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'It’s not a bad reflection on Connacht at all' - Masterson represents the west for U20s

The Corinthians clubman has always looked up to his older brother, Eoghan.

WHEN IRELAND CONFIRMED their 32-man squad for the upcoming U20 Six Nations, many Connacht fans would have raised their eyebrows at seeing just a single representative of the western province included.

Back row Sean Masterson is that man and he will be on the bench for Noel McNamara’s side as they open their championship tomorrow against France in Bordeaux [KO 8pm Irish time, RTÉ 2].

Sean Masterson and Chris Reakes Masterson in action for the Connacht Eagles. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

While having just one of their players in the U20s’ set-up would suggest that the pipeline in Connacht is in poor condition, Masterson knows better than most that there is more talent coming through in the west.

He feels that but for untimely injuries to other Connacht players – including Ireland U19 international Corey Reid – the province could possibly have had three more players in this U20s squad.

“It’s not a bad reflection on Connacht at all,” says Corinthians RFC man Masterson, but he will be flying the flag for his province alone during the next seven weeks in what is his second season as an Ireland U20 player.

A highly-ambitious young man who is now part of Connacht’s academy, Masterson has good role models around him, including older brother Eoghan – who is part of Kieran Keane’s senior Connacht squad and an inspiration to Sean.

“Big time. Since I was young, I suppose, I have always looked up to him,” says Masterson. “He captained the Leinster U18s and captained the Irish Youths.

“I used to look at him and think, ‘Jeez, this looks alright.’ He made it look easier than it is but I decided to put my mind to doing those things as well.

“I have always wanted to match what he has done. So far, so good! At U20 level, he didn’t play a year young and I have. He has made a good pathway for me and he’s doing well for himself as well.”

Sean Masterson Masterson will hope to make an impact off the bench tomorrow. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Masterson boys are Portlaoise-born, with their Scottish father, Pat, having allowed Eoghan to represent a second nation at U20 level.

While both Masterson boys initially played for Leinster’s representative sides, Sean explains that having a Westport-born mother, Anne, meant the west was always calling.

“Since I was young, I always thought I was from the west, if you know what I mean,” says Masterson, who is now based in Galway. “We have a house in Westport. I am often there and I have cousins up there.

“It is a lot easier to go from Galway to Mayo than to Portlaoise. We grew up in Portlaoise because my mother worked as a Garda and my Dad was a bricklayer and he followed my mother to Portlaoise, then he got a job as a prison officer.

“They are retiring now at the minute and they’re thinking of moving to Mayo eventually.”

Masterson was capped by the Ireland U20s last year but as he explains it wasn’t the happiest experience.

“I got called in late [during the Six Nations] because Fineen Wycherley was playing for Munster.

“I was on the bench against the French. I came on after about 60 minutes and two minutes later I got a yellow card.

Sean Masterson Masterson is a dynamic player. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“But I got to the World Cup. I came off the bench in the first game, started against Scotland and New Zealand. Then, I got injured halfway through that game and my campaign was over there and then.”

Masterson will hope to force his way into the starting U20s side as this championship develops, but his experience will come in useful either way.

As Ireland get set to go up against the French tomorrow, the Connacht man wants to see an intelligent performance from himself and his team-mates.

“If we front up physically, we always say that we are a smarter team. Technically, we can outwork them and, hopefully, the win will come.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Murray Kinsella

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