The butcher

'Words can't explain how truly thankful I am to be here'

Eagles hooker Dylan Fawsitt moved to the US in 2014 and is now set to face his native Ireland.

WHEN DYLAN FAWSITT lines up for the national anthems at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow, he won’t have too many mixed emotions.

A native of Ireland but now a USA international, the hooker is clear about how much it means to him to be representing the stars and stripes.

“The way I look at it, I’m Irish-born and very much Irish but I’ve been given this unbelievable opportunity,” says Fawsitt, who is set to win his seventh cap for the Eagles off the bench tomorrow in Dublin.

“Words can’t explain how truly thankful I am to be here. What America has done for me is just amazing and I’m so proud to wear the jersey and be part of this bunch of lads. Words can’t describe it.”

Dylan Fawsitt Fawsitt played club rugby with Greystones and St Mary's in Ireland. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Fawsitt made his debut for the States earlier this year, having qualified under residency rules.

He grew up in Greystones, his father’s neck of the woods, until a move to Piercestown in Wexford, his mother’s home country, at the age of 10. 

Fawsitt continued to play his club rugby with Greystones, however, and after doing first year at Wexford Christian Brothers’ School, he moved up to Blackrock College as a boarder.

“It was a dream come true,” says Fawsitt. “I can’t explain how much I owe to Blackrock College.”

Having also helped the school to a Junior Cup, Fawsitt was in the back row of the Blackrock team that won the 2009 Leinster Schools Senior Cup, playing alongside Jordi Murphy and Andrew Conway.

That pair are in the Ireland team to face the US tomorrow and they have been jokingly warned of what to expect by Fawsitt, whose nickname ‘The Butcher’ originates from those Blackrock days.

“I met them in Chicago when we were playing the Māori All Blacks after their game against Italy. We had a coffee and I told the boys they better be ready come Saturday! We left it at that but it’s great.”

Fawsitt went on to feature for the Leinster U20s, when it was suggested to him that a move to hooker would give him a greater opportunity of breaking into the professional game.

Andrew Conway offloads to Dylan Fawsitt Andrew Conway offloads to Fawsitt in the 2009 LSSC final. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

He played on with Greystones before eventually moving up the leagues to St Mary’s in 2012, impressing for the Dublin club on a consistent basis. Still, there were no openings into the professional game in Ireland and Fawsitt looked elsewhere.

While he was training ferociously hard, playing club rugby and studying sports science at Tallaght IT, the hooker noted how AJ MacGinty, his old team-mate in Blackrock, was advancing towards a USA debut after moving Stateside in 2012.

MacGinty’s father, Alan senior, was the principal in Blackrock and prompted Fawsitt to follow AJ’s example.

“Alan and I were in school together, he was the year above me so I played with him at Senior Cup level in ‘Rock.

“I worked in the boarding school then afterwards when I was going to college and I was lucky enough to do that.

“Big Al, his dad, said to me, ‘Why don’t you give this a go, see what it’s like? Alan is going to play for the States and there’s no reason why you can’t too.’”

MacGinty debuted in 2015 for the Eagles, by which time Fawsitt was almost a year into his own time in the States, having moved to Life University in Georgia, where MacGinty had established himself.

Fawsitt’s early years in the States involved plenty of tough times, as well as a move to New York to play for Old Blue RFC after finishing his Master’s degree at ‘Life U’.

While it might seem like a remarkable journey towards being on the USA bench against Ireland tomorrow, Fawsitt had firm belief that this move to the States would end up with this opportunity.

Dylan Fawsitt Fawsitt at USA training in Blackrock RFC this week. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“It was the only reason I went,” he says. “I was lucky enough to get my Master’s and that set me up if anything happened to me playing but my goal was to play for America, to represent the States.

“I have no regrets. I’ve been so lucky, America has been so good to me. I met the love of my life, Alyssa, we got married there four months ago. I met her on a flight home to Ireland for Christmas!

“I’m very lucky and she’s actually been over here in Galway with her family but they’re coming to Dublin for the game. I got my Master’s, I’ve met amazing people and I’m really truly thankful and honoured to be part of this team. I’m a very lucky man.”

Having settled happily in New York in recent years with Alyssa, Fawsitt has been busy coaching too.

“My boys actually ended up winning their league back there,” he says. “It’s an up-and-coming programme, getting the inner city boys in New York into rugby.”

After spending the 2018 season on loan at Glendale Raptors, Fawsitt is now back with Rugby United New York, who will join Major League Rugby next year. 

He’s delighted he’ll be playing alongside fellow Blackrock College alumnus Marcus Walsh, Dave Gannon and the rest of the Irish contingent at RUNY, while he welcomed the signing of Cathal Marsh, a good friend and former St Mary’s team-mate.

With quality coaches in former USA boss Mike Tolkin and forwards specialist Kees Lensing – who has already helped Fawsitt to improve his scrummaging – it’s an exciting time for rugby in New York.

Keith Donoghue and Cian Culleton tackle Dylan Fawsitt Fawsitt played club rugby with Greystones and St Mary's. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

That’s all to look forward to down the line, but Fawsitt’s focus right now is on doing his adopted nation proud back on Irish soil.

“It does feel special,” says Fawsitt. “The last few games, you didn’t want to be overthinking it or looking past the next game, but now that it’s here it’s great to embrace it all.

“When I’m out there this weekend, it’s another game to really represent the United States to the best of my ability.

“The honour is not just in the selection, it’s in the performance. I very much live my life like that.”

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