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Cork Con’s James Taylor: ‘To win the AIL would cap everything off in my rugby-playing career so far’

The influential Cork Constitution outhalf looks forward to Sunday’s All-Ireland League final against Terenure and discusses the path he has taken, and one road he did not go down

One of the main reasons, and perhaps even the main one, that Terenure will be wary of Cork Constitution in next Sunday’s Energia All-Ireland League final at the Aviva Stadium (4pm) is the presence of James Taylor. When Terenure won 26-23 in Temple Hill a month ago Taylor was sidelined, and Con are a different team with him.

The classy 25-year-old is a slightly old school 10, with a lovely array of passes, an eye for a break and strong goal-kicking skill. He has taken seamlessly to life in his first season with Con and is the division’s second highest points scorer with 158 so far.

Taylor also marches to his own beat and preferred to focus on his four-year Finance degree in UCC than investing full-time in rugby. But after productive stints with UCC and Highfield, his move to Con has paid off handsomely for player and club alike.

“Growing up, they were always the team in Cork,” says Taylor. “It’s a very professional set-up, all with the aim of getting Con back to an AIL final for the first time since 2019, which is a long time for Con. But there’s also a great culture there, and that makes it a very enjoyable place to play rugby. To win the AIL would cap everything off in my rugby-playing career so far.”


Taylor’s impact is no surprise, least of all to Terenure winger Conor Phillips, who was on the opposing wing when Taylor landed three penalties, including two from long-range, when CBC beat Crescent Comprehensive in the 2016 Munster Schools Senior Cup final at Musgrave Park.

“The last eight years have flown by,” admits Taylor, also noting that the two were team-mates for the Munster Under-18s. “That was a massive win because the school hadn’t won one for maybe seven years,” he estimates, correctly, “which is an eternity for Christians.”

Taylor’s dad, Barry, and uncle, Tony, had both played in Christians, and the latter had a long career with Dolphin. Taylor himself began playing mini rugby in Midleton and on leaving school a year later went to UCC.

He helped them win promotion to 1A for the first time in the club’s history in 2017-18 and also retain their status via the playoffs the following season, on foot of which he was the first recipient of UCC’s Moss Keane scholarship.

“All of Moss Keane’s family were there to present it so it was a nice occasion.”

This also helped Taylor complete his degree, which, the story goes, Taylor prioritised over pursuing a rugby career. Is that true?

“That’s not the first time that’s been posed to me! But I didn’t actually get a formal offer to join the academy,” says Taylor, who played for Munster Under-18s and 19s but initially didn’t make their Under-20s before those UCC campaigns reawakened interest.

“I got a call to go up to Limerick and train with the Under-20s. It wasn’t said, but this was maybe with a view to getting some kind of contract. I was in the middle of my course and on my placement at the time so it just didn’t really make sense for me to drop out of that and heading up to that with no real certainty about it.”

As events transpired, rugby stopped for 1½ years whereas he was able to do his exams online. “It was relatively uninterrupted.” When the AIL resumed in 2021 after he’d completed his degree, Taylor played for two seasons with Highfield in 1B, in part because his old school coach, Conor Quaid, and a familial aversion to Con.

“That had been instilled in me without me really knowing what Con is like as a club,” he says, chuckling.

But Aidan Moynihan’s move to Australia created an opening at outhalf for Con and after a phone call from Johnny Holland, Taylor made the switch he describes as “a no-brainer”. He now balances life between working in Deloitte, where he is doing a graduate programme in the tax department, and playing for Con.

“I don’t regret the choices I made. Sometimes there’d be matches on the telly where you think: ‘Oh, if I had kept going, where could I have gone to? But no, I don’t think I have any major regrets with the route that I went.”

Besides, he still has a good work/rugby balance.

“I owe a lot to rugby. If I didn’t have my Tuesday and Thursday night training sessions, and matches on Saturdays. I’d probably crack up. I still find it thoroughly enjoyable.”

And, potentially, next Sunday could be the most rewarding day so far.