Jordan Conroy can help speed Ireland to new Sevens heights
‘We showed we can compete with the big guys’ says exciting Buccaneers winger
Ireland’s Jordan Conroy runs in a try against England in bronze medal game at the the HSBC London Sevens at Twickenham. Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Inpho
Jordan Conroy left an indelible mark on the London Sevens at Twickenham as part of an Ireland squad that produced a series of exceptional performances as an Invitational side to finish third in the Cup competition.
Eight tries, including a hat-trick in the 21-19 bronze medal victory over hosts England, and one of two Ireland players, alongside Mark Roche, to be included in the team of the tournament, the 24-year-old Buccaneers’ wing commandeered the headlines in spectacular fashion.
His tally saw him finish at the top of the tournament try-scoring charts alongside some luminaries in Sevens rugby, Carlin Isles (USA), Dan Norton (England) and Collins Ingera (Kenya), a highlights reel that contained exceptional individual finishes against Australia, the winning try against England and in winning a footrace against Isles – the American has run 10.2 for the 100-metres – that spawned an amusing twitter exchange between Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan and the USA speedster.
Not bad for a player who only took up rugby aged 18. His performances in a tag rugby tournament at Tullamore RFC, prompted the then club captain Ivor Scully, to coax him down to pre-season training. He spent four years with the Offaly club and in his last season was scouted for the Ireland Sevens programme, in the process receiving a rugby scholarship to Athlone IT and moving to Buccaneers.
In his first season with Buccaneers, he scored 18 tries in 15 matches, as they won promotion to the Ulster Bank League Division 1A. This season injury and his Ireland Sevens commitment limited him to just three matches in the 15-a-side sibling.
Waiting to catch the Eurostar train from London to Paris, where Ireland compete again as an Invitational side again amongst the world’s elite next weekend, he filled in some background detail.
“I never thought I would play rugby at this level. I was a massive soccer head. The soccer kind of finished up when I was 18 and I just planned on going to college.
“I played for St Francis (Athlone) in soccer at Under-17 and Under-18 and then Athlone Town Under-19, where we won two cups. It fell through at that age when we all got dropped for the first team. That’s when I got into rugby.”
However neither soccer nor rugby was his first sporting passion.
“I started athletics when I was seven-years-old in Germany, then when I moved over here I continued to do athletics, winning numerous All Ireland medals in the sprinting, long jumping and hurdles. I finished up with athletics at 14 to go into soccer so I do have an athletics background.
“Mum is Irish. She lived in Germany at the time, that’s the connection there. She’s from Offaly and my dad is French, from Paris. When I was 10 mum wanted to move back to family and that’s how I got here.”
He’s never been timed for the 100-metres and it was in his early teenage years since he last ran one but he was clocked at 36-kilometres-per-hour in eluding Isles. Ireland’s performances earned them respect, Conroy explaining that Fiji, tournament winners and conquerors of the Ireland team in the semi-final, were both friendly and complimentary.
“All-in-all it was an amazing experience, unbelievable. It is a moment all of us will not forget. It is an honour to play at Twickenham with the bunch of lads we had there in the green jersey. To be able to perform the way we did is really promising for the future.
“It just goes to show that all the hard work we put in that’s not seen, finally paid off and put Irish Sevens on the map. We showed we can compete with the big guys; there are exciting times ahead.”
The Ireland Men and Women Sevens teams will compete at the World Cup in San Francisco in late July but the priority for Conroy and his team-mates will be to win the European Grand Prix Sevens Series – they won the opening tournament in Moscow – and in doing so get another crack at the Repechage tournament in Hong Kong in 2019.
Ireland were beaten in the semi-final by Japan, who went on to win the tournament outright and in doing so qualify to play in the elite Sevens World Series. His priority is the Sevens game but he won’t close of any avenues.
“Coming from a 15s background, if the opportunity arises who knows? I am the kind of person that has to focus on one thing. Right now it is the Sevens and I want to give 110 per cent to that, to excel in it as much as I can. If the 15s come calling, if they think I am good enough, and they want me, I’ll happily play 15s.”
He’s been tagged now and will be a marked man in Paris but there is still a day or two to enjoy the afterglow of London, and he’ll have a handful of new teammates too, as Anthony Eddy freshens up the Irish squad to give other players the chance to experience the elite level.