O'Halloran targeting more Test caps as a Connacht man after November omission instilled doubt

The brilliant fullback was linked with moves outside his home province that, in theory, might have improved his chance of challenging for Ireland honours.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CONNACHT FULLBACK TIERNAN O’Halloran said that his recent decision to extend his stay at the Sportsground was the toughest decision he has had to make since he  signed contracts as a teenager.

The Clifden native won’t be 27 until next month but is already in his ninth season with Connacht, having made his debut against Olympus Madrid in the Challenge Cup in 2009.

His omission from the Irish squad for the November internationals coupled with interest from elsewhere — with Munster, apparently, quite keen — cast doubts over his future in the west but just before Christmas he penned a two-year extension.

“I have been here for nine seasons now but this is home for me. I have grown up my whole life wanting to play for Connacht, I watched Connacht all the way growing up as a child, it is a special place for me, I have got friends here, family here, so it was a tough decision.

Obviously, you have interest and things like that from other places but the way I look at it is that my goal always was to play for Ireland and I was able to play for Ireland representing Connacht.

“At the end of the day the way I saw it was that if I was able to get into that set-up and play for my country while representing Connacht then there is no reason why I can’t keep doing that, because at the end of the day that is down to me as a player and an individual to work on those skills and develop those skills to put in those performances with my team every weekend and hopefully that will get me back into an international squad.”

O’Halloran made his Irish debut in South Africa in 2016 and added three more caps on the tour to the USA and Japan last summer, but he was not included in Joe Schmidt’s plans for the November internationals.

“I think not being in the November internationals was a big thing as well, it probably played on my mind a bit as well, talk inside your head that maybe you might think this isn’t the right place for you but at the end of the day it got me in there in the first place.

“But, yes, it probably was the toughest decision I have made so far in terms of contracts,” said O’Halloran, who has chalked up 140 appearances for Connacht.

Niyi Adeleokun and Tiernan O'Halloran Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Halloran, a winger two years ago when Connacht won for only time in the professional era at Thomond Park, said they know Munster will be fired-up but that they will go there with confidence after some good results in recent years against their nearest rivals.

“I have had a few wins against Munster but they are coming off a couple of losses so we are under no illusions going down to Thomond Park, one of the toughest places you can play rugby, a hostile crowd and they will be pumped up for that game.

It’s an inter-pro games, lads are playing for international places and things like that. We are under no illusions but we made history in Thomond Park a couple of years ago and that’s something we can think about going back down there,” added O’Halloran, who scored a try in that 18-12 win two years ago on their way to winning the Pro12 title.

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