Giving back: Leinster’s Ross Byrne on supporting the Simon Community

REACHING OUT: Ireland rugby player Ross Byrne is an ambassador for the Simon Community. Picture: Andres Poveda

AS a boy Ross Byrne was rarely seen without a rugby ball in his hand. Being motivated to play was never an issue for the Dubliner since he first took up the sport at the age of five or six, a passion that was cultivated in the rugby-playing schools he attended.

“In St Michael’s I played the whole way up and then in Old Belvedere I played club rugby on a Sunday. I was pretty much always keen to play.”

This week, the Leinster and Ireland player took part in and promoted the Simon Home Run, an 8km run in aid of the Simon Community. Now in its 36th year, the run was a huge success and fundraising is ongoing as Ireland’s housing and homelessness crisis continues to take hold.

“I thought it was a good charity to get involved in. I’ve seen things the Simon Community have done before and just hearing about, particularly in Dublin, the problems with homelessness. And seeing more [homeless people] day to day when you are in the city.

“I just thought I could use [my] profile or anything I have to give them a hand. I think they are doing fantastic work and even the people I’ve been dealing with do work incredibly hard and are incredibly grateful for any help they do get.”

The 23-year-old has had a good year, playing for Leinster and featuring in the Ireland squad for last November’s internationals.

“Hopefully, I’ve got another good bit left in me. It’s been going pretty well and I’ve been very happy with last year. I got to play an incredible amount of games and got loads of good exposure. That’s exactly what you want to do — the more you play and the more experience you get, the more comfortable you feel at the higher-up levels, that’s what it’s all about.”

He feels that Irish rugby is in a good place, with interest in the sport growing all the time.

“The sport’s becoming more and more popular and I think more kids will probably want to play it as well which is always brilliant.”

For more information about the Simon Community and how you can support it see www.simon.ie

What shape are you in?

I’m in okay shape. In Leinster, we’re pretty much told exactly what to do and when to do it, so we don’t have to worry about any of the planning. It’s all taken care of by the strength and conditioning staff and they look out for us very well.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I try to eat fish once a week. I’d be good generally but I’d need to feed the cravings every now and then. I think when you’re training hard and you’re eating well you definitely feel good. If you feel it’s making you improve or makes you feel a bit physically better then that means it’s working.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Chocolate. It’s not in the house. If it’s in the house it’ll be eaten.

What would keep you awake at night?

If I drank too much coffee in the day that’s the big one for me. I never have it in the evening. If I had it in the evening I’d probably be awake all night.

How do you relax?

I’d be a big fan of a TV series. I watched the new True Detective and enjoyed it massively. Or a jacuzzi and a sauna.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Ricky Gervais. I’m a big fan of his, along with Denzel Washington. And Mike McCarthy, who used to play for Leinster and Ireland. He’s a very funny character.

What’s your favourite smell?

Freshly cut grass. And petrol.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I don’t know what I’d change — a bit more tanned, maybe.

When is the last time you cried?

I couldn’t tell you. I was crying with laughter at Green Book, the movie. It was very enjoyable.

What traits do you least like in others?

If someone has poor punctuality.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

Nothing’s really jumping out, which is probably a bad thing.

Do you pray?

No.

What would cheer up your day?

Good weather. We have to train outside, our office is outside, so it’s always nice when the weather’s good.

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