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Five years ago The Front Row Union picked out four eighteen/nineteen year old players to follow throughout their career.

To say that three of those players, Craig Gilroy, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson have gone on to have successful careers is a bit of an understatement with all three now established Ulster and Ireland players who should feature in the upcoming 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The fourth player, Dave McGuigan has had a much tougher journey in the intervening years, with untimely injuries being the main feature of his early career, but I was pleased to get an email earlier this month to inform me that McGuigan had made the cut for the recently formed Ireland Men’s 7’s Squad alongside fellow Ulster players Aaron Cairns (Ballynahinch) and Michael Lawton (Exiles/formerly ‘Hinch and Dungannon). The Ireland 7’s Squad now has the tantalising opportunity of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games – albeit a bit of a long shot.

The process began with a number of talent identification and screening days in January with over 300 athletes taking part. The programme has now reached the tournament phase with Ireland teams set to compete at the GB 7’s series and Rugby Europe Tournaments.

The Ireland Men’s team kick off at Rugby Europe’s in the Division C tournament in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the 6th-7th June. The Irish side share pool B with Turkey, Belarus and Montenegro.

The top four teams from this tournament will be promoted to Division B and compete in Croatia on 20 -21 June.

The highest ranked eligible team from Division B qualifies to participate in the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage Tournament which will take place in Lisbon on the 18th-19th July.

The winner of the Lisbon tournament will then have the opportunity to compete in the World Olympic Repechage in 2016 to secure the last spot for Rio 2016.

An Ireland Squad, under the Ireland Wolfhounds name, will take part in the GB 7’s Series starting on 30 May in Edinburgh, Scotland before moving to Coventry, England the 6 June and finishing in Colwyn Bay, Wales on the 13 June.

Hopefully by the end of the summer we’ll have our fourth Irish capped player in our Four to Follow! 🙂

You can read what the four youngsters had to say when we interviewed them way back in 2010 by clicking on the tabs below – seems like being the longest in the changing rooms is the way to go if you want to have a successful rugby career!

Craig Gilroy, Ulster RugbyDOB: 11/03/1991

BIRTHPLACE: Belfast

HEIGHT: 6″1

POSITION: Wing

HONOURS: Ulster U19 & U20, Ireland U19.

 

When and why did you start playing rugby?

I began playing rugby in 1st form for my school team Methody, there was a lot of emphasis on rugby and all my friends were playing it … not to mention how much fun it looked!

Most memorable match that you played in and why was it memorable?

My most memorable match has to be winning the Ulster Schools Cup in 08/09 for Methody, beating RBAI in the final. Also it was my last year at school so it was a good way to finish.

Least memorable match. Do you have a match that you’d like to forget?

Yes, when I was lower 6th we played Campbell College in the quarter final of the Schools Cup, the match ended in a draw and I had a bit of a shocker and bruised ribs … for either of the two reasons I sat on the bench for the replay of the quarter final, the semi final and the final … which we won … gutted!

Toughest opponent. Who and why?

I have had many tough opponents, mainly those who are my competition within my province, to name them would only result in them winding me up! 🙂

Worst room-mate. Who stops you from getting a good nights sleep?

My club team mate Ali Birch always leaves our hotel room door open on away games for people to come in and out of our room at all hours!

Longest in the changing room. Who out of all your team mates takes longest getting ready after a game?

To be honest I usually find myself last out of the changing room! I mess about so much it takes me ages getting ready.

Iain Henderson, Ulster RugbyDOB: 21st February 1992

BIRTHPLACE: Craigavon

HEIGHT: 6’5” (197cm)

POSITION: No.8

HONOURS: Ulster U20 Squad

 

When and why did you start playing rugby?

When I was 7 at Ben Madigan Prep School, my dad was the coach and I watched him week in week out playing for Academy RFC and aspired to follow his footsteps.

Most memorable match that you played in and why was it memorable?

