Mullingar duo Conor Gibney and Fionn O’Hara have big futures ahead of them in rugby.

Gibney and O’Hara make the cut for Leinster U20s

By Sarah Slevin

Two Mullingar rugby players have made the Leinster U20s team ahead of upcoming Six Nations Championship.

Conor Gibney and Fionn O’Hara, both 18 years old, have been playing rugby with Mullingar Rugby Club for more than a decade.

Conor plays centre and Fionn is out-half, and they have both been selected for the U20s Leinster squad ahead of summer.

Having both played with Leinster U18s the two young players had been aiming to make the U20s but were still delighted to get the email confirmation last week.

“With all the training and being in touch with coaches, we both had our eye on it, but it was an anxious wait to see if we’d get it or not, so it was a great relief to see it coming through,” Fionn said.

“Like anyone in my position, I’m absolutely delighted with it. It’s been nearly a year and a half of a lot of hard work at home, so it’s great for it to pay off and to be rewarded in some way,” he added said.

The two players have come a long way together and also are in the same class at Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar, where they will be taking on the Leaving Certificate soon.

“I’m delighted with it but it’s also great that the both of us made the team together,” Conor said.

With Covid-19 restrictions in place, keeping up fitness for the past year had to be done at home, but both Fionn and Conor kept focused on maintaining fitness.

“The last year has been tough, as it had for everyone, but I’ve a good set-up here at home with the gym and the rugby club just down the road. My mates are good, they’re really helpful and they ground me a bit too. They’re good hard workers, nearly training more than I do which is saying something,” Fionn laughed.

Training for the U20s will be starting in early July and is likely to keep them both busy at four training days per week.

Looking to the future, Conor said he will keep pursuing rugby alongside the aim to head to college in September.

“However far I can get with rugby, I’ll work as hard as I can to get as far as I can… But hopefully I’ll get to college and get a bit of experience playing a bit of college rugby or football there,” Conor said.

Fionn has also said that the aim is to see how far he can make it in the sport.

“I’m definitely going to give rugby a go while I’m lucky enough to be in the place I’m in. I’ll pursue it as long as I can and if I’m lucky enough to make it, it would be great,” Fionn said.

Tony Doolan has been the two players’ rugby coach for five years and has said that everyone in the Mullingar club is proud of them.

“They are both very talented players, and we are delighted to see them earn representative honours,” he said.

“They have always been a pleasure to work with. They are both well-mannered, grounded young men and are a credit to their families,” he added.

Richie Murphy was appointed head coach of the Leinster U20s in March 2021 having been the Ireland skills and kicking coach since 2013.

In a statement, the Wicklow man said it is an exciting role and would allow him to drive talent development.

“There are challenges within the pathway specifically in specialised positions and the task is to ensure that they have the skills, temperament and game appreciation to excel in the professional game at both provincial and national level,” he said.