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'The atmosphere at our games is like something you'd get at a pro game'

Ex-Munster and Leicester back row Jordan Coghlan has loved his AIL return with Terenure.

Jordan Coghlan celebrates Terenure's AIL semi-final win over Lansdowne.
Jordan Coghlan celebrates Terenure's AIL semi-final win over Lansdowne.
Image: Tom Maher/INPHO

WHEN JORDAN COGHLAN came home to Dublin last May, the plan was to stay for only a fortnight.

He had just finished a loan spell with Nottingham and his contract with Leicester had ended but Coghlan’s agent had let him know of interest from the French Pro D2 and they were waiting for a formal offer for the back row to keep playing professional rugby. It was meant to be a pit-stop in Ireland.

Fast forward to today and Coghlan is readying himself to star for Terenure in the All-Ireland League final against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium [KO 3pm, TG4]. The 29-year-old has been instrumental in Terenure’s run to the final, bringing the experience of a career that has also involved time with Leinster and Munster to bear. 

The main reason that kept Coghlan at home beyond the initial two weeks was the fact that his grandad, Tom, was sick. The pair of them had a strong connection and Jordan realised that his granny, Mary, could do with some help taking care of him.

Sadly, Tom passed away last month and he will be badly missed by the whole family today at the Aviva. Jordan was extremely close to Tom, so it was a straightforward decision for him to stay home last summer.

“My granddad would have put me through school, he is the reason I was into so many sports,” says Coghlan.

“I think he played for Leinster when he was younger and he was mad into cricket too. When I was 17, he followed me to the U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand and then he surprised me by coming over to the U20s Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

“He and my granny Mary have followed me everywhere and I owe a lot to him. Him passing away was a big loss for the whole family. I would always be in with him chatting about sport, he was just sport-mad.”

Tom would have loved being there in person today, although Coghlan explains that his grandad would have been cheering on the opposition.

“He was a massive Tarf man with every bone in his body.”

jordan-coghlan-and-dillon-lewis Coghlan spent two seasons with Leicester. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jordan was a Clontarf head himself growing up, starting rugby with the minis section of the club. His younger cousins play there now, his uncle Bill was the Clontarf’s cricket captain, and his older cousin – former Ireland captain Fiona – is another Tarf loyal.

All of his childhood friends will be cheering for Clontarf and two of his best friends, twin brothers Adrian and Matt D’Arcy, are key players for Andy Wood’s team. Their older brother, Conor, jokingly nicknamed Coghlan as ‘Judas’ when he played for Garryowen and UCD during his Munster and Leinster days, so the jibes are obvious.

“I do have my mother, she will no doubt be wearing purple for the final,” says Coghlan.

“It’s the game everyone wanted to see and I know my granddad before he passed away, would have absolutely loved to be in the Aviva watching it.”

So how did Coghlan end up playing for Terenure this season?

Clontarf was the obvious destination but Terenure head coach Sean Skehan and manager Mark Hamilton asked Coghlan to meet them, then offered to help him land a new full-time job by lining up interviews with a few tech firms in Dublin.

It made sense for Coghlan as he moved on from pro rugby. He had never done an interview before and jokes that some of them probably went “horribly wrong” but he was hired by American software firm ActiveCampaign and is nearing six months working as a sales development rep based out of their offices on Shelbourne Road.

Coghlan is “over the moon” to be working for the company and there is some overlap from his rugby career, with mini-goals every week and big longer-term targets to be hit. In short, he hasn’t missed pro rugby.

“The way everything went at the end of my time with Leicester because of Covid, you’re not playing, loads of stuff going on in the background at home,” says Coghlan.

munsteros-jordan-coghlan Coghlan was with Munster for the 2015/16 season.

“I wasn’t enjoying it in Leicester and coming home was a new lease of life. The way things happened at home led to the decision to play with Terenure. I’m enjoying rugby again, I’m around family and friends.

“Everyone struggled during Covid but when you’re abroad… I was in lockdown in Leicester and didn’t get home for eight months, hadn’t seen my grandparents for over a year. Once I got back, being comfortable here around family and friends, it was hard to leave.”

Coghlan had always had it in mind to finish his rugby-playing days with a return to the AIL and this season has been even better than he could have imagined, with Skehan’s Terenure team driving the club into their first-ever AIL final.

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Coghlan knew lots of the players on the team already, while he has been blown away by the atmosphere at home games in Lakelands, where the club set up beer and food tents to create a real sense of big events.

“The atmosphere at our games is like something you’d get at a pro game sometimes. Like Clontarf, it’s very family-based and you feel part of it all. It’s probably the best part of playing rugby in Ireland, so it’s hard not to enjoy it.”

Last weekend’s semi-final win over Lansdowne in front of a crowd of over 2,000 at Lakelands was a raucous and emotional occasion.

“There were older lads from the club coming up to players in the marquee last weekend, bawling crying and saying how proud and happy they are that we’re in the final,” says Coghlan.

He has been impressed with the standard of AIL rugby, the sheer physicality of the top teams, and the quality of young players coming through the ranks and looking to earn academy deals with the provinces. It compares well to the Championship.

jordan-coghlan-is-tackled-by-bobby-sheehan-and-jonathan-fish Coghlan has loved his return to the AIL this season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

And so, Coghlan is in a happy place now and can reflect on his professional career without any regrets after five years over in England, which followed a breakthrough in his native Leinster to win one cap, then a season with Munster in 2015/16. 

“When I first went over, I knew there was going to be no game time at Munster with the likes of Peter O’Mahony coming back from injury, so I purely made the decision to go over for game time.

“I absolutely loved my three years in Nottingham, a great place to go and restart your rugby career playing week in, week out against big teams in the Championship.

“When I was at Leicester, they were bottom of the table, players were coming in and out, there wasn’t much consistency and that probably would have helped a bit. Covid sort of wrecked my last year, there were new coaches coming in. I obviously could have done things better, it wasn’t just all down to timing, but I don’t have regrets.

“I played for three of the biggest clubs in Europe, historically, so I must have done something right along the way.

“I do take pride in the teams I played for and the things I’ve done in my career. Now it’s just about enjoying it. I’m nearly 30 but I still have lots of rugby in me and I’m really enjoying it.”

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Murray Kinsella

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