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Dublin: 7°C Monday 21 September 2020

'For some lads it’s a foregone conclusion. For guys like me, it’s not'

Eoin Reddan reflects on his 15-year professional career.

Reddan won 71 caps for Ireland.
Reddan won 71 caps for Ireland.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

HAVING RETURNED TO Ireland for a well-earned break yesterday, Joe Schmidt’s squad have gone their separate ways after an epic three-Test series in South Africa that went down to the final play of the final Test.

Of the 32 players that boarded the flight to Springbok central at the beginning of the month, all but one shall return for next season’s campaign. Following an impressive 15-year career at the top level, Eoin Reddan has called it a day.

It was fitting that his final act in an Irish shirt was directing his pack’s final assault on the Boks line as the home side clung to a six-point lead in the dying minutes.

Reddan entered the fray in the 68th of the frantic final Test in Port Elizabeth, producing a typical high-tempo display which included a crucial turnover and a memorable offload.

Eoin Reddan The Limerick man won three Heineken Cups in his career. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Alas, there was to be no fairytale finish for the Limerick man as a Faf de Klerk-inspired South Africa secured a nail-biting 19-13 win, and a hard-fought series.

“Yeah, it would have been nice, would have been great,” said Reddan following Saturday’s third Test at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, still clad in his playing gear and speaking to the media for the final time in his professional career.

“It’s good to get back into position. I’ve often been in games where we haven’t managed that and I think if you do that, and five or six times out of 10, you win those games but today they held out and fair play to them.

“For the lads going forward, in terms of strength in depth and unity and enjoyment factor in the squad, I think it’s been a brilliant tour.

“Everyone got on really well, gelled really well, worked really hard, enjoyed our down time together. We had a really, really good balance, so fair play to the coach and management for getting that right and fair play to the players for fronting up as well.”

Having announced his retirement to the squad earlier in the tour, Reddan officially confirmed he would be hanging up his boots during the build-up to the final Test in Port Elizabeth.

It proved to be an emotional week for the veteran scrum-half, who enjoyed a trophy-laden career, including three Heineken Cups during stints with Connacht, Munster, Wasps and Leinster. “Yeah, things seem to hit me a bit later,” he explained.

“My brother Cian flew in from New York and surprised me, it was quite emotional. My dad was here last night as well, went for dinner last night, it was lovely, really enjoyed that. Normally things sink in with me a bit late so I was a little bit emotional today but it was business as usual for the week.

“I really, really wanted to try and win the game. That last 15 minutes, I was trying to stay in every second, make sure every second counted and nearly got there. It would have been great but wasn’t to be.”

Having won his 71st and final Ireland cap against the Boks, Reddan has walked away from the game on his own terms.

The 35-year-old can look back proudly on a Test career that included two Six Nations championship triumphs [in 2014 and 2015], three World Cup campaigns [in 2007, 2011 and 2015] and plenty of memorable days for province and country: “Yeah I’m proud because I worked… excuse the expression, but I worked my bollocks off until today and that’s what makes me the happiest and hopefully I can do that again in what I do next.

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“For some lads it’s a foregone conclusion. For guys like me, it’s not. It might happen, it might not happen and there’s a bit of luck involved in that. Certainly the way things fell into place for me.

“I was playing okay at the club and you know I got a chance here and it all fell out nicely and I’m very lucky that it happened like that and I got these three weeks with the guys, some of whom I hadn’t known, some who turned out to be great friends.”

Niyi Adeolokun beats Eoin Reddan to score a try Reddan's career took him to Connacht, Munster, Wasps and Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Even Ultan Dillane, who I didn’t know three weeks ago. A 35-year-old guy has a friend for life with a 20-year-old second row — bizarre! But it was just that kind of tour.

“It was brilliant. Look at the players we have now. A bit of bravery, a bit of dreaming maybe in the summer will do them all good if they aim high enough, there’s no stopping them.”

A career in the aviation finance sector beckons for Reddan. “Aircraft leasing,” he explained.

So, when does the first day in the real world begin?

“5 September. Bottom rung, no clue what I’ll be doing. I told them I do!”

You get the feeling he’ll do just fine.

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