Eoin Reddan feels lucky to be in such a privileged place
Scrumhalf remains articulate, engaging and interesting as ever as he prepares to face Argentina
Eoin Reddan training with the Irish squad at the Universitario Rugby Club in Tucumán as they prepare for today’s second Test.
It was Sunday, November 24th, which absolutely confirmed to Eoin Reddan that he was in a good place. It was the day that Ireland played the All Blacks, and he had been left out of the match-day squad after starting against Australia. So Reddan returned to Leinster for the week and played away to Treviso the same Sunday.
He describes the skill level and intensity of the week’s training as “incredible”, and Leinster won 21-20. Despite missing out on the epic with New Zealand, he enjoyed that week thoroughly. “They’re the moments you know you’re in a good place and a good country. I don’t think many clubs could be missing that many players and the environment is still vibrant.”
Speaking for a good 40 minutes in the courtyard of the squad’s hotel complex on Thursday evening, Reddan remains as articulate, engaging and interesting as ever.
At 33, he reckons he’s had his best season with Leinster since returning to Ireland from Wasps in 2009. Mentally, he says, the game becomes easier. “You tend to make better decisions the more you’re exposed to them. Building a bit of tempo into the game has come easier the more I’ve played. You have to build it.”
Gym workBut at his age gym work and staying strong is key, and a broken leg last season, ironically, gave him a lengthy lay-off from which he returned fitter than ever. Matt O’Connor’s arrival at Leinster to supplement Joe Schmidt with Ireland has given him a great mix.
“Matt has worked with scrumhalves like George Gregan and Ben Youngs in the past, and I think I’ve got two pretty good coaches now. I’m not stupid. You’ve got to appreciate your surroundings. I’m enjoying it but I’m aware that I’m lucky to be in such a good club and such a good country.”
Like others such as Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, Reddan is a huge fan of the Leinster coach. He cites the example of the Pro12 final against Glasgow. Leinster’s defence has improved under O’Connor, and in readying themselves for Glasgow’s offloading game he took training a step further by then working off the ensuing turnovers. “Two of our four tries came from turnovers.”
Meanwhile, Reddan remains as enthused as ever by Schmidt. “There are absolutely no grey areas in terms of what he wants so no one will ever be scratching their heads wondering why they haven’t been picked. They know. There’s no mystery to it. People know exactly what’s expected of them, 100 per cent.”
By contrastThis season he has played 22 games for Leinster, 17 from the start. By contrast, today’s second Test marks his only his second start for Ireland since the scrum debacle against England in the Six Nations finale of 2012.
His trademark speed to the breakdown and that rapid-fire service is as sharp as ever too, if not sharper, and backed by O’Connor to be a decision maker, he’s converting a higher percentage of snipes into breaks, all of which underlines his continuing value to the Leinster and Irish set-ups.
Yet 11 of his last 12 caps have been off the bench. “I’m a big believer in my role and whatever I’m selected to do that week, and I really zone in on what I’m doing,” he reasons. “If you treat that properly it runs right through the squad. Everybody does it, and it serves a very important purpose.”
His new role for Ireland, as it were, began during the World Cup when Conor Murray supplanted him for the quarter-final against Wales. Now that still rankles. “I don’t know what happened for Declan (Kidney) to change the team. In the game I started, against Australia in the World Cup, we won and yet he did change the team. Things like that frustrate me. Obviously I still don’t understand that, but I’d be really out of the moment if I go and think about those things.”
Reddan, ala D’Arcy, has signed a one-year deal until the end of next season, but wants to stay on until the World Cup and beyond. He denies rumours that he turned down more lucrative offers abroad. “I was keen to stay, and I didn’t want to be yanking anyone’s chain either. I certainly didn’t lead anyone down the garden path. I’m blessed to be involved in two of the best set-ups there could be and I would envisage playing beyond that.”
With life beyond rugby in mind, Reddan is doing a Masters in Financial Services, and has completed seven of nine modules. He’s also heavily on the board of the Irish Youth Foundation, and in addition to their two-year-old daughter Evie, his wife Aoife (who is a primary teacher in John Scottus School) is expecting again in August.
Staying in rugbyThe thought of staying in rugby also appeals to him. “I’d be thinking more about the organisation of it. I’ve strong beliefs about Irish rugby. I think we could be massive, I really do. Some of our stuff is massively under-rated,” he says, particularly with regard to how the media, and especially television, rubbish what he regards as good, hard Pro12 games not shy of Heineken Cup standards, to the watching audience, sponsors et al.
“I think there’s a great chance at the moment for the players and the Union to be ‘a we’, because you steal a big march on England, Wales, Scotland, Italy; on everyone if you do that. That requires buy-in from everyone and that’s happening already. There have been huge strides between IRUPA and the IRFU.”
Specifically Reddan highlights sponsorship and spreading the game further, and adds: “I’m interested in how teams work on the pitch as well. I think it’s fascinating seeing how we’ve operated under pressure and learned over the years, and all that kind of stuff.”
Reddan also remains very close friends with his four brothers. Donal, the eldest, is a doctor in Galway. Alan (who has his own web design company Silverarms Solutions) and Diarmaid (who took over their father’s business Don Reddan Insurance Ltd), like Eoin, played for Connacht and Munster, and his younger brother Cian, retired early and now works for a bank in New York.
He attributes their positive outlook to his mum, Geraldine, who passed away five years ago after four years battling cancer. “She was very positive and I’d try to think like her.
“I’m incredibly proud of her. The day she passed away, I felt she’d done more than a mother ever could, and it was over to me now. If she’d stayed healthy and lived to 150 she couldn’t have given me more.
“I was blown away by it and I try and live it. My dad since then has been incredible. They’re similar.”