“Football was my first love before rugby”


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Rugby player Keith Earls, from Munster and Ireland, explains how he got into the sport as a young boy in Limerick City, which encouraged him to keep going and what advice he would give to others who dream of continuing in his sporting career.

How did you get into sport?

My first moment in sport wasn’t really rugby, it was football. Soccer was my first love before rugby, although my father played rugby at a high level for Münster. I played soccer in school and I loved playing it in the fields at home. My father never forced rugby on me as a child. I played every sport in school, everything from javelin to sprinting, I think it was more to get out of school than to take it seriously. Corpus Christi was my primary school in Moyross and teachers used to come to teach us everything from hurling to day rugby.

I played rugby and soccer in high school and then went to St. Munchin’s and it was all rugby. I was there for the fifth year. In 2006 I was part of the senior cup winning team.

Keith Earls (middle row, third from right) with his St. Munchin's College Senior Cup winning team in 2006.

Keith Earls (middle row, third player from right) with his St. Munchin’s College Senior Cup winning team in 2006.

During the entire school period, a lot of emphasis was placed on sport and sport.

My father was only 19 or 20 years old when I was born. So when I was 10 years old he was still playing rugby, even into my teenage years. I remember he had set up a gym in the house and he was working out and trying to get stronger to play rugby. He was kind of professional before it got professional so I’ve always been around and he’s a huge sports fan himself.

Back then there was no real technology, so we were always on the move, no matter what sport was on TV between tennis, hurling, Gaelic football, soccer and rugby World Cup. We’d be out there playing whatever was on. I had an amazing childhood growing up.

I would have been a shy kid, so exercise made me mix with other people outside of my circle of friends. It got me out of my comfort zone and talked to other people I wasn’t really friendly with and developed those friendships.

Was there a time when you almost gave up the sport and who encouraged you to keep going?

I can’t say that it really existed, even if of course there are times in my professional career when you are kind of tired of it – but not when I was younger. There was a time when you might want to give it up for a couple of weeks when you are probably fed up with traveling or whatever. When I started traveling rugby maybe early on, maybe you had to travel to schools etc with rugby and like I said, the shuffling was a bit uncomfortable for me.

There were times when I didn’t want to attend certain camps and my parents and my current wife, who I’ve been with since I was 12, also encouraged me, which was great and quite ripe of her, to be like a young one Girl. You would have pushed me. I wouldn’t give up forever, but getting out of my comfort zone was the biggest part of the sport for me and you know, sometimes when I didn’t want to go, my parents and Edel would have pushed me to do it.

I’ve always played rugby and soccer at my own age and the year ahead, so I played or trained every day of the week. There was a time when my dad came home from work and I lay on the couch to take a quick nap between workouts. He could see that I was burned out and being dragged in all directions. He said it’s great, but if I really wanted to start any sport at 16/17 I should pick one and give it 100 percent and see if I can do it. Luckily I chose rugby because my dad obviously played it, but Münster’s success was something I really wanted to be a part of. Munster just drew my heart and I grew up under the Thomond Park stadium; I literally jumped over the wall with my buddies there every day after school.

Richard Muagututia from Samoa will take on Ireland's Keith Earls at the U19 <a class=World Championships in Sharjah, UAE in April 2006.” height=”412″ src=”https://www.irishtimes.com/polopoly_fs/1.4594821!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg” width=”620″/>

Richard Muagututia from Samoa will take on Ireland’s Keith Earls at the U19 World Championships in Sharjah, UAE in April 2006.

What tips do you have for young people when starting out in sport?

First of all, I want to encourage kids to try any sport – try to play any sport and try to play it at a decent level. Find out what you’re good at as the skills from hurling will transition into rugby and rugby skills will transition into Gaelic football and soccer or whatever it will be.

And encourage them to take this step and step out of this comfort zone if they are concerned about it. I am aware that not everyone becomes a professional athlete, whether rugby, soccer or later hurling or soccer for their country, but dare to take this step and get to know new people and get the friendships you make out of them and the experiences you make When you get into your older years, get away from it when you do it socially, the fun you can have.

It’s an excellent place to start as you grow up and find new jobs, etc. You just get used to being in an environment that you’re not really comfortable in.

Getting used to feeling uncomfortable will bring you tremendous benefits on and off the pitch, whether you are going to be a professional athlete or for life outside of the sport.

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