Shane Mallon is one of the new faces around Connacht Rugby having joined the academy setup this season.

Born in a small village called Bornacoola of South Leitrim we sat down with Shane on his arrival to The Sportsground.

Tell us a little bit about where you are from?

I’m from Bornacoola which is right at the bottom of Leitrim.

Beside Bornacoola is Dromod which is the main hub of Bornacoola as you have the football pitch there where everything goes on in the parish.

Dromod is a hot spot for summer homes and it’s right on the River Shannon so there’s a lot of activity going on especially around this time of year.

Its very much a tight nit parish where everyone knows each other.

My mother is from Cavan and all that side of the family live in Cavan and then my Dad is from Boornacoola where all his side still live in Bornacoola.

My Grandad is my next-door neighbour, next house up is my godfather and cousins.

How popular is rugby in Leitrim?

Gaelic football has always been the main sport in the county followed by soccer and a tiny bit of hurling.

When I started playing rugby there was very little rugby going on in Leitrim but it is growing which is great to see.

There was no club in Carrick on Shannon when I started off but there is now but beforehand most people who wanted to play rugby would have gone to Sligo or like myself play for Longford.

How did rugby start off for you?

I’m very lucky to have such supportive parents who gave me the chance to play rugby and take on anything I wanted as a child.

I started playing at the age of four with Longford Rugby club.

Not a lot of people from my area would have played rugby but I can see now its growing with more joining clubs.

Basically how it started for me was my two older brothers were very keen to start playing rugby.

They were six and eight starting in Longford and I was very interested in tagging along with them so that’s basically how I got started.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played Gaelic football with Bornacoola the whole way up and I played hurling with Carrick on Shannon.

I think every kid should play multiple sports.

Up until the age of 16 or 17 there’s no problem with playing more than one sport because all it does is improve skills.

Who are the rugby players you look up to?

The biggest one as a kid was Brian O’Driscoll.

For every kid in Ireland when we were four, five or six he was one of the best players in the world.

He just had everything and after any Ireland match you would go out the back trying to be like him.

Nowadays you see wingers like Cheslin Kolbe who shows you don’t have to be that big guy to play rugby and that there’s a place for everyone in the sport.

What sporting stars from Leitrim inspired you?

There’s a couple of sprinters like Eanna Madden who would have played 7’s so seeing someone like him from my county helped my confidence knowing Leitrim people do get oppourtunities to shine.

How big is it for young kids in Leitrim to see local lads reaching such high levels of sport like rugby, athletics or soccer?

It’s massive for young kids in Leitrim to see fellow Leitrim stars doing well on a national or world stage because we don’t have a lot of them compared to most other counties.

There’s huge pride in the county seeing one of our own shine and I remember when Eanna Madden made the 7’s originally it spurred something in me to go watch more rugby matches and the want to get better at the game.

Talk us through your rugby journey so far.

I played in Longford till I was 15 and then joined the regional development squad called midlands in Leinster.

I moved to Roscrea for Transition Year and spent three years at the school. I knew I had to go to Roscrea if I wanted to improve my game.

I played seconds rugby in TY and then pushed on in 5th and 6th year. From there I started to get into Leinster development squads.

It was in 6th Year where you started to get call ups to International squads?

At the end of 6th Year I was selected to go play with the Irish U18’s schools team at the U18’s 6 Nations. Sadly though I never got to play with Ireland at U18 level because of Covid.

The first time I got to wear an Irish jersey was in the U20 6 Nations.

Call up to the U20 side

I got a call for the Christmas camp in 2021. I knew this was my opportunity to show what I could do because injuries had got in the way of previous camps I was hoping to be part of.

The week leading up to the camp I was so excited but unfortunately the day before going I got Covid. My whole parish of Boornacoola was badly hit at the time

Its hard to put into words the emotions going through me when I knew I couldn’t make the camp and to make it worse it ruled me out of the next camp.

I thought my chance was gone.

Come mid January I played a match for my club in Dublin where I played really well and trained well with Leinster around that time where I was lucky enough to get called into the Irish camp a week before the squad was announced for the U20’s 6 Nations.

Thankfully no setbacks leading into that camp and after it I felt I trained well.

I was told I was in the squad for the 6 Nations so the first thing I did was ring my parents.

The following week on the Monday the match day squad for the first game of the 6 Nations was picked. I remember looking at the board and seeing if my name was among the players on the bench and then next of all I move my head over and I see my name beside 11.

My heart was throbbing and I was saying to myself how has that happened.

I remember beforehand speaking to my dad saying I’ll be lucky to get on the bench because I’ve only had one week with this team but to then ring him and my mam that I made the starting team was special.

Was everyone in Bornacoola rugby mad during that time?

My dad was telling me people who he hasn’t spoken to in a long time came up to him asking about me and how I got on for Ireland.

Some of those people may never have watched a game of rugby before but knowing a local guy is playing at that level brings more interest.

Hopes and ambitions with Connacht?

I’m currently out injured but I’m so committed to coming back stronger as I really want to push my game on here at Connacht.

When the call came from Eric Elwood about joining I was delighted because it is my home as I am from Connacht.

As a Leitrim man a big ambition of mine is to see Leitrim sport grow and hopefully I can be a small part of that.

Connacht is a great place to develop as a player and the coaching standard is amazing so its just a case of trying to push up the ranks for me.

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