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Talking Sport

Career-ending injury leaves rugby stalwart devastated

Stephen Glennon

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Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

Walking up these days must be a strange experience for Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson. A professional sportsman for almost a decade – a rugby player all his life – Wilkinson is currently coming to terms with a life without the oval ball in hand after suffering a freak neck injury that has cut short his playing career.

It would not be difficult to paint a picture of Wilkinson’s devastation upon hearing the news – after all, injury has robbed the South African native of his livelihood – but true to the 30-year-old’s character he does not want to deal in negatives. That’s not his way. And it’s not the Connacht way.

Still, he is willing to chat openly about the incident, noting he didn’t realise how serious it was until he met the consultant. “The first specialist I saw kind of warned me and he said, ‘look it, this could be very serious; just prepare for all sort of outcomes’. He had picked something up in the x-ray.

“I was not in any pain or anything like that though. I was just doing day-to-day stuff and I was in the injured group training [with Connacht], just doing a little bit with them. So, I was devastated when I got the news. I was really shocked.”

For any professional sportsperson, that must be their worst nightmare but Wilkinson says he has had some time to gain a measure of acceptance. He is positive in his outlook and being as proactive as he possible can to meet the fresh challenge life has thrown at him.

“It can become very easy to get bogged down and I am just happy that I have my health. It is sad what happened to me but I am happy to be healthy,” he says. “So, at the moment, I am meeting as many people as I can.

“I was at a networking event last night in Dublin and I am just trying to meet as many people as I can in business and chat and see what their thoughts are. I am just trying to be practical about the next step in my career.”

To his name already, he has a diploma in Sales as well as a certificate in Accounting and he is currently looking to do a degree in Business Management. “I have tried to do as much as I can, and tried to keep busy on that side of things. So, I will be looking to study part-time and then find work whatever it may be.”

Wilkinson, who played 183 times for the province since joining the squad in 2006, has not ruled out a coaching career in the game either. “It would appeal to me. I have coached in clubs around the province. I am not going to turn my back on rugby and I would love to get back to the game. I would like to pass on my knowledge onto the younger generation; pass on what I have learned.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Connacht raise the roof again with magnificent late heroics

John McIntyre

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Claregalway's Dara Whelan, Conor Flaherty, Barry Callanan and Dylan Buckley with the Padraig Stephens Cup after their County U20 A Football Final victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra at Duggan Park on Saturday. Photo: Enda Noone.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE dramatic finale at the Sportsground on Saturday ought to have made the RTE Six One News sporting headlines, but there wasn’t a mention of Connacht’s extraordinary late heroics against Gloucester which keeps the province’s hopes of reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals alive.

Instead, the rugby spotlight was on Munster’s away defeat to champions Saracens. Later during the sports segment on the Six One News, Connacht’s never-say-die comeback was relegated to the last match of the Champions Cup wrap up. RTE, in their wisdom, believed that Munster’s 15-6 loss and Leinster’s routing of a makeshift Northampton on the same day were somehow more meritorious.

If Leinster or Munster had achieved what Connacht did in the latest round of European pool matches, can you imagine how gushing RTE’s coverage would have been? When a Tipperary man with a strong GAA background starts taking offence over Connacht not getting the coverage they are entitled to, it does give an insight into why rugby in the West feels hard done by in terms of national acclaim.

For all that, last Saturday was another thumping experience on College Road. With their European Championship knock-out ambitions on the line, it was victory or bust for Caolin Blade and company. But when Connacht trailed by 24-13 with less than six minutes remaining, it was impossible to see how they could salvage a result.

A pragmatic Gloucester already had the four-try bonus point in the bag. They may have trailed 10-7 at the break having faced the elements, but  tries from Mark Atkinson (two) and captain Lewis Ludlow turned the game on its head. Connacht were remaining competitive but the breaks were going the way of a team they had never previously beaten.

