Where Are They Now?: Fionn Carr
February 17, 2022 2:41 pm Site Editor
THEN: Fionn Carr made 37 appearances for Leinster from two stints in the Academy (2005-08) and senior squad (2011-13).
NOW: He is married to Claire, working as a Contracts Manager for FPG Amentum in Hong Kong.
Leinster versus Connacht holds a special place in the heart of Fionn Carr.
Few can claim to have moved back and forth over 11 years through two contracts in each province.
Straight out of Newbridge College, the fleet-footed wing was recruited to the Leinster Academy where a special blend of pace and evasion were his points of difference.
“When I first came to Leinster, it was into a contest against the likes of Girvan Dempsey, Denis Hickie, Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa with Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney for competition too. You had top quality internationals.
“The focus for me, coming into the Academy was on getting bigger and stronger in the first year, while seeing if I could compete with those guys or how much better I had to get to challenge them.
“It was something I was super-excited about given how most of the Irish backline consisted of Leinster players with Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy in the centre, Johnny Sexton on his way.
“Michael Cheika was there at the time, building a championship squad, and the Academy was getting much stronger too.”
First time around, he stayed long enough to make his debut in a 21-17 defeat to Glasgow in Firhill back in October 2007.
“I was lucky enough to get a first cap in those Academy years. Personally, I felt I went well. But, the fact we lost the game was less than ideal,” he shares.
“It was a serious highlight for me, making my debut. It is something you don’t forget. I remember afterwards feeling, ‘This is what I want to do’ and how I had to kick-on from there.”
There were no more caps for his head and, soon enough, a decision had to be made
“I spoke to Michael at the end of that season and he suggested a stint in New Zealand as the next step during the off-season, but only with the potential of a training contract when I came back.
“At the same time, Connacht came in with an offer. I spoke to my parents (Evan and Angela), Conor McPhillips, who was finishing up, and Gavin Duffy. The feedback I got from them led to a chat with Michael Bradley, the coach at the time. The opportunity to stay and play in Ireland was something I wanted to do rather than moving further afield.”
A happy player is one that is playing regularly. Fionn was able to develop through 73 caps for Connacht in three years, scorching defences for an eye-popping 34 tries.
“I loved every minute of it. I moved down with Ian Keatley and Seán Cronin. We were in the same boat, eager to make our way in the game. It was all about the opportunities I was given and the fact I took them.
“I used to look for work, constantly searching for the ball, talking to the 10 out the back, coming off the wing, trailing guys who tended to make line breaks, looking for mismatches against the bigger, slower defenders.”
The licence to thrill was handed out by Bradley, backs coach Eric Elwood and even forwards coach Dan McFarland in a culture of positivity that resonated with Fionn.
“They were so encouraging, giving you the freedom to exploit your strength as a player. They made it easier to show my skills as a try-scorer.”
In 2011, it also made Fionn appealing to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt in a mutual appreciation that smoothed the way for his return.
“In 2009, Leinster won the Heineken Cup. I am from Ardclough in Kildare and I saw the chance to get in on some of the success they were starting to have. That was probably my main motivation at the time. I was still quite young. I wanted to win trophies.
“There was also the fact I found it slightly frustrating that the Irish management didn’t give Connacht too much of a look.
“My thinking was if I went to Leinster and got into the team, I might get a more favourable look from Ireland.”
The second coming at Leinster did not go the way Fionn wanted, despite 37 caps in two seasons for eight tries.
“I found Joe to be a fantastic coach, super-detailed, pretty honest with all the players. You know where you stood with him. I had been at Leinster two years, and played a lot of the league matches. For Europe, I ended up on the bench or as the travelling reserve a lot.
“It just felt like I wasn’t getting the nod. I never started in the Champions Cup. That weighed on me. I felt disheartened.”
The employment of Pat Lam as Connacht head coach looked like a match made in heaven for Fionn as the wide-to-wide style of play guaranteed the wings would see plenty of the ball.
“Hindsight is a great thing. If I had known how my time at Connacht would go the second time around I would have stayed at Leinster.
“I made my decision to move west before I found out Andrew Conway was moving to Munster and Isa Nacewa was retiring.”
Lam had a ‘grá’ for Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Tiernan O’Halloran as the first choice back three. Fionn was on the outside again, down the depth chart.
Even the PRO12 final in 2016 was a “bitter-sweet” experience, Connacht beating Leinster at Edinburgh.
“At that stage, the writing had been on the wall. I had to accept that my time in rugby was coming to an end just as Connacht were about to win their first trophy.”
France, England and Major League Rugby were all investigated to varying degrees. The 31-year-old spoke at length to his partner Claire, now his wife, and came to the conclusion that the time was right to step away, begin a new career.
He played for one year with the Irish Sevens and rejoined his childhood club Naas, while getting work experience in Glofox, a company co-owned by former Connacht scrum-half Conor O’Loughlin.
The emphasis on education at Leinster made it easier to complete a BA in Economics and Geography in UCD, followed by an MBA in Finance and, later, a qualification in Aviation Leasing and Finance from the University of Limerick.
There was also the valuable advice of Deirdre Lyons, the Player Development Manager for the Rugby Players of Ireland to steer Fionn in the right direction.
He has worked in Aviation Leasing and Finance as a Contracts Manager with FPG Amentum in Hong Kong for the last two-and-a-half years, staying in the game by playing for Hong Kong Football Club and helping out as a backs/skills coach.
“When an aircraft is purchased and the lease signed, I look after the day-to-day maintenance of the lease.”
Fionn was ushered into a new industry, bringing much of what he had learned in his previous professional environment.
“The high level of motivation and drive allied to a positive attitude are the main tools I have brought with me from rugby,” he says.
“I felt when I started I needed to prove I was good enough to be in there, mainly because my curriculum vitae was 11 years of rugby.
“I don’t want to say I had a chip on my shoulder. But, I definitely knew I had to prove myself. FPG put trust in me. They gave me an opportunity.
“I was grateful for that. I wanted to repay it. I hope I am doing that.”