Belfast Royal Academy v Hoërskool Garsfontein in Pretoria. Great atmosphere, having an enjoyable game with school mates in front of a home stadium coupled with excellent hosts.

Least memorable match. Do you have a match that you’d like to forget?

RBAI  January 2009, standard day at Roughfort Playing Fields, Mallusk, cold, rain, wind. About half way through the first half injured my knee at the base of a scrum and has haunted me ever since.

Toughest opponent. Who and why?

St. Mary’s from Dublin, excellently drilled and their backline ran like clockwork. The match started tight but finally the opponents ran away with it toward the end of the second half.

Worst room-mate? Who stops you from getting a good nights sleep?

Andy Magee, and his late night hymn singing.

Longest in the changing room. Who out of all your team mates takes longest getting ready after a game?

Andrew McCormick always takes his time to freshen up. He has painstakingly slow dressing habits. But he freshens up well, I must say!

Patrick Jackson, Ulster RugbyDOB: 05/01/92

BIRTHPLACE: Belfast

HEIGHT: 5′ 11″ (180cm)

POSITION: Out-Half

HONOURS: Ulster Schools U18s & 19s, Irish Schools U18s & U19s

 

When and why did you start playing rugby?

I started playing when I lived in England at the age of six. At that time I was more into playing football until I joined Veseyans rugby club in Birmingham. Rugby is huge in my family so my brother and I were playing at an early age.

Most memorable match that you played in and why was it memorable?

I’ll always remember my first ever game of fifteen aside rugby against Coleraine Inst. I loved the sense of playing a proper rugby match, especially being able to kick at goal for the first time. Also my last game against Ballymena at Ravenhill. Although we lost I will always remember that game.

Least memorable match. Do you have a match that you’d like to forget?

My first game playing out half for Methody 1st XV against RBAI. It was a bit of a step up from junior rugby and I had a nightmare. I played on the 2nd XV for the following game but managed to work my way back onto the team.

Toughest opponent. Who and why?

Against Australia U19s I was marking a huge centre that now plays for the senior Aussie 7s side. He was tough enough! Hopefully I will have the chance to play against him again.

Worst room-mate? Who stops you from getting a good nights sleep?

In my upper 6th school tour I was roomed with a 5th former who snored abnormally loud. I think he might have had some kind of nasal defection! I couldn’t sleep at all.

Longest in the changing room. Who out of all your team mates takes longest getting ready after a game?

I would have to say myself as it takes a long while to perfect my afro hairstyle!

Dave McGuigan, Ulster RugbyDOB: 18th August 1991

BIRTHPLACE: Lisburn

HEIGHT: 6”1

POSITION: Back row

HONOURS: Ulster U20

 

When and why did you start playing rugby?

I started playing rugby when I was about 8 for Lurgan Minis because my Dad helped out there and I wanted to get involved. He sent me off in my first match for ‘back chat’!!

Most memorable match that you played in and why was it memorable?

Playing against Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, the British Columbia provincial Champions. Was the hardest, most physical match I’ve ever played in and was great to come away with the win and finish off an unbeaten tour.

Least memorable match. Do you have a match that you’d like to forget?

Least memorable match would have to be this years Schools Cup quarter final replay against Ballymena. It would have been my most memorable game if not for the last minute break away try. Don’t think I’ve been more gutted after a game in my life!!

Toughest opponent. Who and why?

I don’t really know. I haven’t had that many big games so far, mainly just school matches. I’ll let you know after Saturday.

Worst team-mate? Who is most annoying during training?

Andrew ‘Bambi’ Vance from Friends’ is the worst person to train with. Most of the sessions were spent laughing with him or listening to him complain about something, he was a nightmare.

Longest in the changing room. Who out of all your team mates takes longest getting ready after a game?

It’s usually me really. I like being the last one out of the changing room before a game anyway so I take my time and then after I like to doss about and take ages to get ready.

 

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