“I’d actually done it before in previous tournaments where I hit 36kph but it definitely led to a lot of attention for me, I found out from home that it was trending on Twitter, I found it hilarious.”
Irish Rugby Sevens star Jordan Conroy is still letting the last couple of weeks sink in. He has every right to.
At the World Cup in San Francisco, Conroy’s Sevens side won the Challenge Trophy, defeating Australia in the final and finishing ninth in the competition overall. The first piece of world silverware the Irish Sevens side have ever won.
“To come out with a bit of silverware is phenomenal,” began Conroy.
“We came in trying to do our best and with a winning mentality and after a bit of a shaky first day we had to try to pick ourselves up and just try and get that momentum going after the Kenyan game and it kind of went on from there into the third day, beating Wales and then Australia.
“We’re really proud of ourselves with what we’ve achieved, it was nice to finish off the season with a bit of silverware.”
Despite missing the final through injury, Conroy was one of Ireland’s stand-out players in the tournament, scoring four tries including a blistering hat-trick against Kenya, but the Buccaneers winger admitted that he felt he began his World Cup poorly.
“To be honest with you my first two games could’ve been a lot better,” conceded Conroy.
“Individually the first day was pretty shit at the start but on the second and third day, I found my groove.
“I think I really needed the Kenya game to put me into that mindset of ‘ok we’re gonna do this’, the hat trick really helped get me in high spirits and put me in a good mood.
“I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t play the final after getting a head injury, that was a bit annoying but I guess I’m really proud of myself for contributing to the team, that got to the final and won the Challenge Cup.”
A relatively unknown quantity to the Irish masses before his try-scoring exploits, Conroy leapt to the public’s attention when he ran faster than the Dublin Quays speed limit to race over against Kenya, a feat that the 24-year-old explains, he’s achieved on more than one occasion.
“I’d actually done it before in previous tournaments where I hit 36kph but it definitely led to a lot of attention for me, I found out from home that it was trending on Twitter.”
“A lot of people found it hilarious, my friend messaged me the video saying ‘have you seen this?’ And yeah I found it hilarious, the media did a good job with that.”
Conroy’s speed should come as no surprise though. As an 11-year-old, he ran the outdoor 60m in 8.54 secs. Two years later, he did it in 7.98 and timed 9.26 for the 60m hurdles. All three were then national records for his age.
Athletics was the Offaly man’s first love, then came football. Rugby he explains came later in his life.
“Rugby wasn’t my first sport I only started playing when I was 18 going on 19,” he begins.
“When I first came to Ireland I was hugely involved in athletics so my main goal there was that I wanted to run for Ireland.
“Then when I got to around 15 or 16 I felt like I was getting bored of the sport because it was very lonely I was training on my own and racing on my own.
“I came into soccer then and it became my main focus at the time for those three and a half years and training with Athlone I got my first taste of a semi-professional setup by playing for the first team and everything and I was still very young. But it didn’t work out at Athlone so I decided to go to college and then rugby arrived.
“The captain of the first team in Tullamore dragged me in and I started playing and as the year finished I really started to enjoy it and the whole rugby family thing so I decided to stick with it!
“I obviously never knew I was going to get to where I am now with it, I just did to stay in sports and through the years I started picking up a new skill set and started getting noticed and within two years it just went really uphill from going to Tullamore to Buccaneers to getting to the Sevens to where I am now. It’s been a really fast journey and a bit of a blur.”
The irony of describing his journey as a blur. The very thing his opposing defenders see as Conroy glides by them time and time again.
“The speed of Sevens suits me more like you’re given the space but in 15s you have to break through contact, use your feet.
“I think there are a lot more opportunities in Sevens to showcase your speed and that’s what I’ve been told since I was a young lad, that Sevens is made for you and yeah, it’s a great game for speed I believe.”
Despite Sevens seeming to be Conroy’s forte, he is far from unfamiliar with the full sided game. The former Athlone footballer is a member of Buccaneers, the rugby club from the same town.
Plagued by injuries including one to Conroy, Buccaneers had what the 24-year old called a “challenging” season.
This campaign their aim is to get back into Division One explained Conroy, who has had to try and balance his international Sevens career and his club 15s career. But what does he feel are the main differences between the two variations of the game?
“I keep saying it but the big one is the speed of the game,” he begins.
“I started playing 15s first before I got into Sevens and I just found that the pace of the game was so much faster. You have to think on your feet pretty quickly.
“One wrong decision could mean turnover ball and a loss of possession compared to 15s where you have time to think but tactically you need to be on your feet as well and have knowledge of 15s to be able to know what to do.”
As the first Sevens success slowly fades into memory, it’s important to use it as a stepping stone. A victory to build upon for the sport. Conroy insists that his future is with Sevens and he is passionate about continuing to put “Sevens on the map.”
“Sevens is where it’s at for me at the moment,” he concludes.
“I want to give my full attention to the Sevens but who knows what the future might hold for me but I feel the future for Irish Mens Sevens is very bright and we’ll continue to put Sevens on the map.
“Heading into the World Series I think we’ll make a bigger name for it in Ireland because obviously, the 15s is the main rugby force here but we’d like to give other players the opportunity to make it in the game if it doesn’t happen in 15s.
“Sevens is a major way of breaking into the 15s and getting noticed like I wasn’t getting noticed before the Sevens. The programme is a major gateway to showcase what you have. It’s worked for me and hopefully, it’ll work in the future.”