Jordan Conroy is not someone to hang around – he’s been clocked at 37km/hour, after all. But, even so, the speed of his ascent in the world of rugby sevens has been something else.
Ever since Ireland sevens head coach Anthony Eddy first laid eyes on Conroy playing on the astroturf at Lansdowne RFC in 2018, there has been no stopping him.
The former Connacht Eagles flyer has scored 59 tries in 54 matches in all competitions for his country in the abbreviated format of the game, including a five-try haul against Scotland in Dubai, and has left celebrated opponents like the USA speedster Carlin Isles trailing in his wake.
In an HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 campaign cut short by COVID-19, Conroy topped the charts with 30 tries, at a rate of just over one per game, earning him a place in the end-of-season HSBC Dream Team.
“It was nice to get 30 big ones, and I just wish I had the last four tournaments to see what I could finish on. But with everything that happened, obviously, I couldn’t do that,” he told World Rugby from his home in the famous Dublin 4 postal district.
“I am really delighted with how I got on in my first (full) series, and I just want to build on that because everything I have achieved is over and done with, and I am literally looking ahead to what else I can achieve and improve on.
“I have had a lot of time to work on myself (during lockdown) and fix up what I need to fix up. It’s been a long time since we’ve played a game so a lot of work needs to be done in getting that match mentality back.”
Born in Germany, Conroy moved to Ireland aged 10 and was earmarked for a future in athletics or football. But once those avenues closed, he started playing rugby seriously in his late teens.
Finding himself outside of the academy system in 15s rugby, Conroy decided to use sevens as the vehicle for him to get noticed.
“I live on Lansdowne Road, and the Aviva is just across the road from me. Anthony Eddy lives in the area, too, and he came to see me play on the astro after one of the lads said he should take a look at me when he mentioned he was after someone fast.”
A YouTube clip of Conroy running in a try straight from the kick-off, from his own 22, also piqued Eddy’s interest, and Conroy did not disappoint when he turned up to see him in the flesh. After that, the former sprinter was invited to trials and the rest, as they say, is history.
Having narrowly missed out on a place in the squad for the 2018 World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong, Conroy announced his arrival on the international scene with a hat-trick against hosts England as Ireland, only present at Twickenham by invitation, went on to claim the bronze medal.
“What a tournament! It was kind of like the milestone I needed, to show what I could do and what I had learnt, and it was also what we needed as a squad to give ourselves confidence. Getting a bronze medal as an invitational team, that gave us a real boost going into Hong Kong the following year,” he said.
With Conroy scoring 10 tries across the weekend, Ireland went on to win the qualification tournament and secure core team status on the World Series for 2020. Ireland were a creditable 10th place in the standings when the series was brought to a premature conclusion, putting them in good stead for their next goal – the Tokyo Olympic Games.
To get to Japan, Ireland will need to beat off competition from 11 other teams and win the repechage tournament in Monaco, on 19-20 June.
Alongside fellow series core team France, Ireland will be one of the favourites to claim the last ticket to Tokyo.
“As a squad, I think we are very capable of going to Monaco and winning it. We have done such great things over the past few years and I don’t see this challenge as being any different,” he said, confidently.
“There will be nerves going into it but, right now, we are all pretty calm and collected.
“For me, the sensation I’m feeling is on a par with going to Hong Kong and getting into the world series.
“It’s exciting to be involved in something so big again, and if we get to the Olympics it will have a massive impact on all our careers.
“It will be one for the history books to say, ‘yes, I was at the Olympics’.”