Darren Sweetnam admits the lure of a career in professional sport helped make his mind up to abandon his inter-county hurling career.
The multi-talented 19-year-old Dunmanway man accepted a three-year contract to play rugby with the Munster Academy in October, ending his involvement with the Cork hurlers after a magnificent breakthrough season.
Sweetnam, who has also represented Ireland at underage level in hockey and badminton, helped Cork reach an All-Ireland SHC semi-final. He returned to rugby with Munster U20s eight days after the Rebels’ defeat by Galway and went on to play a starring role in the interpros. The Dohenys clubman’s GAA career is on hold for now after he signed up with Munster two months ago.
“That was the main thing behind my decision; rugby is a professional sport,” said Sweetnam after helping UCC to a 14-9 win over Highfield on Saturday.
“It was a hard choice but at the end of the day, you have to take the chance. It could work out for me (in terms of playing sport professionally), and it’ll be great if it does. That’s what I want to do, play sport every day.
We talked about it (signing for Munster) after I played my first match in the U20 interpros against Connacht. I thought about it for a while, and as it came closer to the time it was a very tough decision — but I’m happy with it.”
Sweetnam, a first year business student at Cork IT, saw the start of his career with Munster and UCC interrupted by an ankle ligament injury that sidelined him for six weeks.
“This (Saturday’s game) was my second match back; it was my first proper injury in a long time. I’d never been injured that much but in the last few months I’ve done my ankle, shoulder... all since I started playing the rugby!” he joked.
“I love playing with UCC, the expansive style suits me. With Munster, there’s a good bit of training, I’m in the gym in CIT a lot but I love it. Training every day is exactly what I want to do; I’m used to it by now anyway, I’ve been doing it since I was 14 with hockey, hurling and rugby.”
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