreciate all the good wishes, but just in that moment, I guess I was feeling the pressure.

“But once I got to the stadium on Saturday and took part in the warm-up, everything calmed down and I took it like any other game. At that stage you concentrate on your job and forget about everything else that’s going on around you.

“I know I only came on for four or five minutes but it was the experience of that kind of occasion and the intensity around the dressing room that will give me confidence into the future.

“It wasn’t just the intensity with the team, but the intensity in the crowd, people expected a good performance and thankfully we delivered that. The atmosphere was crazy, nothing like I had ever experienced before and my family and friends thought it was excellent – it was a good day all round.”

As regards his plans and hopes from here, O’Connor is firmly, and wisely, taking it one step at a time.

“Keep my head down, keep playing AIL with Con, hopefully get some more B&I Cup games, continue to prove myself and we’ll take it from there.”

Name: Liam O’Connor

Favourite Food: Steak and sweet potato

Book you are currently reading or have just finished: Steven Gerrard autobiography

Favourite TV programme: League Of Their Own

Favourite Film: The Shawshank Redemption

Favourite Actor/Actress: Liam Neeson

Most enjoyable holiday location: France

Marooned on a desert island what could you not be without: My phone

Favourite sport other than rugby: Soccer

The sport you least like: Cricket

Person you would most like to meet: James Corden

Sportsperson you admire most: Didier Drogba

Hobbies: Music and swimming

Where and when did you first play rugby: Dolphin U8s

Biggest influence on career: My father

Best career advice you were given: Be ruthless on the pitch

What you like most/least about being a rugby player: Most like the buzz of game day / Least like the early morning starts

Other sports that you played: Soccer, hurling and football

Best rugby memory: Winning the Bateman Cup with Cork Con

Rugby player you admire most: Richie McCaw

Rugby team you admire most: New Zealand

Sporting event you would most like to attend: Champions League Final

Two people you would invite to dinner and why: James Corden and Jack Whitehall for the laugh!

If you weren’t a rugby player what would you be: A soccer player hopefully

Place in the province you most like be / chill out: You can’t beat home!

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