Inspirational Swift comfortable with rising expectations
“John knew me from my Richmond days and he knew my parents were Irish. The initial plan was to come over and enjoy the west of Ireland for a couple of years. I was brought up in London so it is a world apart.
“I remember arriving and Mervyn Murphy was the first person to welcome me – Merv of course is involved with Ireland now – and show me the ropes.
“I don’t remember my first night in Galway. The next day the lads took me for a walk along the promenade in Salthill and from then onwards I fell in love with the place. It is a gorgeous part of the world, slightly windy and wet, but Connacht and Galway people are a very proud bunch. It is such a privilege to be welcomed into that family. Especially coming here with such a strong English accent. They took a while to warm to me but it is home now.”
What’s changed in Connacht since 2000?
“I remember turning up at my first ever session and there was about 15 players. It was an eye- opener. Eric was a player back then and he was shouting abuse at people for not turning up for training. It’s like comparing chalk and cheese to nowadays. Look at the players we have brought in this season like Dan Parks and Nathan White. We have had a strong 15 for the last few years if not a 22 or 23. The Heineken Cup games take huge toll on the bodies so we need a strong core to compete. That’s what has improved but we do need to keep building the depth of our squad.”
The formation of a Professional Game Board and arrival of new chief executive Tom Sears has improved facilities, but what needs to happen next?
“In the Rabo we finished eighth last year. Top six is our goal. In the Heineken we managed to get that win over Harlequins but this year there are no surprises, people expect more from us and so do we.”
Another comment by Swift in The West’s Awake perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a rugby player who is paid weekly a fraction of what other top professional sportsmen earn.
“In order to put my body on the line week in, week out, it’s not for financial gain. It’s got to mean something to me personally.
“And for me it comes from the supporters. They may not see the pain we go through but every time we walk onto the pitch we carry that expectation. When you can look your friend in the eye, knowing you have given 100 per cent, and knowing you have carried the burden of expectation of all the supporters then you can’t ask any more than that.”