Swapping sliotars for scrums

Brian Gleeson representing Ireland at U20 level. Photo: Sportsfile.

Limerick Voice reporter Oisín White sat down with rising Munster rugby star Brian Gleeson on the back of his career-changing 2023.

Hailing from Loughmore in County Tipperary, Brian Gleeson’s rugby career began with his local club in Thurles RFC when he was just six years old. But he gave up playing rugby until he reached secondary school, when Rockwell College’s stellar rugby background reeled him back in. 

On top of this, Gleeson also represented Tipperary’s hurling side at U14 and U15 level which he admitted was his priority at the time. Eventually, however, he had to decide between the two sports. He found it difficult to give up GAA for rugby, coming from a GAA stronghold in Loughmore-Castleiney, but his success in rugby at the time made the decision slightly easier. 

Brian Gleeson in action for Tipperary hurling at underage level. Photo: Sportsfile.

Munster came calling for Gleeson at U17 level, where he would also play for the 18s and 19s before moving on to do a year at the sub academy. In 2023, his performances were rewarded with an academy contract for the province, which he admitted made the demanding work worthwhile. 

Since signing his contract, Gleeson has been on a meteoric rise to the top, completing the Grand Slam with Ireland’s U20 side last year as well making his Munster senior debut earlier this season. The U20s also reached a World Cup final, and the 20-year-old admitted that the last year has been the ‘best of his life so far’. 

“It was a rollercoaster of a year … To be exposed to [that] level of rugby, first with [the] Irish 20s and the success we had with it, getting to a World Cup final in the summer as well as winning the Grand Slam, to then push on and play with Munster, it has been fantastic.” 

A former University of Limerick Arts student, Gleeson made the tough decision to put all his concentration on rugby just over a year ago. He found it difficult to balance studying with his rigorous rugby schedule, despite being full of praise for his UL lecturers, who were always accommodating with deadlines for assignments. 

It seems as if the Tipperary man’s decision has paid dividends, with a senior international cap being the next target. 

Ranked second in the world, Ireland’s squad is certainly one of the toughest to break into, but it’s a challenge the young man relishes. 

“Eventually I want to get to that stage in my career where I can represent my country at the highest level it means you must step up your game even more.” 

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