Elwood has no regrets over shock quit decisionOctober 5, 2012 - 7:00am
CONNACHT Coach Eric Elwood hasn’t ruled out returning to the province he has served for more than half of his life at some point in the future.
“At this point in my life, I’ll never say never but right now this is the right decision for me,” said the 43-year-old after his bombshell announcement on Wednesday that he is to step aside from the province at the end of this season, when his three year contract expires.
Elwood indicated that rugby was all consuming and had almost taken over his life for the past 25 years. He said he was stepping back from the position to focus on other things in his life that are important to him – his family.
The Mervue native, who is synonymous with Connacht Rugby, is and always has been a fan’s favourite and, a bit like Kenny Dalglish for Liverpool FC, is considered a ‘folk hero’ out west, said the decision was a difficult one to make but he has “no regrets”.
“I suppose it is a shock but I’ve thought about it for a while now, I’ve spoken with my wife, I’ve spoken with my kids, even though they’re still young, 13, eight and six, and I’ve spoken with my close friends.
I’ve given over 20 years service to Connacht, that’s a huge part of my life, 12 years as player, five as assistant coach, and three years as head coach. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past while . . . there’re a few things I know I need to do like spending more time with my kids.
“My job is 24/7. Even when I’m off, during the week, going for a walk on the Prom or down Barna Pier, people are talking to me about rugby, and that’s fine, it’s good that people are interested in Connacht Rugby, but I just can’t seem to get away from it,” he said.
Elwood has transformed Connacht’s fortunes in the league, steering the province to its highest ever finish last season, as well as making them competitive in the province’s first season in the Heineken Cup, against Toulouse, Gloucester and Harlequins. He did so by blooding a young bunch of home-grown exciting talent, through building a solid defence and a more ambitious style of attacking play that saw attendance figures at the Sportsground soar last season, in particular.
Elwood looked set to lead Connacht for as long as he wanted the position.
An announcement like this, out of the blue, that has shocked the rugby public in Galway and the West, is always going to feed conspiracy theories about whether he was pushed or had something else lined up.
The timing of the announcement, so early in the season, a couple of days after the superb Leinster victory, a day after the launch of the Heineken Cup and few days before an important trip to Ulster, and not long after the appointment of a new CEO, Tom Sears, fuelled that type of speculation among rugby supporters.
But Elwood rubbished any of those suggestions and said, honestly, that the decision had nothing to do with results, on-field issues or performances, or a lack of support from his employers; and he stressed he would give 100% to the job ‘til the end of the season.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.