Mike Ross wants to be remembered as 'someone who made the most of himself'

The tighthead prop will move into a new line of work after retiring this summer.

THOUGH MIKE ROSS never demanded preferential treatment of any kind during his career, it was somewhat fitting that Leinster’s press conference today was moved into the plush surroundings of the Royal Dublin Society Members’ Club.

Mike Ross Ross will retire at the end of the season. Luke Duffy / INPHO Luke Duffy / INPHO / INPHO

After a week in which the 37-year-old confirmed his retirement from rugby at the end of the current season, the old press room alongside the RDS pitch wouldn’t have been as inviting.

Ross hasn’t held the star status bestowed on the likes of Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney or Jamie Heaslip but there’s no doubt that he has been part of Leinster and Irish rugby’s royal family since joining in 2009.

Not that Ross views himself that way for a second. He remains typically humble even with weeks of his career left and just wants to be remembered as a player who wrung every drop out of his potential in rugby.

A product of Fermoy RFC and St. Colman’s College, he was never an underage star clearly destined for glory – he has earned two Six Nations titles, two Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup, and two Pro12 trophies.

Ross didn’t go into the Munster academy as a youngster, instead playing club rugby with UCC and Cork Con.

He made a single appearance for his native province before moving to England in 2006 for a shot at genuinely playing professional rugby with Harlequins, before returning home to join Leinster in 2009 and going on to become a stalwart for province and country.

So, with just weeks of his playing career ahead of him, how would Ross like his team-mates to remember him?

“Someone who made the most of himself,” says the tighthead. “I probably came through a very different path to most lads to the professional game – just to shows lads that you don’t have to do the schools, academy traditional route to get into the team.

Mike Ross Ross joined Leinster back in 2009. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There are other options. You can see that with players coming through the non-traditional pathways and if it gave them a bit of an example that you can do it, I would be happy with that.”

Again, he’s not asking for much and, characteristically, Ross is thinking about how his work can benefit others.

Ross made his final decision to retire in the past month, one that was all the easier given the fine opportunity he had to move into a completely new line of work.

From June onwards, he will take up a position as commercial director for Wizuda, a company that specialises in the increasingly-important field of data protection. Always a self-professed tech geek, it’s no surprise for Ross to be taking up such a position.

However, he won’t be completely walking away from rugby this summer.

“I still anticipate being involved at some level,” says Ross. “Whether it’s doing a bit of scrum coaching with UCD, for instance, and maybe keep that going. I don’t think I’ll ever be gone away completely. I love the game too much.”

Before signing off, Ross is keen to help Leinster to another Pro12 title. He starts at tighthead against Glasgow tomorrow evening at the RDS, where he is sure to get a fine reception from the Leinster crowd.

“It would be brilliant,” says the prop. “We haven’t won anything since 2014 so that’s a long time for club like Leinster.

Mike Ross and Tadgh Furlong celebrate after the match Ross won 61 Ireland caps before Tadhg Furlong's rise. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“We definitely want to finish the season on a high because how you finish the season determines how your summer goes, you know, whether you’re grumpy or happy. I’ve been grumpy the last few years!”

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is hopeful the next crop of tighthead props, led by the impressive Tadhg Furlong, can make up for the loss of Ross in the future, but he will have fond memories of playing alongside and coaching the Cork man.

“The grit and determination that Mike had to get to where he got to in the game; I saw a picture of us the other day playing against each other for Blackrock College and UCC in a Division Two game in 2000,” recalls Cullen.

“That’s 17 years ago. I played against him while he was playing for Cork Con as well.

“Knowing the path he had to go – to go to England on a trial initially, gets picked up, gets a contract on the back of that. He played pretty much every game for Harlequins over a three-year period, including the famous ‘Bloodgate’ game where he was playing for Harlequins against Leinster in that quarter-final in 2009.

“Then Michael Cheika signed him the following year, so Mike came across. It took us a while for us to understand his sense of humour, which is very unique.

“The resilience that Mike has shown in one of the toughest positions, if not the toughest on a rugby field; 61 caps for Ireland, over 150 for Leinster and you consider the age he arrived here at the club.

“He’s been a mainstay of the team for six, seven, eight years. It’s an incredible story, really. I have been aware of Mike for so long, played a lot of games with him and we have had great times together.

Rugby Union - Guinness Premiership - Harlequins v London Irish - Twickenham Stoop Stadium Ross in Harlequins colours in 2008. EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

“I hope we go out on a high because he’s been a huge part of the success of this team. That’s the beauty of the game – you rely on so many different facets, so many different types of people and Mike has been a huge contributor to that.”

The ‘unique’ sense of humour?

“I just have really good jokes,” says Ross with a smile. “Some people don’t just appreciate them as much as I do. Too dry.”

Ross’ contribution to Leinster has been no laughing matter, however, and there is little doubt in the rugby community that he leaves the province’s number three jersey in a better place than when he picked it up.

“If you look at the players who wore the three jersey before me, there are some great names there, so I wouldn’t take it quite that far,” says Ross. “I think I did it justice while I had it.”

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