Evan Mintern still weighing up the pros but Con and college the focus just now

Former Ireland U20 secondrow is looking forward to the Cork club’s AIL title defence

It's a long way from Temple Hill to Kobe in Japan but in a rugby sense there are ties that bind the two venues this week. Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan and Andrew Porter are part of the Ireland squad at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, although only the latter will have any involvement in the third pool match against Russia on Thursday morning.

On Saturday, a former team-mate, Evan Mintern – all were members of the Irish squad that reached the 2016 Under-20 World Junior Championship final – will line out for Cork Constitution as they begin the defence of the All-Ireland League Division One title at home to Garryowen.

The 23-year-old secondrow has previously played for Munster A but his rugby in recent seasons has largely been confined to Con – he did play for the Ireland Clubs team – as he looks to complete his studies in nutrition and health science at the Cork Institute of Technology.

He hasn’t abandoned the dream of playing professional rugby but he’s working within the parameters of his priorities. Mintern explained: “I’m strictly playing with Con. I do have ambitions to go abroad, or play in France or England. At the moment, I’m just focusing on Con, playing as well as I can, doing as much as I can for the club.

READ MORE

“In the back of mind, I’m thinking ‘I would like to just over and see what it is like’ take a chance, go over for a few years. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. If it does, it does. Finish my college degree in nutrition and health science, in CIT. I’ve a year left.

“I love playing with Con. It’s not that I want to get out of there or anything, but I’m 23. Obviously that’s not old but, for pro clubs looking at you, they want to get bang for their buck. You have to be young, so they can get five, six years out of you.”

He hopes to have an agent secured by next month at the latest, compile some footage and see if there is any interest in securing his services from next season. He is also pretty philosophical about what the future may or may not hold from a rugby perspective. “If I got old and I didn’t even try it [professional rugby], it’s something that would really annoy me.

“Whereas if you try and fail, what’s the big deal? At least you tried. But I feel there is more in me and I could move on and give it a crack; there’s nothing to lose really as long as I’ve a college degree to fall back on.”

He’s worn a Con jersey from the age of four and apart from a brief sabbatical when rugby in CBC Cork demanded primacy during the Junior and Senior Cup cycles, the club has been the focal point in that aspect of his life.

Con have lost "seven or eight" players from last year's squad but will be able to call upon Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winners Seán French and Jonathan Wren, while Mintern also singles out players like Ross O'Neill and Dave Hyland, adding "everyone is replaceable; the wheels keeps turning and you move on".

Brian Hickey will once again run a practiced eye over the squad as head coach but there will be a change in the backroom team. Paul Barr has moved on. Mintern explained: "It was Paul Barr brought that [a more expansive style] in. Everyone knows we're a big pack, we can bash up around the corner [but] when we play Lansdowne, Clontarf they can handle that. Barr came in and we played a much more expansive brand of rugby, with a blend of that ability to dog it out as well

“Paul Barr is gone this year, but we’re still trying to keep as much of his way as possible and Jonny Holland’s there and we’re adding to it.”