Eoghan Barrett loving life in France after dream debut

Eoghan Barrett loving life in France after dream debut

As Eoghan Barrett raced 80m upfield to score a first-touch try on his professional debut, he couldn't but check himself.

Here he was, a 20-year-old Cork centre two minutes into his first senior game for Pau, a European game against Calvisano, and he was sprinting past halfway with 10m to spare on the closest of the other 29 players.

He had been braced for some defensive duties off an opposition scrum but instead, he was scooping up a loose pass and stepping past two would-be tacklers for the first foot-race of his top-level career.

"Looking back at the video, I had about five or six looks over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming. It was literally about 5m before the line where I was like, OK, I've managed to score here. It was a great feeling."

Back home, his parents were refreshing their devices trying to get the updates from the 47-19 win.

"My poor parents were trying to get the stream working on the European Challenge Cup website for about 25 minutes.

I think it was the only game that the stream wasn't working so, unfortunately, they didn't get it but I sent it on to them privately, so hopefully dad will have a few looks at it tonight and he'll have a smile on his face.

It wasn't a flash in the pan for Barrett, a CBC graduate, who had come on as a 48th-minute sub at Pata Stadium.

"The rest of the game went well. I felt I could have had one or two more.

"I did well for Thibault Daubagna's try. I kicked on a loose ball, managed to control it, show a bit of my Gaelic footballing skills, and Thibault managed to latch onto it, so I was delighted with that.

"I've been getting loads of messages from friends and family and teachers back in school, from everyone really. It was a really nice weekend to be hearing from people all over."

A late bloomer on the rugby field, Barrett moved over to France after completing his Leaving Cert in 2018. James Coughlan, who has since moved on to become Provence's forwards coach, was in charge of the Pau academy at the time.

"From 15 to 17 years of age, I wasn't the best rugby player around. Then coming into sixth year, I started to have a bit more confidence in my ability. The Senior Cup went really well for us as a team and I just happened to have a breakout year.

"I got my Irish U19 cap and just before that, I'd played Irish U18 Sevens. After that, James got wind that a Munster place probably wasn't going to be on the table for me. There was a lot of really good players around at my age.

"James put the offer on the table and after a few weeks deliberating it, I decided to give it a go."

He went over with Ben Roche, who is now back with UCC, while the likes of Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, and Dave Foley all moved on last summer. Former Munster performance analyst Paddy Sullivan remains with the club as video analyst and training centre coach. They all helped to ease the transition.

"I love it. I've made some really good friends here and my parents and girlfriend come out to visit me quite a lot."

If he could change one thing from his Leaving Cert, though, perhaps it would be his decision to study German, what with the Rugby-Bundesliga less likely to be a destination for his rugby talents.

I was lucky I dove headfirst into the French. The French appreciate when you make an effort so that's gone down well. As part of my contract I have to attain a certain level of French so just before Christmas, I had a French exam and oral in Biarritz and I managed to do that.

"The aim is to keep on going the way I'm going. I tend to keep my head down, speak when spoken to, and just go about my business.

"The academy are playing Toulouse this weekend and the pros are playing Leicester. I'll probably be involved with the academy. I just have to keep playing well with the academy and keep doing what I can to try to break my way into the first team.

"My contract is up next year and we'll see where things go from there. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to stay here."

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