By Sean Moriarty
Coventry-born London Irish fly-half Shane Geraghty talks about life at the club and his Mayo roots
London Irish Rugby club kicks off its Aviva Premiership campaign on Saturday with a ‘local’ derby against Harlequins on Saturday at Twickenham.
It is an ideal time for the London-Irish community to reengage with the club it once called its own.
Former English international Shane Geraghty is better qualified than most to extend such an invitation to fans.
The Coventry-born fly-half and inside centre, has strong Irish roots. His dad Joe, now based in Leamington Spa, spent many years in Birmingham, after originally emigrating from County Mayo.
“My dad is actually from Mayo he comes down for every home game enjoys a pint of Guinness, enjoys the banter in the stands , gets to meet the London Irish community and feel a part of the club. There is a massive history to it. We might be in Reading and its 25 years since we played in London but the atmosphere is still there. This club is going places so give it a go,” he told The Irish World.
Although London Irish are not due to play any Irish team this season it was never a problem for Joe even if Irish were playing his home province of Connacht.
Shane explained: “His loyalty, I am hoping, will be with London Irish. Normally any team I have played for he has supported. Even if his loyalties are divided.”
Geraghty is in his second year of a two year contract with London Irish, his second term with the club after having come up through the academy ranks and making his first-team debut for the club at just 18-years of age in 2004.
New challenges beckoned following his move for 2009-10 to Northampton Saints after making 42 Guinness Premiership appearances and scoring 127 points for London Irish, alongside a series of career-interrupting injuries.
He has since cast aside a debilitating catalogue that includes a long-term hamstring injury that eliminated him from 2007 RWC contention and a broken bone in a hand. A knee ligament strain also ruled him out of the 2008 RBS 6 Nations Championship, the year after he won his initial caps. Ankle problems hindered him at the start of the 2008-09 season.
After 95 appearances in 5 seasons for London Irish, Shane joined Northampton in July 2009 and was man-of-the-match in the club’s historic Heineken Cup win over Munster, as well as picking up an Anglo-Welsh Cup winner’s medal following a dramatic final against Gloucester. Geraghty was subsequently selected for England’s 2010 summer tour of Australia and New Zealand, featuring in all three of the midweek matches
In April 2012, it was announced that Geraghty would be returning to his former club for the 2012/2013 season having signed a new two-year deal.
On Saturday London Irish face oldest foes and fellow London club Harlequins as part of a London double header to kick-start the 2014-15 season.
It is a challenge the 28-year-old is looking forward to.
He said: “The way I look at it is that you have to play them[Harlequinns] at some point – why not have them at the start. We have got to focus on ourselves and build on the pre-season games. Going into the first game. Quins are generally a team that start quiet well. It will be played at Twickenham just across the road from their home. We have played Saracens in the opening game of last year so Quins this year. I think it will definitely give it the edge and add to the occasion last year we had a good contest, we beat them at home, tough game away. It is good for us to have them as a target.”
Although success in the Aviva Premiership remains a priority for the club Geraghty would love to see them back in top-flight European competition too.
They play in the European Challenge Cup (formally the Amlin Cup ) this season and face the likes of Cardiff Blues, Grenoble and a yet to be announced Italian side.
He added: “The European Challenge Cup is a good opportunity to move forward the club and back into to Europe and to the Heineken Cup like it was used to be called. I cannot remember the last time we were in a cup competition, what it brings to the club it is massive. We need to be back up there. That is why this year we got to win your home games and get a bonus points as often as we can on the road. Last year we had Stade Francais and got a bonus point try in the last minute – your home form must be massive [for] getting the points we need.”
But that is the kind of success the club needs if it is to succeed in getting new fans to attend games at Madjeski Stadium, especially the London Irish community the club so desperately craves.
He said: “Our home form over the last few years has been up and down. Before that we had really good home form with fans turning up. The stadium holds 25,000, it is a great day out so the more the merrier, there plenty of space great atmosphere, what is not to enjoy.
London Irish completed its pre-season friendly fixtures with a win/loss to Munster on Friday night.