Brennan pulls no punches on rugby return when ban lifts

CONTROVERSIAL Irish rugby star Trevor Brennan has revealed he would like to get back on the playing field when his five-year ban from the sport is lifted next year.

The Toulouse player saw his career come to an end in 2007 when he punched a spectator at a game against Ulster — resulting in a life ban, later reduced to five years.

But in an RTÉ documentary, This Sporting Life, to be screened tonight, Brennan, a sporting hero in France, told of his desire to line out again when the ban is lifted at the start of 2012.

“It would be nice to finish on the field. People, especially family, say I would be mad to go back, after being out for five years. I will be only 38 when the ban is up. I’ll see how I feel and what kind of shape I’m in. I might give a year to some club.”

In the documentary, the double Heineken Cup winner also speaks movingly about how the death of his younger brother, Damien, from meningitis in the early ’90s drove him to be successful on the rugby pitch.

The 6ft 5in lock, played for Bective Rangers in Donnybrook, said he was persuaded to go back to rugby by his family after the tragedy. “The father was brilliant and said to give it a go and I went on a trip to Boston and went back and played three games out there and I got the itch again, the love for the game. It probably drove me on more to kind of want to be successful and want to play for Ireland and Leinster. You want to do it for yourself and again want to do it for him.”

The father-of-three, who won a number of French titles with Toulouse, was noticeably absent from the Irish team for a large part of his career. But he said he is treated like Irish rugby legends Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll in Toulouse where he lives with his wife, Paula, and three sons.

The 37-year-old, who won 13 caps for Ireland between 1998 and 2001, played in three consecutive Heineken Cup finals between 2003 and 2005.

He said he still can’t figure out why he wasn’t included in the Irish squad at the height of his playing powers. He suspects an interview after the dismal performance of the Irish team against England in 2000 cost him his international career.

“Unfortunately that day Ireland was beaten by 50 odd points. Our press officer was going around asking guys to give interviews and unfortunately I was one of the quickest fellows out of the shower and into my suit. I went down to the press conference and had 20 dictaphones and mikes in front of me. I was asked what had happened Ireland.

“I said what I felt personally was we didn’t do what we said we’d do during the week. We talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. The following week I got dropped off the squad and never got another look in for a cap for another 18 months. Obviously somebody said ‘listen he can’t say things like that in the papers and good luck to him’. But it was just again being honest.”

Brennan, who now runs the De Danú Irish bar in Toulouse, said he remembers the moment when he snapped, attacking a jeering fan in a Santa hat on the sidelines.

“The grey mist came down. It’s like being in traffic and you can’t move because the car in front of you isn’t moving but the fellow behind you is blowing the horn. Eventually you get out and react. Unfortunately it’s something that happened. Like all these things that happened to me it’s a learning experience.”

But he said he is forever grateful to the Toulouse fans for giving him an incredible send-off from the sport.

This Sporting Life will be shown on RTÉ 1, tonight at 7pm.


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