Away from the goldfish bowl of a World Cup, how do Ireland's rugby stars relax and cool the jets?
A special Inpho agency photo essay with the boys in green follows, while you can see another fantastic portfolio of work focusing on the Ireland coaching and backroom staff using the link below.
SWING LOW: Bundee Aki enjoying a quiet moment with daughter Adrianna near his home in Renmore, Galway. Photographer James Crombie has a good rapport with the media-shy Connacht and Ireland centre, and was well-placed to capture Aki immersed in family life at a local playground. It’s a regular haunt for Aki and Adrianna though it’s not everyday he would be seen on the swings himself.
UPSIDE DOWN: The Irish prop is in the middle of home renovations, presenting photographer Dan Sheridan with the opportunity to capture this unique shot of the veteran Ireland prop demonstrating both his leg strength and playful nature. Wife Laura is well used to the Leinster man’s play-acting around the house.
In a series of photos that give viewers an insight into the personal lives of our top rugby players, the trust between photographer and subject is paramount. In this instance, Healy didn’t need asking twice.
A GOOD READ: A man in demand, you don’t want to keep Irish out-half Johnny Sexton waiting. Photographer Billy Stickland was fully prepared, with the Sudoku book and Sexton’s autobiography ready in his car. The only problem was his car had been towed.
Luckily, it hadn’t gone far, and in any case Sexton didn’t mind.
While son Luca is immersed in his father’s autobiography, daughter Amy is oblivious to all the fuss in Palmerstown Park near the Irish playmaker’s home. Sexton, as is his wont, is relaxing with a Sudoku puzzle.
PUCKER UP: A tender moment at a family birthday party is in sharp contrast to O’Mahony’s warrior persona on the pitch. One of the aims of this exclusive photo essay - for which Inpho agency photographers had unprecedented access to the Irish squad - was to show a different side to the players in their personal space. Dan Sheridan’s image captures O’Mahony with his wife Jess, daughter Indie and son Theo. Away from the spotlight and far from the white lines of the rugby pitch, the Munster and Ireland flanker cuts a more relaxed figure.
SURF’S UP: A playful pose from Carbery at his home in Kildare, bearing some similarities to his kicking routine, underlines one of the out-half’s passions in life. A surfing enthusiast, Carbery travels to the west and mid-west in search of big waves in the off-season.
Billy Stickland noticed the surfing gear upon arriving, and Carbery was more than happy to provide an impromptu lesson with his dog Tutu evidently a quick learner.
NINE LIVES: Asked by the Inpho photographers to suggest a suitable shoot location, Conor Murray was quick to suggest Derrynane Beach in Kerry, where he spent many a childhood summer.
Pictured with girlfriend Joanna, Murray attracted some attention on the beach and so a retreat was made to the quieter dunes. Assurances were sought from Murray that there was no risk of injury for this shot. We are delighted to confirm there were no Ireland scrum halves injured in the making of this picture.
SHOULDER TACKLE: One of the early photographs taken for this series, Munster’s utility man is pictured in the family home with daughters Laurie and Ella May on a matchday. Photographer Dan Sheridan spent a number of hours in Limerick with the Earls family, although the best moments are always the unscripted ones.
An unguarded Earls will later spend 80 minutes on the field of play, with his ferocious tackle as famed as his electric pace. A sharp contrast from the warm embrace between father and daughter here.
MY STRENGTH: Holding a photograph of his late mother Wendy outside his home in Dublin. Porter was just 12 years old when his mum passed away due to breast cancer, and has previously said that not a day goes by when she isn’t in his thoughts.
Now a supporter of the Irish Cancer Society and its Daffodil Day campaign, Porter wears a constant reminder of his mother in the form of the forearm tattoo, visible here.
Porter started secondary school the day after his mother’s funeral and it’s no surprise that his mother was at the centre of his thoughts when asked for a subject for this shoot.
SPEED MACHINE: With his father Graham, Stockdale has just given his Ford Mustang a final polish for the photo shoot. Stockdale Snr is a motoring enthusiast, and this classic muscle car helps the Irish try machine manoeuvre his mind away from rugby.
The car park for this shoot isn’t far from Stockdale’s home, which is just as well given the car’s miles-to-gallon performance. Economical it ain’t!
