Living together can test many of us, whether that is living with a friend, workmate, or partner. Living with another human being is never a harmonious experience but it builds relationships and can make them stronger.

Teammates Jack Carty and Jonny Murphy have been living together in Galway the past year. They talked us through what it was like to be each other’s teammate and housemate during the quarantine period. They provided a good anchor for each other to push through and create a routine to come back to The Sportground better and stronger than they were before.

Guys, how is everything? What has been like living together over the past 2 and half months during lockdown?

Jonny: It’s been good, beforehand, we would have joked that Jack and I fought all the time, but it was Joe Maksymiw who was the instigator! When Joe moved out there was harmony for most of the lockdown period. Of course, we both have qualities that we annoy each other with.

Jack: We were getting annoyed with certain things that the other person did, Jonny would get annoyed with me when it came to the recycling bin and I would get annoyed if he left stuff out. We had a frank conversation from the offset, we were able to air it out and eradicate those tensions from the start. Apart from that, it has been good fun, Jonny has been doing loads of baking and I have been doing nothing which has made me feel inadequate. Jonny also built a bar in the back garden and “I helped him”.

Both your families are living outside of Galway, I am sure you became your own family during quarantine but was it hard not seeing your actual family during that period?

Jonny: When Connacht Rugby divided all the gym equipment out, it made sense for me to stay in Galway from a training point of view. By not going home it took the temptation away when it came to visiting friends and family, it was good in that respect. By staying in Galway, Jack and I were able to train with each other. It’s always better when you have someone beside you to push you even harder. The first month was fine but then I began to miss the interaction with my family, facetime was a lifesaver and I ended up getting used to that as the main way of interacting with them.

Jack: At the start of lock-down it was my nephew’s birthday, missing that was tough enough. My whole family lives on the same road in Athlone, that would have been the thing that I missed the most. Before lock-down, I would have been in Athlone once or twice a week because my girlfriend lives in Dublin, it would have always been a stopping off point. Not having that anymore and not seeing them in person was hard, but eventually, you end up getting used to it. When the restrictions were lifted it was nice to be able to get back home for a week and spend some quality time with them. It made me appreciate seeing my family a whole lot more.

When all this began, did you establish a routine together or did you both do your own thing?

Jack: We did most things together whether it was training or road running. We got into a good routine together and we were doing well, it did get to the point where we were nearly over training. We ended up at a plateau when week nine came around, then there was a gradual fall off which is to be expected. It was hard when you didn’t know what was going on around games and the season. We trained hard during the week from Monday to Friday and took our weekends off to have a few beers or eat the things we craved during the week. It was great to have Jonny here to push me on because there would be some days where I wouldn’t want to train and that would be the day he would push me and vice versa. It was important to have him.

Jonny: When we had a down week, it was weird, without having a routine you wouldn’t know what time or what day it was. It felt like that period between Christmas day and New Years’ day when you don’t know what’s going on. Living with Jack meant I had structure and we were able to keep each other sane.

It sounds like you both needed each other during lock-down, what did you do to motivate each other if someone was slipping and not eating healthy or staying on track with training?

Jack: We never said anything directly to each other but if I saw Jonny going out doing his training, he would set the example of going out and getting it done and put pressure on me to train. It would have been very easy to take shortcuts at various times but if I saw Jonny doing his training, it would make me feel guilty that I wasn’t so I would go out and join him. At the end of the day, it is our job, we had Johnny O’Connor, David Howarth, and Barry O’Brien sending us through really good stuff throughout the whole period so it was important to do the work, as they put a lot of time into making the plans and put a lot of trust in us to get it done.

Jonny: I don’t think we were ever not going to get the training done because we are both so competitive. If one person was doing something you felt obliged to do it. Jack might have added in an extra assault bike session and I would think to myself, I guess I will have to do one too, even though I hate them. For some of the runs you could choose self-selected pace, sometimes we would have to run separate ways because we would end up going too hard and would end up racing each other, towards the end of the run we would be completely dead which wouldn’t have been the aim of the session. If we kept that up, we would have been dust by the end of the week.

Talking about motivation, routine, and staying healthy we know you have been baking a lot Jonny, Jack how did you stay away from all of Jonny’s baked goods and avoid eating every single thing that he baked?

