The next hot prospect to be inducted into the RaboDirect Rising Stars, which introduces you to the best young talent in the RaboDirect PRO12, is Connacht back-row bruiser, Eoin McKeon.
Players don’t come much more homegrown at the Sportsground than No. 8 McKeon.
Galway-born and from a sports-mad family, McKeon grew up watching Galwegians and it was a dream come true when he signed on the dotted line for boyhood hero Eric Elwood at Connacht.
The 20-year-old, who made his RaboDirect PRO12 debut two seasons ago against Scarlets, made the step up to Heineken Cup this season and did not look out of place on the big stage.
But far from resting on his laurels, the mechanical engineering student has ambitions to make it to the very top of the game although rugby wasn’t always on the agenda for the talented back-rower.
I would have loved to have been a professional golfer, if I wasn’t a rugby player. I only stopped playing about three or four years ago, I used to play a lot after school and even now I still play after training. I got down to about a seven handicap, so I was quite good, but I’ve lost the practice now and the consistency isn’t there.
I am not just saying this because he is my coach, but Eric Elwood was always my boyhoodhero. I grew up across from Galwegians and he was national team captain and above all a local lad as well. He went to the same school as me, Coláiste Iognaid, so it’s fantastic to be playing for him now.
My first rugby memories would be going to watch Galwegians play and travelling to the away games when I was very young, probably about seven years old. It was a real family occasion, we all used to go.
Stewart Maguire, the tighthead at Connacht is the best guy to room with on away trips. Despite his size he’s actually a pretty good roommate. He doesn’t snore and he’s got good personal hygiene.
The best away ground I’ve ever played at is the Scarlets’ stadium – Parc y Scarlets. It’s a different looking stadium with the way the floodlights are set up and I happened to make my debut there a couple of seasons ago. It was a great experience apart from the result, we lost 58-10.
Eddie Rocket’s – a fast food diner in Ireland – is my guilty diet pleasure. I’m quite fond of that in the off season and sometimes after games. I’m a fan of everything, the pizzas, burgers and the steaks.
Away from rugby I spend most of my spare time with my head in books. I’m in the second year of a mechanical engineering degree at the National University of Ireland, Galway. It’s hectic, I’m always off my feet with training and studying, but it’s not too bad this year. We are always pushed to do our studies, obviously we are not going to be playing rugby forever. I’d rather get it done now so I don’t have to go back later on in my career.
My first autograph was also probably Eric Elwood. I can’t really remember but it was definitely one of the Galwegians players, we were always there following the team.
My ambitions for 2012 is just to get more game time with Connacht. The more I play the more chances I’ll get of securing a permanent berth . Hopefully come the start of the new season in September I’ll be well established here and take it from there.
My nickname, Keonsy, dates back to when I was 16 years old. I was at school and someone made up a rumour that my girlfriend at the time called me it. It has just stuck since and to be honest I don’t think I’d respond to anything else now!