QUIET LIFE-GUARD: Finding a quiet place to get away from it all is paramount, and for Garry Ringrose that means a trip to Seapoint in Dublin. While the on-duty lifeguard keeps an eye on the waves, Ringrose’s focus on the World Cup remains.
SWEET SESSION: Munster lock Beirne is pictured with mum Brenda, girlfriend Harriet, sisters Caoimhe, Jennifer and Alannah, dad Gerry and family dog Luna as a trad session breaks out at the family home.
Beirne comes from a family of keen musicians, while his mother Brenda is a former Rose of Tralee and the subject of a Christy Moore song about her time as a Garda in Dublin.
Billy Stickland explains the challenge of getting these group shots right, with so many moving parts. Safe to say mission accomplished on this occasion.
LIFE IS GREAT: Dan Sheridan’s favourite photograph in the series, this portrait of CJ Stander with daughter Everlie was taken literally minutes after Stander’s wife, Jean-Marie, had given birth. As one can imagine, for photographer Dan Sheridan, the shoot wasn’t without its complications.
A planned Cesarean section was brought forward, leaving Sheridan with a mad scramble to get to the hospital in Limerick. He got there with minutes to spare and captured a moment Stander and his family will always treasure.
ROCK, HARD PLACE: O’Brien’s Bridge, just outside Limerick, is a popular destination for the cluster of Munster players in the area, so it’s appropriate this was the hotspot for Andrew Conway. Pictured with fiancee Liz and dog Sadie, Conway’s recent performances in the green jersey have seen his RWC chances take flight but the winger and fullback still has his feet firmly on the ground.
IN THE SWING: Ireland’s Best skipper with his family in Armagh. Much like his head coach, the veteran hooker will look forward to more moments like this post the World Cup in Japan.
This was the first shoot of the series, and in many ways set the tone, with family to the fore.
GREEN IS GOLD: Stickland mentions WC Field’s adage of working with children or animals when discussing this image of Limerick hurling fan Sean Cronin and twin sons Cillian and Finn. Photographer Dan Sheridan managed to capture the twins’ boisterous nature before they scuttled off camera again. Cronin remains Zen-like as he enjoys some precious family time. Japan will be Sean’s third World Cup so extended periods away from family and home are nothing new. A sacrifice nonetheless.
FINDING HIS FEET: Ulster man Chris Farrell has found his feet in Munster since his arrival from Grenoble. Here in Killarney with his girlfriend Estelle, Farrell is a contender for the famous no. 13 jersey in Japan.
After bouncing back from a series of injuries earlier in his career, Farrell is a picture of poise as he enjoys a break in the Kingdom.
ADDED BITE: The Ulster captain is a focused individual on and off the pitch. Pictured with wife Suzanne, daughter Lana and dogs Lola and Baily, Inpho’s Billy Stickland says one of the aims of the series was to capture family moments in a way that wouldn’t normally be seen on mantelpieces around the country.
This image is one such example. A morsel of food in flight, with Lola suspended in mid-air is not unlike his master spearing through the air, propelled by team-mates to claim a vital line-out.
SWEET MELODY: This image of the Ireland centre with father Tony and dog Buster is one of Stickland’s personal favourites, highlighting the synergy between the two avid musicians and the dramatic skyline.
Henshaw’s family are regulars ceili-goers, and he has shared a stage with many well-known musicians. Whether Tadhg Beirne and Henshaw will make sweet melodies in Japan remains to be seen.
LIFE IN LAHINCH: Prop Dave Kilcoyne was advised to take his shoes off for this shoot after a prior reconnaissance of the area for the photographer resulted in a slip on the seaweed covered rocks.
Pictured just outside Lahinch with his father Pat and brothers Alan and Paraic, Kilcoyne was keen to highlight the support of his family throughout his rugby career. Pulling on a green jersey in Japan will remind Kilcoyne of how pivotal that support has been.
HANDS DOWN: A trial-and-error shoot that began with a golf club and ended with a handstand. The Poolbeg chimneys run parallel to McGrath’s vertical manoeuvre, adding symmetry to the shot. Stickland and Sheridan set out to capture the players doing something different - this perfectly fits the bill.
