Clohessy means business as Terenure eye final bid for AIL glory

Munster-born backrow relishing the opportunity of another tilt against champions Clontarf at the Aviva

Terenure's Luke Clohessy in action in the Energia Bateman Cup final against Buccaneers at Lakelands Park. 'I’m enjoying my rugby so much with Terenure I’m delighted I didn’t give it up.' Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

There is life after professional rugby.

Now 24, Luke Clohessy is having his best season ever with Terenure, his ball-carrying, passing skills and strength on both sides of the ball helping them to Sunday’s repeat Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A final against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3pm, live on TG4).

Back when he was 20, not long after playing three games for Ireland in the 2019 Under-20 World Cup in Argentina, Clohessy was released from the Munster sub-academy. As he acknowledges, his story is not unique.

“Like so many before me, I was let go. The one thing I can’t get over is that you’re called into an office and told there isn’t something there for you and that’s it. There’s no call maybe a week or a month or so down the line.

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“You have every hour of your day structured and pointed toward a goal, and then it’s gone. I found that tough to be honest.”

He continued playing for Shannon in that Covid-curtailed 2019-20 season before opting for a change of scenery in Dublin, having completed his Business degree at UL. But an accountancy job was postponed and having joined Terenure he was asked to do some coaching in the Terenure school.

“Within two weeks I realised that was the gig for me. I did a swift 180 and decided to do a Masters in teaching.”

He is now teaching business and accounts, as well as P.E. classes, in the school, and has found his true calling and his club.

“Shannon was always my club and you grow up disliking South Dublin and Leinster as a whole, and my brother said to me: ‘Look, as South Dublin clubs go I think Terenure are made of the right stuff’. It just seemed like the right fit, and it has been.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d take to the club the way I have. They’ve been nothing but accommodating and they really are made of the right stuff.”

“To be brutally honest, I fell out of love with rugby for a little while, but I eat, sleep and breath it. I wasn’t going to throw my toys out of the pram and give it up for good. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t harbour dreams of playing professionally at some level but I’m enjoying my rugby so much with Terenure I’m delighted I didn’t give it up.”

Terenure's Luke Clohessy in action against Garryown at Lakelands Park. 'Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d take to the club the way I have. They’ve been nothing but accommodating.' Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

The youngest, by a gap of 14 years, from his three older siblings, Billy, Sarah and Kate, Clohessy describes himself as a happy accident.

Whereas they were born in Limerick, Clohessy grew up in Cratloe.

“I’m the only Clare supporter in the family.”

He played some underage rugby in Queensland – “I’m a dry track pony,” – and describes his brother as “a silky outhalf and fullback” who struggled to adapt from those Queensland pitches and running it from everywhere to muddy Coonagh and being told to kick the leather off the ball.

While his father had played soccer with Wembley Rovers, Clohessy played mostly hurling and football until taking up rugby in Ardscoil Rís, “and absolutely fell in love with it”.

He sat beside, and played alongside, Craig Casey before repeating his Leaving Cert in Roscrea, where Michael Milne and Josh Wycherely were team-mates, as all three would be in the Under-20 World Cup.

Alas, he was prevented from playing Senior Cup rugby for Roscrea by the rule whereby a player had to be in his second year with a school to be eligible.

“My year was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I hadn’t been approached. I wasn’t given a scholarship. The boarding suited me to repeat my Leaving. There were 13 of us ineligible to play. We all re-appealed and threatened High Court action, and out of the 13 cases 12 were approved – just not mine unfortunately.”

Ultimately, while his career didn’t pan out as he’d dreamed, Clohessy admits this has been his most enjoyable season, culminating in his second game in the Aviva, and between the best two club sides in the country for the last two seasons.

“It’s all you want. The occasion probably got ahead of us a small bit last year whereas this year we know what to expect and we’re there to do a job. So, whatever happens, happens, and we’ll celebrate appropriately afterwards. But this year it’s strictly business.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times