Jack: I think I am pretty good at not eating everything. I didn’t want to come across rude but by not trying anything it meant that I could keep that self-control that I had, I knew if I had tried a small bit I would keep eating more. Some of the stuff that he has baked has just been unreal, especially when he started making cakes and things that I hadn’t seen him bake before and seeing how creative he can be. There would be some days he would be on his feet for 6 or 7 hours baking jam doughnuts and I was like “Murph, how have you been standing in the same place the past 6 hours filling doughnuts with jam?”. It was nice to be able to test a few things, but it did require a lot of self-control.

Jonny: I did try and only make bad things on the weekends and then do healthier protein snacks during the week. To be fair, we weren’t that bad.

Jonny, how does a rugby player get into baking?

Jonny: It extends form when I was younger, during the summer or anytime I was off I would stay in my granny and grandad’s house. When my granny baked, I was over her shoulder giving her a hand, if I wasn’t doing that, I would have been with my grandad helping him out in the garden. I took it from there and seemed to have a knack for it. I started making stuff for the players after our tough sessions on a Tuesday, from protein treats to some of the “unhealthier” stuff, but we won’t tell Gavin our nutritionist that. The guys in the team encouraged me to do something more with it, so I made a social page and it took off from there.

Spending 2 and half months with anyone is intense, what has been the best part of quarantine while living together?

Jack: I enjoyed the time when we built the bar, we got the pallets delivered to the house and it was like a mini project for us. It kept us preoccupied for a while, then getting the keg put it in and having our first pint was cool. We also got into cooking a bit more, I wasn’t big into cooking before, but I got into smoking food on the barbecue and making things like beef brisket. Overall, nothing too exciting, we are coming across as really boring but I will save some of the other stories for another time.

Jonny: I agree, we started to build it in week 5 when we thought quarantine was never going to end. It was a nice pick me up. We said one evening that we should build a bar in the shed and next minute we had the structure up, then we had the shelves in then the tap was installed. It was a nice accomplishment for us and the pint at the end was a nice reward.

You have just finished your second week of Pre-season training, what is it like being back at the Sportsground and what is the new setup like?

Jonny: Initially it was strange, especially in the 1st week, the areas in the gym are taped and you must stay in your section. We are used to giving each other a high five and hugging each other but now you can’t do that. It’s weird trying to keep your distance, after every gym session you are wiping down and disinfecting everything. I think we are getting used to it now in week two. It’s different now because you are trying to squeeze a day’s training into around 3 hours, afterward you end being wrecked. It’s now the new normal and it’s just brilliant to be back in some shape or form.

Jack: To get back and see the work that S&C did along with the other staff in Connacht Rugby has been incredible. There was so much hard work put in by the staff behind the scenes to get us to a place where we can train again. It’s a testament to them, we are in 3 hours a day every second day, whereas they are in for a lot longer. It’s what makes Connacht Rugby the place it is. The first week we came in, we trained in small groups, this week the group was a bit larger and we got some ball work in, which was a nice change-up from the monotony of running and lifting weights. Seeing the coaches back this week and having a laugh during training was brilliant.

Looking towards the games in August, how do you plan to get yourself match fit again after being away from it for so long?

Jack: We will start getting back into larger groups in the coming weeks. All the training over the last few months will never replicate the intensity of a game, change of direction, chasing a kick, or chasing a line break. There will be building blocks this week and over the next few weeks where we can build a position where we can do that. From what we have seen and what the lads have put back in, all of them have come back in really good shape. You would think that we are ahead of a lot of the other teams in respect of that. In that regard it’s quite exciting as you won’t have to spend as much time on the physical development and we can focus more on skill development and the team plays earlier than anticipated.

Jonny: It’s a level up every week, even the difference from the 1st week to this week. There’s a plan in place to have us ready for the games even though we can’t do contact right now, we will be periodically building towards the games. Yesterday’s training was extremely tough, but it’s all just prepping you for the real thing.

Lastly, Friendy requested that everyone had to come back from quarantine with a new skill on or off the field. What would you say you improved on when you were in quarantine?

Jonny: I’ve got a beard and a blonde mullet now! I worked a lot on my cooking and my baking. I put a lot of time and effort into it and it got a following over the quarantine period and people appreciate what I have been doing. I had University stuff that I needed to get done and I got it ticked off.

Jack: I tried to add on to the stuff I have done already. I would have a keen interest in leadership, I got a list of different books to read. I got to read books that I had been meaning to read for a long time. I am also in the middle of a personal reflection questionnaire. I set out a routine that I would get up early every day and it has now become a habit for me. Nothing as extravagant as Jonny, but I have gotten a lot more self-awareness of myself and a keener interest in all things leadership.

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