It will be a homecoming of sorts tomorrow night for Aidan Wynne, the impressive Buccaneers centre, when Ireland’s Under-20 side take on world champions France at Dubarry Park (kick-off 7.30pm).
Wynne has already packed a lot into his short sporting career, prior to his selection for the U-20s. But tomorrow will mark the biggest occasion yet as he runs out for Ireland at the ground where his star is currently rising with Buccaneers.
The versatile back is set to don the number 12 jersey again, which he wore with such aplomb in last week’s 17-15 reversal of Wales. Hailing from nearby Ferbane, a GAA stronghold in County Offaly, Wynne is “delighted” to not only being wearing the green but especially to be representing his country in front of his family and the local supporters.
“Can’t wait” is his reaction when asked about the prospect.
Wynne played in the Under-19 World Cup last year, after earlier being honoured by the Ireland selectors at Youth and U-18 grades. He has also represented both Connacht and Leinster at various levels, and holds a fairly unique achievment in having won both Connacht and Leinster Senior Schools Cup medals.
He was a very young member of the St. Saran’s School team that made history by winning the Connacht Senior Cup in 2004. This was a particularly notable achievment as the Ferbane co-ed school had very small student numbers to select from. Indeed, the school has since amalgamated and is now part of Gallen Community College, so the 2004 win will be their only one as St. Saran’s, where Wynne thrived on the coaching of Charlie Couper and teacher Ray O’Loughlin.
“Winning with Saran’s is my proudest moment of a rugby pitch because we were a modest school with very small numbers to choose from and, of course, the team=mates were also my friends,” admitted the youngster.
Aidan did his Leaving Certificate at Blackrock College last year, where he was a key link with Luke Fitzgerald – the pair helped ‘Rock claim yet another Leinster Senior Cup crown.
“Wynnie”, who is also a highly competent place-kicker, broke through to the Buccs senior XV this season and has featured at outhalf and scrum half, as well as in his more familiar role in the centre.
Citing the number 12 position as being his favourite. he said: “I’d love to emulate Gordon D’Arcy. I think he’s a great player and with him, I feel Ireland should be celebrating a clean sweep in the Six Nations this season. Dan Carter is another player I’d admire.”
The 19-year-old is anticipating the challenges posed in the U-20 championship and is eagerly looking forward to taking on both France, whom he feels will have “a size advantage” over their hosts, and England at Dubarry Park.
He describes the Ireland squad, with coach Eric Elwood at the helm, as a “tight bunch” and most of them know each other very well from their time as U-19s.
“We showed great character to come back from 15-0 down against Wales last week, and hopefully that will stand to us again on Friday. We found it hard early on to get a hold on possession but once we settled, our momentum and confidence grew. “I thought David Pollock, our captain, was outstanding for us. He’s really impressed me so far and Felix Jones was superb also.”
Full-back Jones scored two tries to catapult Ireland to victory, with a crucial 70th-minute drop goal from Ian Keatley nudging Ireland in front.
Most of Wynne’s rugby has been played in the AIB League this season, with Buccs benefiting from his line-breaks, solid boot and clever all-round player. He admitted that the difference between the domestic league and playing on an international level with the U-20s is “the pace and handling, and as we quickly found out against Wales, mistakes are punished.
“It’s great having Eric Elwood as a coach, you learn a lot from him. The fact that he played at a very high level until quite recently is a big advantage for us.”
Juggling his rugby exploits with life as a student is obviously “demanding”, but as long as the affable Aidan combines his own goals of “keep working and improving” with his coach’s advice of “practice, practice, practice”, he is sure to be a ‘Wynner’ on and off the rugby pitch.
– With thanks to Buccaneers PRO Michael Silke