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Conroy And Kennedy Aiming To Hit Top Gear On Crucial Final Day

Conroy And Kennedy Aiming To Hit Top Gear On Crucial Final Day

Conroy And Kennedy Aiming To Hit Top Gear On Crucial Final Day

Tullamore man Jordan Conroy is part of the Ireland Men's Sevens squad bidding to qualify for the Olympics via the European Games in Krakow ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The Olympic qualifying tournament at the European Games in Krakow concludes tomorrow, and the Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) are one of the four sides left standing.

Whoever wins gold on Tuesday night will book their place at next summer’s Olympics, with the consolation of a global repechage spot for both the second and third place finishers.

Eager to avoid the repechage route this time, James Topping’s charges are chasing back-to-back Olympic appearances and are determined to join the Ireland Women, following their own historic qualification, on the plane to Paris.

The Ireland Men warmed up for the Krakow tournament by winning the opening leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship Series in the Algarve earlier this month, earning the top seeding at the European Games.

They have continued their winning form so far this week, topping Pool A after beating Poland (66-0), Italy (38-7) and Germany (19-7). They got the better of Belgium in this evening’s quarter-finals, despite conceding early and late tries.

All of the European Games matches are broadcast live on rugbyeurope.tv via the Rugby Europe website – click here for more.

With Ireland yet reach their peak at the Polish venue, Jordan Conroy, who has notched three tries in four games, knows they will have to get back to their best in order to dispatch semi-final opponents Portugal tomorrow (kick-off 1.58pm local time/12.58pm Irish time).

Reflecting on going 7-0 down to Belgium and how Ireland gradually took control of the game, Conroy said: “It’s always a little bit nerve-racking because there’s so much on the line. Every team is going to bring their ‘A’ game, so we have to bring our best.

“I think we’re still building to day three, so there’s more to come. It’s only one score and if it’s in the first couple of minutes, it’s not really anything to go by.

“You’d be in trouble if you were three scores down, but you can always come back from one score down which we did. We held our composure and just stuck to our gameplan and got the win.”

Topping’s men have won their last 10 games, and while they have a good recent record against the Krakow semi-finalists (Great Britain and Spain are on the other side of the draw), it will be all about the here and now in tomorrow’s high-stakes finale.

Knowing how much it would mean to get the job done, especially with the vocal travelling support present, Conroy added: “We’ll do nothing different, just like we did on day one and today. We’ll get a good night’s rest, wake up and just focus from the get-go.

“Just play to our game and hopefully it’ll do the job for us. You can definitely hear the fans, you know, with the chants! It’s nice to have them here because in the last Olympics we didn’t (have a crowd). We want to do it for them as much as ourselves.”

Meanwhile, Terry Kennedy’s timely return from his sabbatical in Australia has helped the men in green move within two wins of their second successive Olympic qualification.

Returning to the squad for the Algarve Sevens, the 2022 World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year has shown glimpses of his best form, with a two-try first half salvo against Italy yesterday and another eye-catching score – from his own kick through – during the Belgium match.

The Belgians, runners-up in this year’s World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, had the pace and power to trouble Ireland at times, with Gillian Benoy’s try giving them an early lead.

“It was a tough one,” admitted talented play-maker Kennedy, who joined Dylan O’Grady and Liam McNamara (2) in crossing the whitewash on the way to a 26-12 triumph.

“We were pretty relieved there. I think we dug deep to get that win. Belgium are a good side, they came second in the Challenger Series which offers a chance to get promoted to the World Series. So we knew they were going to be really tough.

“Big lads, some lads that can move. It was always going to be a tough battle for us, so to come through it we’re delighted.”

Kennedy was a try scorer when Ireland played Portugal at the Algarve Sevens just over a fortnight ago. They registered a 29-10 quarter-final victory that day, but Os Lobos come into the rematch on a high after seeing off Georgia on a 31-5 scoreline.

“Another tough match. We’ve played Portugal plenty of times before. They’re going to challenge us and we’re going to have to be at our best to make sure we come through again,” added the Dubliner.