Q&A with London Irish flanker Conor Gilsenan
Sport

Q&A with London Irish flanker Conor Gilsenan

Q. So, Conor, you’re from Westmeath, did you play GAA growing up?

A. Yeah I played a lot of GAA growing up. I won a minor county final with Mullingar Shamrocks and was on the minor panel when I was 18 but had to decide between rugby and football. I still keep a keen interest in it and watch it on Sky when I can.

Q. More of a reason to take an interest especially after Westmeath's season?

A. Yeah it was great. I have a few friends in the squad and of course the final didn't go according to plan after getting smashed by Dublin, who seem to be a class above in the Leinster Championship at the moment, so you can't really do much about that.

Q. What position did you play when you were playing GAA?

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A. I played most of my football in midfield. I was a fair bit taller than the other guys due to an early growth spurt so played there, but occasionally I played centre back.

Q. Do you follow any other sports?

A. I follow Man Utd, but they are't doing too well at the minute.

Q. Do you think their form will pick up?

A. I hope so, I'm not really sure, I think they need to get rid of [manager Louis] Van Gaal

Q. Who's been the biggest influence on your career?

A. Obviously my parents and other family members took a big interest when I started playing rugby when I was younger and so they played a big role. From a playing prospective, Brian O'Driscoll is a perfect role model for young rugby players.

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Q. What do you make of Ireland's recent World Cup campaign?

A. Obviously I'm pretty disappointed, it would have been nice to get to a semi-final, but after losing players due to injuries and suspensions, it was a big ask for them. Then to go and beat a team like Argentina. If the same happened to someone like Australia and New Zealand and they were missing key players, I think they would have found it difficult too. But they gave themselves a good account of themselves in the group stages and should be something to build on in the next four years.

Q. You were consistent in your performances for Leinster, did your time there shape you into the player you are now?

A. Yeah I did three years with Leinster's academy, it was a great place to learn at the time as Leinster had a special patch winning back to back European tournaments. I was learning a lot of good habits from some of the best players in the world at the time so, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Johnny Sexton. As well as Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, influential characters in Irish rugby, also the Leinster academy is top draw so it's a good place to learn.

Q. What do you miss most about Ireland?

A. Definitely not the weather! You'd be surprised how different it is despite it being so close. But, yeah, I do miss all my school friends, people I went to college with and my family of course. I really enjoyed my time in Dublin, it's where I spent most of my time growing up during college. But there's also a lot of Irish people in London so I never feel like I’m too far away from home, so I've settled in nicely.

Q. How far can London Irish go in Europe this year?

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A. We believe we can go on and win it [the Challenge Cup], for sure 100 per cent we felt pretty hard done by not winning it last year. We've made some good signings so we can go all the way.