This is a recent blog piece on Modafix by Triona O’Donnell
Let me tell you about Conán.
The last time I felt this compelled to write was to express my love for Strandhill. It seems everywhere we turn lately, someone asks about our Conán and it’s heartwarming to know that you are all behind him, watching him on TV and genuinely delighted for him.
Unfortunately we’re not in a position to go see him play at every stadium across the water, but most recently we watched Him (COD IS GOD, after all) play at Donnybrook, where the Irish U20 side took on arch-nemesis, England. It was sheer joy entering the stadium. We travelled from London, Galway, Sligo and San Fran to see him! I saw faces in the crowd that I hadn’t seen since my primary school days; Family friends joined us to share the experience, as did Conán’s own #K4crew (a reliable brotherhood of Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré meets Kevinsfort – friends for life).
Personally, I found the game exhilarating. I’m no expert by any measure, but I was wide-eyed in disbelief with the talent on display, roaring and shouting (I’m my mother’s daughter. Now, if you haven’t heard Colette at a GAA or rugby match, be it on the telly or in the crowd, it’s worth a listen!) Everyone was talking about Ringrose. He was the one that impressed the most. With 5 minutes to go, I was still hopeful Ireland would get a try to secure the draw. Edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. The result was disappointing, but it was a fantastic display. Both the Irish and English teams had met their match that day.
The capping ceremony was something special, surrounded by family and his group of friends. Despite COD’s disappointment, he was in good spirits and grateful to everyone who came to support him. ‘He’s a character’, I overheard an onlooker chuckle as he was awarded his second cap for Ireland.
He celebrated that night with his team and although he was in Coppers til 5am, he was the first to arrive for brunch I had organised for 11am the following morning… everyone else arrived casually a half an hour late! Punctuality is not our forté.
Conán is never, ever in bad form. I wish we could all take a leaf out of His Bible. He seems to take everything in his stride and leaves the worries for another day. He goes to Mass every Sunday morning at 12:30 and lights three candles. One day I asked him: ‘Why three?’ And I’ll never forget his reply: ‘One for me, one for the family and one for everybody in the audience’.
Conán is actually the most modest fella you’ll meet. He has bag loads of Connacht rugby and Irish rugby gear and you’ll probably never see him wearing it outside the training camps. I don’t think he likes to draw attention, but how can he not with that distinct walk? It’s the same walk he walks on the rugby pitch. Most likely you’ll see him sport his trademark purple Flintstone T-shirt or the blue Spongebob one – both worn to death and dotted with holes. Around his neck you’ll spot some wooden rosary beads that Granny got in Medjugorje. On social media, there’s no trace that he’s an international rugby player. I suppose he leaves that to us!
It is a very exciting time for our family. We are all thrilled. My parents couldn’t be prouder. They well and truly saved the best ’til last, but boy did he keep us all waiting. He was practically a month overdue. All 10 pounds and 3 ounces of him. So close is the bond between my mum and our ‘Beauty’ that he didn’t want to leave her side. She’s the first person he looks for when the ref blows the whistle. As for mo Dhaid (although another modest man), I’ve never seen him as proud. Stepping onto the pitch after each game, he is completely overwhelmed with the joy and pride, that he can’t control these emotions and the tears flow. Uncontrollably. Beautifully.
When Conán was born I literally shouted it from the rooftops. I cycled throughout the whole estate shouting about him. My friends still remember this. I wanted everyone to know. Here I am, 18 years later, doing it all over again. I think it’s important to celebrate what people mean to you. Open up and express your emotion. I have a lot of love for each of my siblings, I love to spend time with them and I’m not afraid to show it. Without my family, I would have very, very little in life.
Conán deserves every bit of his success. In his pre-Leaving and Leaving Cert years, he practised solo for an hour, every single night after study. Rain, hail or snow. Just throwing the rugby ball repeatedly against the wall. The windows and walls were filthy. We waited until after his exams to power hose. After each game, he took pen to paper to analyse his performance; determined to improve. This guy knows what he wants.
He has always been that way. My brother Brían is a die hard Liverpool fan and growing up we used to know when there was a Liverpool match on through Brían’s behaviour alone. He had little rituals like wearing his Liverpool tracksuit and jersey in the house, locking the conservatory door so no-one would disturb him and even bringing the remote to the toilet so we couldn’t change the channel. One evening Conán got hold of the remote and wanted to watch cartoons. The lads were fighting over the remote until Conán removed and SWALLOWED THE BATTERIES! I repeat: this guy knows what he wants. In the hospital he told the doctor: ‘Press my belly button and I’ll turn on the telly’. I think mum should write that book!
The interesting thing about Conán is that he didn’t attend a ‘rugby school’. He got offers from a few top schools around the country, but chose to fly the flag for Summerhill. Check out the celebrations at Summerhill’s latest rugby success here. He doesn’t forget his roots and proudly plays with his club, Sligo RFC whenever he can.
Read all about Sligo RFC here (a well written account by John Kane).
We are exceptionally proud of our Conán and thank you for asking. We’ve enjoyed the journey so far and are excited to see what the future holds. I love watching the video of Robbie Henshaw and his grandfather as it’s something we can relate to: I think my mum may burn down the house with all the candles she lights and the praying she does! In COD we trust.
Watch the video here.