Steven, 20, lives in a small seaside town on the south coast of Ireland and recently signed a three year academy contract with Munster Rugby.
How did you get involved in Rugby?
I grew up in a town called Dungarvan, which is dominated by hurling and Gaelic football, where very few people played rugby. I started playing rugby when I was 6 years old in the local club, Dungarvan Rugby Football Club (DRFC). I was invited down to the club one day by a friend of my Dad who had a son 2 years older than me. He was trying to make a team for the under 8s age group for his son to play in as there was no youth structure in the club at the time. That was in October 2001 and I haven't looked back since. I played for DRFC for the next 10 years before being offered a place in the private boarding school, Rockwell College, who are famous for their rugby tradition. I finished off my school years there, going on to win a senior cup with Rockwell before graduating and moving to Limerick for university. I am now studying Business at University of Limerick (UL). After I graduated from Rockwell, I was recruited by Garryowen FC (famous for giving the name to the "up and under kick" used in rugby) and have been playing for their first team in the top domestic league in Ireland d for 2 years.
What has been your career highlight?
My career highlight so far was winning the league with my club Garryowen this year to be promoted, after being demoted for the first time in history last year, taking us back to the top tier of Irish rugby. On top of that, training alongside players such as Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Keith Earls is an honor as they were my rugby heroes growing up! Another highlight was when I was picked to play for the Irish Under19 7’s team in the FIRA tournament in Lisbon last year. We won the plate and I started in all the games as hooker and scored 5 tries.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge so far has been moving away from home and trying to juggle rugby, college, nutrition and social aspects of life, but I have gotten the hang of it now thanks to the help of close family, friends, my club Garryowen and Munster Rugby.
Trying to complete my degree in Business as well as training almost as a full time professional is very tough. I struggled for a long time trying to juggle it all, but have found the key to a successful balance is preparation. Each Sunday I organize my weekly schedule to fit in my studies and nutrition around my training and fitness activities.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to be a senior member of the Munster squad and playing regularly for the senior side in the domestic pro12 league and the European champion cup, and pushing for a place on the national team!
What are your thoughts on Rugby in the US?
It's great to see the game of rugby growing in the States. In the last few years the college game has really exploded and is doing quite well. The national side are starting to put together consistently good performances and starting to challenge some of the bigger rugby nations, as was seen last fall when the USA took on the New Zealand All Blacks in solider field. The USA are also doing very well in the 7s competition and it's great to see the magnificent athletes America has to offer in that code such as Carlin Isles who has electric pace and is great to watch! I look forward to seeing the sport continue to grow in the USA and hope to one day play against them for Ireland.