Former Ireland rugby fullback Gavin Duffy back training with Mayo
Connacht player could be set for dramatic return to Gaelic football
Connacht’s Gavin Duffy in action against Munster’s Doug Howlett. Duffy is training with the Mayo senior football squad. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland rugby international Gavin Duffy trained with the Mayo senior football panel on Tuesday night and is set to make a dramatic return to Gaelic football after a 15-year hiatus.
Part of the minor side that lost the 1999 All-Ireland final to Down, the 32-year-old Ballina native was recently released by Connacht after a 13 year professional rugby career that included three seasons with Harlequins (2003-06) in London and 10 Ireland caps. The last was won on the 2009 North American tour against the USA.
“The Mayo County Board can tonight confirm that former Connacht rugby captain Gavin Duffy has joined up with the Mayo senior football squad,” read an official release.
“Gavin was invited down to join up with the squad for a couple of weeks where the management will have a look at him to see where he is at,” said Mayo manager James Horan who added that Duffy is a “professional athlete who brings great leadership and a presence.”
The statement continued: “Gavin has always claimed that we would love to play with his county. The county board are delighted to see a player of the calibre of Duffy linked with Mayo and hopefully will remain a permanent presence in the senior football setup.”
Duffy publicly expressed disappointment when denied an extension to his provincial contract as Connacht coach Pat Lam instead opted to sign former All Black fullback Mils Muliaina, 33, on a one-year-deal
Duffy had been struggling with injury, while Robbie Henshaw, a Westmeath minor footballer, nailed down Connacht’s number 15 jersey in recent seasons, even though Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is keen to see Henshaw permanently switch to outside centre and ideally evolve into Brian O’Driscoll’s natural heir.
It’s unclear what position Duffy would be suited to in football but as a minor he famously curbed the influence of Galway’s Joe Bergin in midfield.
Alan Dillon is the only other player from the ’99 minors still involved with the senior Mayo panel.
Perhaps the most famous footballer to go the other way was Meath’s David Beggy, who had a respectable club career with Blackrock College.