Connacht Rugby’s longest serving player Michael Swift has announced that he will retire from the game at the end of the current season.

The 37-year-old lock who has played a record 268 times for Connacht over an impressive fifteen seasons also holds the Celtic League (PRO12) record with 183 appearances.

Swift is currently nursing leg fracture but is expected to be back to full training in six to eight weeks.

Commenting on his decision to retire, Michael Swift said:

“Whilst I’ve known this was coming for quite some time, it’s still quite surreal to think I’ll soon be saying goodbye to the team and the lads I’ve played with for so long. Connacht Rugby has been a huge part of my life for over 15 years and it’s difficult to imagine no longer being involved. I’ve enjoyed every bit of my time with the province and have so many people to thank for the opportunities afforded to me.”

“Professionally, I’ve been lucky to work with coaches and back room staff throughout my time at Connacht and I’d like to pay particular tribute to Eric (Elwood), Dan (McFarland) and Tim (Allnutt) who have not only been my team mates and coaches down through the years but have also become good friends.”

Testament to this can be found when asked about his upcoming nuptials to L’Oreal Marketing Manager, Gill Blake, this summer. Swift confirmed that he had serious difficulty selecting who to stand beside him at the altar. So among his 11-strong grooms party, will be some a handful of old team mates, including Frank Murphy, Mike McCarthy, Adrian Flavin and Conor O’Loughlin.

“While I’m looking forward to a change, I will of course miss seeing the lads every day at the Sportsground. This relationship is very different to your average ‘colleague’ bond. It’s our job to ‘have each other’s backs’ and to support each other both physically and mentally every day. It’s this type of connection that can’t be replicated.

“I would also like to thank every one of the very special Connacht supporters who have adopted me as one of their own. But not only me, you have also welcomed my parents to Galway with open arms. I would very much like to thank them too, for their undying support over the years.

“And finally, thank you to my fiancé Gill who, although it took me 36 years to find her, she was definitely worth the wait. We are however, still ‘debating’ the adoption of a St Bernard puppy.

“I have no doubt that Connacht Rugby will continue to achieve great things in the years to come and I know I’ll be shouting on the team with the rest of the supporters.”

Connacht Assistant Coach, Dan McFarland, paid tribute to his former team mate:

“Michael and I worked together for 16 of the last 17 years and I cannot think of many players I have worked with who have shown as much honesty, endeavour and spirit. But not only would Swifty run through brick walls for his team mates, he has also been a great player, transforming himself from an athletic back rower to a hard hitting lock. I will miss working with him.”

Willie Ruane, CEO Connacht Rugby said:

“I’m proud to say that I played and worked with Swifty. He has truly defied time and his contribution to Connacht Rugby will not be forgotten. I have no doubt that he will be as successful off the pitch as he has been on it and I wish him and Gill all the best for the future.”  

Head Coach Pat Lam added:

“It was clear from the very start of my time with Connacht Rugby that Swifty was at the core of what this province is about. His work ethic, passion and commitment to Connacht is inspirational to the management, players, sponsors and supporters.

“Swifty has always been a fantastic ambassador for this club and he will be greatly missed.”

The Timeline:

  • Born in London in 1977, Swift played for Richmond Rugby Club as a flanker while in university, before spending a season at Leeds Tykes RFC.
  • He joined Connacht in 2000 and earned his first cap for the province against Ulster that year whilst also playing for Galwegians RFC in the All Ireland League.
  • December 2006, he earned his 100th cap for Connacht against Montpellier, becoming the fifth Connacht player ever to do so
  • September 2011 he reached another milestone when he became the first Connacht player to reach 200 games

The Numbers:

–          6’5” &123kg

–          13 appearances in the Heineken (now Champions) Cup

–          67 appearances in the Challenge Cup

–          183 appearances in the PRO12

–          Total of 268 Connacht caps

The Moments:

–          ‘That try’ against Leinster in the 2010 23-17 victory

–          PRO12 Chairman’s Award in 2013 in recognition of his outstanding service to both his province and the tournament as a whole.

–          Launched two successful business ventures over the last five years whilst playing with Connacht Rugby.

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