Former Connacht Rugby player Tom McCartney joined the club in 2014 and quickly established himself as a key playing member and a leader during his time at the Sportsground. A PRO12 medal winner, he was selected on the 2016 Dream Team, and played more than a 100 games for Connacht. When McCartney’s season before retirement was cut short due to Covid-19, he returned with his family to New Zealand, missing an assured fond farewell from all the Connacht fans. Clubs: Pakuranga, Auckland/Blues, Connacht
At what age did you start playing? Seven.
Do you remember your first game? No, but I remember being scared of the ball until I got my first try.
What is your ideal position and why? I was a first five until I was about 14, you just kick the ball and everyone has to chase it.
Who inspired you when growing up? Growing up I just loved playing with my mates, but watching Jonah Lomu in the 1995 Rugby World Cup lit a fire in my love of rugby, then Richie McCaw I found hugely inspiring with his work ethic and competitiveness before I became a professional and had to play him.
Did you also aspire to play at the top level? Yes it was always a pipe dream mucking around in the back yard, but only really decided to commit fully at about the age of 18 and things started to happen quickly once I decided to do that.
What do you particularly like about your sport? The team aspect of it is what I will miss and I used to love the changing room and company of my mates after a game when we had a great performance and a good win.
Greatest influence/role model? Derren Whitcombe and Keven Mealamu both had huge influences on my career, as did all of my coaches.
Why did you join Connacht? I always wanted to play in New Zealand and then go and play somewhere in Europe for rugby and also travel experiences. Connacht was a great fit at the time and what Pat [Lam] was trying to build and achieve linked well with my values.
Biggest challenge to date? My biggest challenge was at the start of my career as I didn’t make any provincial representative teams until I was 18, so I was never in academies and did all my own training, basically up to the point of becoming professional. All my training was on my own terms and because I wanted to make it, not some trainer yelling at me. So that shaped my attitude for the rest of my career and helped me immensely.
Greatest success/achievement? Pro12 win.
Favourite memory? Getting off the bus [in Edinburgh] and trying not to cry before the final as hundreds of Connacht fans belted out the Fields.
Biggest regret, if any? No regrets.
Fiercest opponent/s? I never spent too much time worrying about opponents, but Leinster and the Crusaders were always teams you had to bring your best against or you would get embarrassed.
Strengths/weaknesses? I would say my strengths were my stubbornness and determination to get the best out of myself, and weakness would be chocolate.
If you were not playing your sport, what sport would you want to play? Golf.
What do you do to relax? Netflix and chill.
Favourite sports person? Tiger Woods.
How is life in NZ after rugby in Connacht? Life is good. I’m enjoying the challenge and transition into a new career. I was lucky to listen to financial advice during my career which puts me in a position where I’m not immediately under huge pressure, so I am doing something I enjoy and not just out of necessity. My mother was very ill when I arrived back in New Zealand and she passed not long after we returned, so I was lucky to say goodbye to her properly with the rest of the family which was very special in a tough time. The kids are settled into school now, so it was a good time to transition home with my son being five and daughter three. They were both born in Galway, so we will always have close links and also with all the close friends we made. We are determined to return for a visit once the world calms down a bit.