It might not have been a regular topic of conversation around the dinner table, but the Hawkshaws always wondered if it would ever happen.
It wasn’t just the age difference between Jimmy (28), David (22) and Daniel (19) that made the idea of the three brothers sharing the same rugby pitch seem fanciful, but they were also at very different stages in their careers .
In Jimmy’s case, he had packed up after bad injuries playing rugby. David made his way in the Leinster setup which meant his involvement in club rugby was somewhat limited while Daniel was just finishing school.
Earlier this month, however, the stars aligned, and when they did, things went better than the Hawkshaws could dream of. Jimmy had moved back to Dublin, David had been sacked by Leinster to get more playing time with Clontarf and Daniel had followed David by winning an U20 Grand Slam with Ireland when he appeared in this year’s campaign.
As an older sibling, Jimmy’s mind began to wander.
“I would say the only reason I went back to rugby was because I was like, ‘Oh dear, I could maybe play with one of my brothers.’ Not to mention those two,” smiles Jimmy.
Sport runs deep in the Hawkshaw family. It’s not just the three brothers who have excelled on the rugby and GAA pitch (David played minor hurling with Dublin). Her sister Sarah (26) is an Olympian and played ice hockey for Ireland in Tokyo.
“She’s someone who would really push the three of us. She worked for everything that drove us,” says David of Sarah.
The Hawkshaws’ mother, Ann, played camogie for Limerick and badminton for Ireland, while her father Seán played badminton for Leinster.
Sport dominated the household growing up, although rugby wasn’t really on the radar until Jimmy, David and Daniel went to Belvedere College.
There, paths crossed with Clontarf’s head coach Andy Wood, a teacher and game master at the school. Wood saw the Hawkshaws’ talent from a young age, particularly in David’s case after winning back-to-back Senior Cups in 2016 and 2017, and he encouraged them to join Clontarf where their dream eventually became a reality.
Jimmy had yet to play for ‘Tarf’s senior team this season, while Daniel had made his Energia All-Ireland League (AIL) debut away from home a few weeks earlier. Neither Jimmy nor David were involved that day.
David’s schedule is a bit more complicated as he is a professional player at Leinster, although he will join Connacht next season.
Leo Cullen is a big supporter of the AIL and the Leinster boss sees the value in his young players playing club rugby.
It was a Tuesday night and just before practice, Wood informed Daniel, who is currently at Leinster Sub-Academy, that he would be playing Ballynahinch next Saturday.
Naturally, as a 19-year-old he was excited to play his first AIL game on Castle Avenue, and Daniel soon had even more reason to look forward to what lay ahead.
“Leo would be good at letting us know as early as possible in the week,” explains David.
“Normally we wouldn’t train with the club on a Tuesday because we had Leinster training.
“Then we train on Thursday and have a game on Saturday. So I would have known on Tuesday, but all I knew was that Dan was playing. I wasn’t sure if James was playing or not.
“We came in and Pat (McHale, team manager) gave me the gear that I was supposed to give to James. I thought, ‘It’s happening!’”
“I was the last person who knew I was playing,” says Jimmy.
“Woody was going to announce it on Team Huddle but someone accidentally let me know I was going to play. All I heard was Woody yelling back, ‘It was supposed to be a surprise!’
“Daniel was in his 20s and me and David had been playing seniors for a while and it still hadn’t happened that the three of us played together.”
Daniel added: “James is about nine years older than me so I probably didn’t think about it that much until I finished school.
“When I got to Clontarf we joked about it, so it was cool when it finally happened.”
David continues, “I definitely thought about it because I would have grown up with James.
“When Dan popped up below me at Belvedere, I watched him and ended up coaching him in one of the years after I left.
“By the time the three of us were in the club, Dan had dropped out of school, people would say so, but you’d always dismiss it because you never want to jinx it.
“I think the way it happened was the best way because it wasn’t a massive build-up in our own heads.”
During training on the Thursday before the game, only one thing went through their heads.
Jimmy: “I was like, ‘Gosh, I better not hurt myself!'”
David: “I think we all did!”
Jimmy: “I went to practice on Thursday and I was like, ‘Okay, just keep at it, no matter what!’
“It was just pure excitement. I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the game, I was just buzzing. I was nervous in the sense that I wanted to win because we were playing three.”
David: “I didn’t actually train much on Thursday because I had to train earlier in the day (with Leinster). In the end I only did the captain’s run.
“When the team was named, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to train.’ But then I thought, ‘Ah no, if I pull something, I’ll snap!’ We didn’t really walk much.”
After surviving the session unscathed, Jimmy called his parents, Ann and Seán, to share the good news. “They were both buzzing. It’s something they definitely had in mind as well.”
Clontarf flew high to the top of the AIL table and although Ballynahinch struggled down the other end, the Hawkshaws knew the pressure was on to deliver on their big day. David started on the out-half, with Daniel on his outside at inside center while Jimmy was on the left wing.
Appropriately, the three brothers wore jersey numbers 10, 11 and 12 on Castle Avenue on that unforgettable afternoon.
“I won’t lie, I was nervous. I was pretty tense,” admits David, who captained Ireland U-20 during the 2019 Grand Slam season before tearing his cruciate ligament.
“On days like this you really want to win. It was an opportunity for the three of us and you want to show your best side.”
Daniel was in the same boat: “I was nervous beforehand but when the game started and we could say we were playing together I just hoped we would win. It made it easier to know that the two guys were next to me.”
“As soon as the game started, there was a good feeling everywhere,” David continues. “Dan scored fairly early, which definitely relaxed me. Then I went over and Dan went over again, so we all thought about it!”
Now that the Hawkshaws had ticked the box of sharing the same spot, they set their sights on a different target.
“After Dan’s second try, we were celebrating under the posts and all I could hear was the guys saying, ‘You’re up now James,'” recalled Jimmy.
No sooner had Daniel and David scored tries than Jimmy followed suit, Daniel added one more just to be safe. Incredibly, the brothers met each other on each of their four attempts.
‘Tarf hammered ‘Hinch 40-14. A crucial win that kept them on course for tomorrow’s AIL final against Terenure at Aviva Stadium was mastered by the Hawkshaws, who finished the game with 30 points overall.
“Our grandpa almost fell over after that when he tried to get onto the pitch. It was an incredible day,” adds David, who will miss the final as he is in South Africa with Leinster
There’s a running joke in the Tarf dressing room that Wood could almost name an entire XV with pairs of brothers. In addition to the three Hawkshaws, Aidan and Matt D’Arcy, Ivan and Alex Soroka, and Paul and Brian Deeny, who made his Leinster debut last week, all currently play for the club.
It’s a remarkable achievement for the proud Clontarf brothers and the Hawkshaws’ memorable goals have secured them a special place in the club’s rich history.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/hawkshaws-lead-the-way-for-clontarfs-proud-band-of-brothers-41602222.html Hawkshaws lead the way for Clontarf’s proud group of brothers