Fivemiletown’s Farrell makes dream Six Nations debut.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Fivemiletown’s Farrell makes dream Six Nations debut. thumbnailIreland rugby international, Chris Farrell, pictured during his school days at Fivemiletown College.

FIVEMILETOWN man Chris Farrell's performance was a shining highlight for Ireland in the pulsating bonus-point win over Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Brought into the side by coach Joe Schmidt as a replacement for the injured Robbie Henshaw, the Munster centre had big boots to fill, but he made it a Six Nations debut to remember, putting in a marvellous display to deservedly pick up the Man of the Match awa rd .

Farrell's day got off to a brilliant start. In the first minute he laid a crunching tackle on Wales dangerman Leigh Halfpenny that got a huge roar from the Aviva faithful, before rising to pluck a restart out of the sky in similarly inspiring fashion.

Then it was his linebreak in the sixth minute that lead to Jacob Stockdale going through to opening Ireland's account.

From there, the 24-year-old piled into carries and worked his socks off all afternoon as Ireland secured a 37-27 victory, their third win of tournament that sees them maintain their place at the top of the standings.

"I didn't really think about the pressure whatsoever but there was a lot of chat about it," said Farrell. "I think when you get into the game like I did early - in the first 30 seconds I had two involvements - that kind of settles the nerves, and gives me a feel for what's to come. I couldn't have started much better, and that gave me a platform to build on.

"Wales are very dangerous and they are one of the most expansive teams there is in the Six Nations. If you're not switched on and able to shut things down in midfield, then it can cause you problems in the wide channels."

Farrell made his Ireland debut in November international series against Fiji, a nervy 23-20 win in Dublin with his midfield partner Stuart McCloskey winning just his second cap. After Henshaw damaged his shoulder in the act of scoring his second try against Italy a fortnight ago, Schmidt opted to go for Farrell to partner Bundee Aki in Ireland's midfield after the pair combined well together in the win against Argentina, his second cap back in November.

"I remember before my first game against Fiji I was told just to fit in as best you can and worry about what happens after that.

They were my thoughts again in the Six Nations.

"Obviously it's very different going from a November series, which are massive games, but Six Nations takes on a totally different feel. it's something I've watched since when I was a kid and have aspired to play in. It just feels amazing to have been there so far."

The former Fivemiletown College pupil has taken an unconventional route to donning the green jersey. Having started out at Clogher Valley and come through the Ulster Academy, before embarking on a three-year stint with French club Grenoble.

He returned to Ireland to take up a contract with Munster last summer, and subsequently put himself in the frame for an international call-up "Whenever I was young at Ulster, there was always expectation on me. But with injuries and whatnot, and a few other good centres in the crop of players that come through Ulster, you just slip back.

"The moment I left, I was sitting on the plane going to Grenoble, I was 21, being like, 'what am I doing? I'm just walking away from everything h e re ' .

"[Grenoble coach] Bernard Jackson was hugely influential for me in those three years, and speaking to Joe [Schmidt] as well, they just made me think that I was never that far away, that if I was ever to come back I'd be considered.

"[Joe's] been hugely supportive to me for the few years I was in France, and obviously a part of me coming back to Munster and getting back into the Irish system. I'm just delighted that he has the confidence in me.

"He's willing to put me in there when it matters, and I'm just delighted to get the opportunity."

And Farrell has certainly made the supporters in his hometown proud, none more so than at his former school, Fivemiltown College.

"Chris holds a special place in the hearts and minds of staff and pupils at Fivemiletown College where he was a pupil and captain of rugby for six years," said the school's head of PE, Mr Stephen Clarke.

"A talented athlete, footballer and rugby player, he leaves a legacy in his trail of budding rugby players aspiring to follow in his footsteps and just maybe one day be honoured to answer Ireland's call.

"His leadership qualities coupled with a friendly disposition ensured he always brought out the best in each player leading his team to many victories."


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