FOR THE FIRST time in 16 years, Adrian Flavin is not immersed in the physical rigors of pre-season training.
The former Connacht and Wolfhounds hooker is settling into his new role as director of rugby with Castleknock College.
All players must prepare, he told TheScore.ie, for the massive drop-off they will experience upon retiring. Having received his first professional contract in 1997 and hung up the boots at the end of last season, Flavin is one of the first crop of pro players to find themselves contemplating a career change or a new direction within the sport they love.
The switch from playing, to coaching and strategising, has led to 12-hour days but a plan [for 34 coaches and 585 students] is in place. Flavin may refer to Connacht as ‘we’ rather than ‘they’ but rugby moves on and his big moves will come off the rugby pitch from now on.
Flavin’s devotion to his new role means the missed call count is growing [he owes former Ireland lock Bob Casey a return phone call or three] but there is still time to monitor the progress of former teammates at Connacht.
“There is no reason why they shouldn’t be improving on last season,” he commented. “They are in the Heineken Cup again but, as Michael Swift says, they’re not in it for the t-shirt. There is still a hunger there; a need to improve. I’m not in the dressing now, I know, but you can be sure that the talk will be about a highest ever league finish and four victories in the Heineken Cup. If they can do that, they are moving Connacht forward.”
Flavin (right) and Mike McCarthy in action for Connacht in 2011. (INPHO/James Crombie)
159-times capped with Connacht, Flavin is well aware of the rugby mentality out west. He got to experience two season’s of Heineken Cup rugby but feels the promotion of talented young players such as Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion may be enough to keep the province at Europe’s top table.
He said: “Marmion was next in line when Paul O’Donohoe and Frank Murphy were injured. He was thrown in at the deep end and prospered. It was the same for Henshaw, when Gavin Duffy was injured. Here was this 18-year-old, two months out of school, coming in but he was made of the right stuff.
Once you are able to work hard and put your shoulder to the wheel, you will be accepted in the squad. Those lads, and a few others that stepped up last season, did so because they have that instilled Connacht mentality.”
Mike McCarthy has taken his hard-working mentality up the M6 and into Leinster. Flavin has met up with the former Connacht lock since his move to Dublin and believes the Blues have made a smart acquisition.
“Mike is one of those guys that won’t give up,” said Flavin. “His Test debut may have arrived late [29 years old] but he made the chances count when he got in there. He is not your typical, 6′ 8″ second-row but has this explosive burst of pace, is a fantastic athlete and he can cut you in half with a tackle.
“The game he played against South Africa [when he was named man-of-the-match], was one of the best I’ve ever seen him play. He is only 31 now and will be a vital member of the Ireland team for many years to come. That is the biggest compliment I can give him as the second rows in this country are no mugs.”