“That’s always been the big dream but, I suppose your dreams change when I was 12 and 13 all I wanted to be, was a Wegian.”
The U20 Six Nations gets underway this month and among the up-and-coming young prospects representing Ireland is Galwegians own Hugh Gavin.
The 19-year-old Salthill native began playing rugby in Crowley Park at the age of six and his love for the sport grew from there. Hugh played the age group above his own for the first couple of years under coaches Mickey Sherlock, Gerry Lowry and Gary Gilanders.
He credits his dad and former club captain Barry Gavin for his success and that of his teammates.
“That coaching panel were really good for the club with so many of us going up and playing with the seniors and even playing provincial it’s a real credit to the coaches.”
Gavin impressed at the underage level, earning himself a spot in the Connacht development squads before going to the next step representing the province in the U17 squad against Munster.
The following year, Gavin progressed into the Connacht U18s Inter Pro squad, where he began to flourish: “the first taste of a more professional environment and I really enjoyed that, I took to that and then I got my first Inter Pros start against Ulster.”
Gavin went on to score two tries that day before coming off with a torn quad which would see him miss out on the rest of the competition.
The injury caused concerns that he might not be able to make his goal of reaching the Irish U18s Club squad, but “luckily enough they took the chance with me and brought me in and that October I got my first international cap against Italy.”
Since then the Galwegians man has gone on to play on the wing for the Connacht Eagles in the summer development games, which lead to a conversation with Galwegians and Connacht legend Eric Elwood, who offered Gavin his first Academy contract
“It was a surreal moment in my rugby career, just to think that I put my head down and my hard work has paid off,” he said.
With many special moments coming in different shades of green jersey, Gavin made some special ones in the sky-blue jersey too, his favourite of which being his first AIL cap for his club.
“I was in Crowley Park watching the seniors pretty much every Saturday from a young age and to finally run out myself in front of the fans and the club legends when the club means so much to them, it’s nice to get out and do your bit for the team.”
While most 19-year-olds are enjoying college life, Gavin is making sacrifices to ensure he can put his “best foot forward”. With training four days a week in the Connacht academy, the first-year Commerce student says it can be difficult to balance rugby and college work, but he always finds time for his mates.
“You obviously have to give up a lot of the night Iife and you’re early to bed most nights but apart from that I see my mates the days I’m in college and weekends.
“It’s just the weekday stuff you can’t be at and you can’t be getting a takeaway with the lads the whole time.”
Since being selected for the U20s squad, Gavin has been training hard at different camps all over the country. With great strength in depth, Gavin believes the squad is reaping the benefits of healthy competition: “we’ve all been getting better week on week just pushing each other. It’s class.”