Inspirational Swift comfortable with rising expectations
GAVIN CUMMISKEYtalks to the 34-year-old Londoner-Irishman who encapsulates the spirit evident in Connacht
THERE WASN’T nearly enough of Michael Swift talking about his “undying will to succeed” in last night’s TG4 documentary about Connacht rugby so we sought out the big man ourselves.
The 34-year-old Londoner of Irish parents has been an ever- present warrior in the western province’s constant struggle these past 13 seasons.
After the recent battering they gave Leinster at the Sportsground, The Irish Times columnist Liam Toland summed up just how important the big lock is to the cause: “It started with Michael Swift hunting down and then smashing Fionn Carr as Connacht poured over the carcass . . . Swift went on to make a monumental 22 tackles.”
There is another moment in the documentary, charting Connacht’s entry into the Heineken Cup last season that tells us even more about the man. We are in the huddle on The Stoop pitch after defeat to Harlequins in round one when a devastated Eric Elwood simply runs out of words.
“I am proud of you, the effort was f***ing immense, unfortunately we got nothing. It’s disappointing but . . . I dunno . . .”
The coach was welling up, dangling in the loneliest of winds when an English accent breaks the silence. “Next week boys,” said Swift. “That’s our first f***ing home game and we need to raise it again. You think this is acceptable? It’s not now. We’ve set a f***ing bar now. Next week we f***ing raise it. We turn up on Monday with our heads held high knowing we’ve got a job to do on Saturday. Now it’s the next biggest game in Connacht’s history and we will turn up and we will f***ing win . . . ”
They did turn up but so did the mighty Toulouse. It got worse. In Gloucester they coughed up a winning position at the death before, finally, ruining Harlequins’ aspirations of reaching the quarter-final in round six. Of course, that was on a wet, miserable night in Galway.
“I wouldn’t be the biggest talker in the squad,” Swift assured us. “I talk when I need to. The likes of Eric, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor and Gavin Duffy are the vocal leaders. Just watching the documentary, I seemed to have a flare up after the first Harlequins game! When I do talk I try to make a good impact. I just hope people take on board what I have to say.”
Swift sees the benefit of last night’s programme as two-fold.
“What’s good about it is people just see the result, they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. They don’t see how committed people like Eric are to the cause.
“Hopefully people will have seen the documentary and it might have stirred some memories and it will get a few more through the turnstiles for Harlequins’ return visit next week.”
It was current Quins head coach John Kingston who brought Swift to Galwegians in 2000.