Every day we’re shining a light on one of our newest arrivals over the summer, and help you get to know each of them before we return to the field later in the month.
Today we chat to Sean Masterson, another Academy graduate looking to take that next step after a breakthrough 2019/20 season.
How have your first few weeks been back at The Sportsground, what has it been like?
We have been back for 6 weeks, it has been enjoyable getting back to meeting people and training with people again. I have not seen some of the lads in three months so it was great to see them again. Going into the new setup as a PRO player has been brilliant.
How did you find the last 3 months training from home?
My parents moved to Westport, before the COVID I would only be able to see them the odd weekend. During that time I stayed back there with my sister and my parents for 10 weeks, I enjoyed catching up with everyone and spending quality time them. It was great to have the training to clear my mind but by the end of quarantine it was tough because I was tired of training by myself, it is always great to have someone to push you and I was missing that.
You graduated from the Academy to the Pro Team, what would you say your overall experience was like in the Connacht Rugby academy?
I went into the sub academy after we won the PRO12 in 2016. I spent one year there and three years in the academy. I am still best friends with lads who have left, the friendships alone that I have gotten from the Academy have been unbelievable. The craic that we have had and the trips that we went on with the Eagles were the best. We were very young and used to just slag each other the whole time. We were all the same age and we were all best friends. Mossy, Ambrose, Cully, and Eric have been great coaches to learn from. They have been some of the best years of rugby that I have had, we learned a lot but it was great fun at the same time.
What coaches influenced your development during your time in the Academy?
When I played for a club team when I was younger you would go to training, have a bit of fun and play rugby. When you come into the Sub Academy you are put into the environment of a professional rugby player. The likes of Mossy and Ambrose are some of the best coaches that I have ever had. They gave me the confidence to push on and to keep learning. They gave me the confidence and hope that it is possible to become a professional rugby player and showed me the path to get there.
As our vision is Grassroot to Greenshirts, how important is it that the pathway is there for players to continue to come up through the Academy into the first team?
It is massively important, around two years ago Colm De Buitlear and I coached an U17’s team. We have seen some of those lads push on to the Sub Academy and some are now in the Academy. They can see the pathway to become a professional rugby player, for young kids to see local people that play for club teams making it as professional rugby players is really inspiring and shows that it can be done.
What would like to achieve with your first PRO season with Connacht rugby?
There is a lot of young lads in the squad and everyone is trying to get a starting position on the team. I know some back rows have moved on from the team, there are now seven of us and younger players are coming up behind us. One of my goals is to start on the team and get regular game time in the squad and play my best every time I get to put on the jersey.
There’s a lot of competition for places in your position so I presume you’re all eager to impress ahead of the Interpros?
There is always a lot of competition in the back row but it pushes you to become better and to learn from other players. At the end of the day, it is up to the coaches on who they pick but you have to impress. You have to put your hand up and strive to do your best and hopefully, that is enough to get picked.