Billy Dardis keen to make Olympic experience even better in Paris

‘Instead of qualifying, we want to push on and win a medal. That’s the goal from here’

Billy Dardis combines his Sevens rugby with work as a strategy consultant. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Billy Dardis combines his Sevens rugby with work as a strategy consultant. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The Tokyo Olympics whetted the appetite and even though captain Billy Dardis and his Ireland Sevens team-mates were unable to properly represent the talent within the group in terms of results, it fostered a resolve to build again towards Paris 2024.

There will be a few faces missing, Foster Horan, Greg O’Shea and Adam Leavy have left to take the corporate shilling, Harry McNulty is in America while Ian Fitzpatrick is trying to sidestep injury, but a cohort of experience remains, including marquee names like Jordan Conroy and Terry Kennedy.

The very nature of Sevens rugby is transitory in personnel terms, a revolving door that never stops spinning. It’s not so long ago that Dardis shared a dressingroom and some great times with Hugo Keenan, Robert Baloucoune and Nick Timoney, all three of whom have been conspicuously repatriated to the 15-a-side game and are in Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad for November Test matches.

Looking back on Tokyo, the 26-year-old said “was incredibly frustrating, a real bitter pill to swallow”, and that qualifying in Monaco a little over a month before the Games left a physical and mental toll.

“I just think with the qualifying tournament being so close it didn’t really help. Seeing the likes of the rowers and Kellie Harrington and people like that doing well, and mixing with that, it’s just so motivating to see how hard these people work and how much it meant to them to win a medal at the Olympic Games.

“Now being an Olympian, it’s just a title but it is pretty cool and something to look back on,” added Dardis at the launch of Allianz’s three-year partnership with the with the Olympic Federation of Ireland. “I’ve a lot of great memories from what is the best week of my sporting career, but I think it has only motivated me to want more in rugby, on and off the pitch. That lit a fire inside of all of us. Instead of qualifying, we want to push on and win a medal. That’s the goal from here.”

Billy Dardis walks off the pitch after the game against Kenya at the Tokyo Olympics. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Billy Dardis walks off the pitch after the game against Kenya at the Tokyo Olympics. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dardis is content to split his time between Sevens rugby and the corporate world, now that he’s completed a master’s in management consultancy. “Considering the contracts in Sevens, it’s [important to have] a dual career, similar to the GAA in that we train and we work part-time alongside it.

“I’ve been working three days a week with Bearing Point as a strategy consultant. It has been an interesting balance. There’s still a few teething problems around training, trying to get the schedule right. It just means that I can continue building that career, so that when I do finish rugby someday I can slide into a job, a good paying job at a good level; that I’ve built up enough experience for that.”

The exodus of players invariably means some new faces are parachuted into the Ireland Sevens squad. “Conor Phillips has been fantastic. He seems like he is the next Jordan Conroy to be fair; same personality, similar kind of speed. Then Shane Jennings [is] like a young Robbie Henshaw, he seems to have it all. He’s quite a naturally good footballer.”

There is another young Munster back that has caught his eye. “Jack Crowley came into the system last year, around about March or April time, and he is such a good footballer and rugby player that you’re thinking ‘he’s not going to spend much time here’. This is just a holding camp for him to work on his fitness, his skills and stuff like that, before he goes back to Munster and makes an impact.

“I know he hasn’t had too much game time there yet but he is someone who, when he came into the system, you knew he would make such a big impact on Irish rugby that this was a short-term thing.”

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