Portlaoise native Eoghan Masterson will reach a significant rugby career milestone this evening when he makes his 100th appearance for Connacht in the Guinness Pro14 against Ulster.
Masterson, who started his underage career with Portlaoise, has been named in the backrow for the game against Ulster, which kicks off in the Sportsground in Galway at 7.35pm and is live on TG4.
In recent weeks he has played in the second row in Connacht’s European Champions Cup games but the availability of Irish internationals Ultane Dillane and Quin Roux sees him revert to his preferred backrow position – though his younger brother Sean is the one to miss out.
Masterson, who represented Ireland at underage and Scotland at U-20, made his Connacht debut in the 2013-14 season.
A serious knee injury in 2015 sidelined him for a considerable spell but he has bounced back well to become a regular with Connacht once again.
“Reaching 100 caps for any club is a huge achievement so I’d like to congratulate Eoghan Masterson on the milestone,” said Connacht head coach Andy Friend.
“Eoghan is a very professional athlete who leads from the front by the way he conducts himself both on and off the field. To hit 100 games despite his injury setbacks down the years only adds to the achievement.
Masterson, who has won more lineout steals than any other player in the competition this season, says it’ll be a huge honour to win his 100th cap and hasn’t minded switching between positions in recent weeks.
“Yeah, I have enjoyed it to be perfectly honest,” the Portlaoise native said in an interview this week of playing in the second row.
“Obviously with Quinn (Roux) and Ultan (Dillane) going into Irish camp, which is great for them, it took them away from our set up and our training for a long time.
“It provided me with an opportunity, obviously with injuries to Niall Murray and Cillian Gallagher hasn’t been available. It was something that I had filled the gap in previous years, off the bench and what not.
“I was pretty excited by that opportunity to play there consistently. I found myself getting my hands on the ball a good bit, being involved in the defensive passages as well. I have really enjoyed it.”
“It would be nice to be involved for my 100th cap,” he added.
“It’s a massive honour and hopefully it comes and I stay injury-free. I suppose a few years ago when I blew out my knee — and I didn’t have 50 caps at the time — to come back and have a good injury-free run is a big honour.”
Masterson, who grew up on Colliers Lane in Portlaoise and attended secondary school in Portlaoise CBS, is now very much settled in Galway. Indeed his parents have since moved to live in his mother’s home county of Mayo.
“I love this place, I consider it home. Mam and Dad are in Westport and I’m living here with my fiance in Galway and it’s very much home for us.
“I don’t approach it any differently,” he said of playing with Sean.
“It’s a massive honour and we’re really proud of him. Mam and Dad are obviously really proud to see us both play together and I suppose my move to second row has helped that as opposed to us vying for a back-row slot.
“It’s great. Obviously we played rugby in our back yard together from a young age and we always dreamed of playing pro rugby together, so it’s kinda special and I’m trying to enjoy the moments we have together on the pitch as much as we can.
“I think Zebre away was our first start together and you can see how well he’s going, how well he’s fitting in and what he’s adding to the team. I think it’s really good.”
Connacht sit second in their conference in the Pro14 which will now become their primary focus after losing their opening two games in the Champions Cup.
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