PRIVATE RYAN: Billy Stickland spent most of this shoot reminiscing about the glory days of Trinity College, having gone to third level with James’ father Mark. The snapper says finding some common ground with subjects is a good way of relaxing them. Touted in many quarters as a future captain of his country, James Ryan showed no signs of nerves ahead of his first RWC campaign as he is pictured alongside his father and brother Mark Jnr.
FUN IN THE SUN: The location in Crosshaven, Co Cork was serendipitous after Stickland encountered some lighting issues at the original spot. No such issues as Munster man Niall Scannell and his fiancee Maeve enjoy the local funfair. Stickland describes the location and shoot as having a movie-set atmosphere, with the lights behind Scannell echoing his star quality.
SMALL TREASURES: For John Ryan, wife Zita and son Felix, this picture was the clear winner among the edits sent to the player by Stickland and Sheridan. The Cork man is now based in Limerick and the shoot took place just metres away from Andrew Conway’s favoured location in the Treaty city. Ryan had to bide his time before making it to a first Rugby World Cup, so will be looking to make a big impact in green in Japan.
MOUNTAIN MAN: The post-match routine for Jack Conan invariably features a walk along the trails of the Dublin mountains with his dog Jess, favouring a tranquil setting in which to clear his head after the rough and tumble of 80 minutes rampaging hither and tither.
The remains of the Ballycorus leadmine flue chimney form a dramatic backdrop against a dark Dublin sky. Stickland explains how such an interesting feature can elevate a player portrait.
MULTI-TALENTED: Like Andrew Porter, Jordan Larmour is a St. Andrew’s College graduate, with the pair lining out together in the school colours. Given the starlet’s versatility, it is no surprise he also excelled at other sports in what is traditionally a breeding ground for hockey internationals, lining out for the school hockey team while juggling Junior Cert commitments.
Larmour has since returned to the school to help with the rugby programme, and pictured here with father Ian and brother Adam it’s clear this is a place where he feels right at home.
TASTEFUL: Taking pride of place in Jean Kleyn’s Limerick home is a traditional South African braai, a feature that no doubt also keeps his dogs Rambo and Heidi happy. The impressive barbecuing unit was a labour of love for the naturalised Irish player, first imported from his home country before a painstaking installation that required extensive chimney renovations. As the squad set up for what they hope will be a long stint on the other side of the world, it’s unlikely many will go to the same lengths as Kleyn did to secure a taste of home.
OH BROTHER: Although Rhys Ruddock would be the better-known of these sporting brothers, it was Ciarán that had a seat on the flight to Japan guaranteed through his work with the team’s fitness set-up. Perhaps this explains the jubilation.
Appearing slightly more relaxed about the upcoming Rugby World Cup is Rhys, who is flanked by his father, former Leinster and Wales coach Mike. Mother Bernadette and sister Katie, along with dog Buddy, appear used to Ciarán’s antics that make him such a popular member of the support staff.
JOSH THE FLIER: Josh van der Flier’s father Dirk was one of the Leinster player’s first rugby coaches, and together with his mother, Olly, is a constant source of support for the flanker. Van der Flier is pictured among the trees of Wicklow near the family home from a shoot that took place in April.
BEST FRIENDS: Jack Carty catapulted his way into the Rugby World Cup squad on the back of an impressive domestic season at the Galway Sportsgrounds with Connacht. Carty overtook Ian Keatley as Connacht’s record points scorer in the Pro14 last March. He is pictured in Galway with his dog Willow.
FARM HAND: The shoot at the Furlong farm in Wexford was one of the most rewarding for Inpho’s Stickland and Sheridan who were treated to a hearty breakfast courtesy of Tadhg’s mother Margaret - and departed laden with brown bread, jam, and marmalade.
Here with his father James, Furlong has spoken before of his love for family and farm and is regularly found helping out throughout the year.
HIGH JINKS: This photograph might go a way to undermining the myth that the Louth-born brothers are as dull as a parody Twitter account suggests. Older brother Rob remains one of the first names on Schmidt’s team-sheet with Dave unlucky to make the final squad after recovering from a series of untimely injuries.
Full back Rob (33) is renowned for his aerial prowess under opposition pressure, thanks in no small part to his time as a Louth minor footballer. He was never going to be snapped practicing grubbers and lineout lifts, was he?
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