The home fans in the crowd of 6,800 were understandably resigned to the worst. The yellow carding of Ludlow for a deliberate knock on meant Gloucester were reduced to 14 for the closing minutes, but nobody at the Sportsground thought much of it. Connacht were 11 points behind with time running out. They needed a miracle.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Being backed into a corner could help to ignite the Galway hurlers

John McIntyre

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Galway full back Daithí Burke giving Wexford's Paul Morris no quarter during Sunday's Leinster hurling championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

MICHEÁL Donoghue faces the biggest challenge of his management career so far after Galway’s latest subdued display of 2019 at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. A lot of the same personnel are still there from the team’s magnificent All-Ireland triumph of two years, but the form of a number of influential players has nose-dived since last September’s championship loss to Limerick.

After a late collapse against Waterford in the National League quarter-final, Galway had some questions to answer ahead of their Leinster campaign and not withstanding their significant injury problems over the past few months, the Tribesmen’s stock has continued to decline judging by this month’s displays against both Carlow and Wexford.

Though it’s far from a full-blown crisis and we must keep a sense of perspective, there’s no point being wise after the event. On the evidence of what have seen to date this summer, Galway are dicing with an unexpected premature exit from the championship unless the squad can rediscover the hunger, intensity and quality which characterised many of their performances in 2017.

The continued absence of Joe Canning – and it is a mighty blow – can’t explain everything. Sure, Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Jonathan Glynn, Adrian Tuohey and John Hanbury, an important introduction against Wexford, remain short of competitive action, but as a package, Galway should still be better than this.

Failing to find the net against either Carlow or Wexford, together with the lack of fluency and sharpness, has some local alarm bells ringing, leaving the team management with plenty to ponder on ahead of Sunday week’s big collision with Kilkenny. Lose that and Galway’s season will hang on getting a result at Parnell Park – an unforgiving venue at the best of times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

St Thomas’ man behind the scenes typifies why club is going so strong

Stephen Glennon

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The St. Thomas' management celebrate after their county SHC final victory over Liam Mellows. Left to right: Kenneth Larkin, Claude Geoghegan, Kevin Lally and TJ Ryan.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

WHAT was meant to be a few minutes of soundbite ahead of St. Thomas’ All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final clash against Cushendall on Saturday has metamorphosed into a full-scale Talking Sport interview. Simply, because, Claude Geoghegan is an interesting guy.

For the past decade, Geoghegan has been the man behind the scenes and in his own inimitable way he has contributed just as much to St. Thomas’s success story as anybody else in Kilchreest and Peterswell. Perhaps, even more so.

As club secretary, he presided over St. Thomas’ historic county and All-Ireland club victories in the 2012/2013 season while, in the past three years, he has served as selector under managers John Burke and Kevin Lally, winning a county senior crown with each in 2016 and 2018 respectively. It is a proud record.

“I have held a few positions alright over the best part of a decade now — four or five years as secretary — and this is my third year involved now with the senior team. It is a way of life, I suppose, more than anything else,” begins the 31-year-old.

“When you are from a rural locality, it is what you are brought up with. It is what you know. If I wasn’t involved in the club in some capacity, I would feel I had a bit too much spare time on my hands. I would feel a bit odd without it, being honest.”

A history teacher at Presentation College, Athenry, Geoghegan explains his family are steeped in GAA tradition. His father Seamus hurled with the club before managing the intermediate team, as it was back then, while his older brother James has also done his duty as club secretary.

“Also, when the club amalgamated in 1968, my father was on the U14 team that won the county championship that year. We actually haven’t won the ‘A’ championship at U14 since. We have won plenty, but not that.”

Indeed, three SHC county titles in the last seven years would suggest that St. Thomas’ is a very special club but Geoghegan argues they are no different to any of the other clubs around. “Every other club is putting in the time that we are putting in. We are not special in any way in comparison to anyone else but we are incredibly fortunate to have a special group of players who have come together at one time.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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