Getting capped for Ireland is still the ambition for Portlaoise man Eoghan Masterson as he prepares for his sixth professional season with Connacht.
Though this season was cut short by the Coronavirus, Masterson had been enjoying a good season with Connacht and he’ll be joined by his younger brother Sean for 2020-21 campaign after he recently signed a senior contract after a couple of years in the Academy.
Having overcome an injury hit couple of seasons, Eoghan had made 17 appearances for Connacht before the season was shut down, including his debut in the Champions Cup.
Having suffered an horrific knee injury in the 2015-2016 season, not long after he played for the Emerging Ireland side when they won the Tiblisi Cup, he has been playing catch up since.
The likes of Andrew Conway, Luke McGrath and Rob Herring were team-mates on that side while he was part of a backrow alongside Jack Conan and Dan Leavy.
Connacht, too, have seen their representation on Ireland squads increase in recent seasons with Ultan Dillane, Bundee Aki, Tiernan O’Halloran, Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion among those to feature.
And he says he hopes to follow in their footsteps and play for Ireland at senior level in the coming years.
“Obviously the big one is to play for Ireland,” he said when speaking on a recent LaoisToday Talking Sport Podcast.
“I know when I was injured a few years ago I might have missed a good opportunity to get in. In 2015 I was on the Emerging Ireland tour and a lot of lads from there have gone on to get capped since.
“That year afterwards when I got injured it might have been a nice window of opportunity for me.”
But he says he says he can just focus on playing consistently well with Connacht – and that doors may open from there.
“I’m comfortable knowing if I’m diligent in my work and trying to be the best professional I can be hopefully things like an Ireland cap will come my way and trophies with Connacht is a big thing.
“I don’t want to be just talking about 2016 (when Connacht won the Pro14 title after beating Leinster in the final) for the rest of our lives. I want more than that. They are the two big ones.”
And Masterson has seen at close hand how things can work out quickly for a player breaking through if things go their way.
“I always remember when I was getting surgery on my knee in 2016. I was in the bed just after my operation and I was watching him come on for his Ireland debut in Twickenham.
“I think in the space of six months he might have been playing club game with Corinthians in October-November and in February he was lining out for Ireland. It does happen very quickly if you get a run of luck and one man’s misfortune can be another man’s fortune.”
Sean, meanwhile, is looking to make a big impression in his first season on a senior contract.
“In the next season, I’d love to put a marker down,” he said on the same Podcast.
“I’d love to get a position on the team, play good rugby and hopefully Connacht will play good rugby and that will help me progress too.
“Try and get starting position on the team in the next year, nail it down. And as Eoghan says, be diligent as professional rugby player and doing all the right things and hopefully opportunities will come from that.”
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