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24th Apr 2024

Jamison Gibson-Park on the Croke Park classic that sparked his interest in GAA

Patrick McCarry

Jamison Gibson-Park

“It’s pretty funny. Bit of craic out of the lads, Mack and Jacob, about it.”

Over the past four years, Jamison Gibson-Park has ascended and ascended, yet he remains the same, laid-back guy that arrived in Dublin, in 2016. He is arguably second to only Antoine Dupont when it comes to ranking the world’s best 9s. Every season, too, he seems to make another, incremental gain.

We had the opportunity to speak with Gibson-Park, this week, at an event to mark Bank of Ireland extending its sponsorship deal with the four Irish provinces. He was fresh off scoring four tries in two Champions Cup knock-out games and a ream of glowing reports and articles about his continued rise.

Gibson-Park has often been uncomfortable being anywhere close to the centre of attention. He prefers to redistribute any praise that comes his way, will rarely tee off on a subject and his answers are considered and genuine, but frequently brief.

That has changed, a little, ever since he satisfied the World Rugby eligibility rules and was capped for Ireland. He is more comfortable sitting in front of a bank of microphones and with the TV camera lights glaring at him. You get the sense he is miles happier away from the front-facing tasks – snuggly ensconced in the camaraderie of the wider squad – but he was in good form when we chatted.

As Bank of Ireland were sponsoring all the provinces, the Leinster scrumhalf was joined at the announcement, and photoshoot, by Mack Hansen, Jacob Stockdale, John Ryan and a few others. Word had just dropped about Jordie Barrett signing up for a short-term stint in 2024/25, and Tyler Bleyendaal’s impending move to the coaching staff. Leinster, that same week, would also announce a move to play more games at Aviva Stadium and Croke Park, next season, as their RDS home was being revamped, and the capacity increased.

Gibson-Park said his provincial rivals, and Ireland teammates, were joking, “What’s next?” and trying to knock some humour out of the latest Leinster flexes. He spoke extremely well on finishing this season on a trophy-winning high, building on solid starts, the Barrett signing and his pride at securing his Irish citizenship, last December.

Jamison Gibson-Park
Jamison Gibson-Park pictured with his son Jai after the team’s victory over Scotland in the 2024 Six Nations. (Credit: Getty)

Jamison Gibson-Park on Leinster’s transfer business

Jamison Gibson-Park and Jordie Barrett have both played for the Hurricanes, in New Zealand, but missed each other by a season. Barrett arrived in Wellington in 2017, with Gibson-Park making early strides with Leinster, by then. In truth, it did not take long to establish that he would be a quality scrumhalf option for Ireland.

“It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it,” Gibson-Park said of the Barrett move to Leinster. “It’s unbelievably exciting to get someone who is probably one of the best players in the world, at the moment. Looking forward to seeing him go.”

“I would have met him a good few times as I played with a couple of his brothers [Kane and Beauden Barrett] over the years. He was pretty highly touted, being the younger brother of Beauden, and was down in Canterbury, doing his thing. I’ve obviously played against him a few times so really looking forward to him coming over. He’s a classy player.”

Laughing when the inevitable Barrett question comes up – his tackle on Rónan Kelleher that denied Ireland a crucial World Cup try – Gibson-Park wisely deflects. “Yeah, there are a good few lads that will be massively excited by his arrival. Lots of the guys are keen on their golf, as is he, so they’re excited by that, too.”

The 32-year-old, staying on the subject of Super Rugby acquisitions, praises Tyler Bleyendaal for the coaching influence he has had on Hurricanes, his old club, who are currently eight wins from eight games, this season. “It’s phenomenal, these guys arriving over, and it can only be good for the game, here. The fact we are able to attract players like Jordie is pretty amazing.”

After the two-game United Rugby Championship stint in South Africa, Leinster then switch focus on a Champions Cup semi-final against Northampton Saints at a 82,300 capacity Croke Park. To set up that sold-out clash, Leinster had to go through reigning champions, La Rochelle. They did so ruthlessly, winning 40-13. One notable aspect from the game was how Leinster’s players did not celebrate their scores much, and did not let off the gas.

“That was certainly it,” says Gibson-Park. “We know, from playing them in the past, there is no point in easing up, as they are a very good side and can very quickly get on top of you. That was the mins-set, heading out for the second half [17 points ahead] – keep attacking the game, and keep that momentum.”

“It’s such a wicked opportunity,” he added, “to get out there and play at Croke Park. I would have seen footage of the last Leinster and Munster semi final [in 2009] there, and it looked pretty incredible, man… I know Leo [Cullen] and Andrew Goodman are pretty good on their sporting history. I’m sure Goody is working away on that now, getting all his stuff sorted.

“I’ve been to a couple of games in Croker. I was lucky enough to get to an All-Ireland Final, Dubs and Kerry, in 2019. It was at a Leinster final, as well, when the Dubs won again. It’s a pretty phenomenal place.”

The game Gibson-Park is referring to is the classic encounter between Dublin and Kerry, which ended 1-16 apiece after a fierce contest. Jim Gavin’s side went on to win the replay by three points, becoming the first ever senior men’s side to win five All-Irelands in a row.

Mack Hansen
Pictured at the announcement of Bank of Ireland’s 5-year sponsorship announcement are Mack Hansen (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster) and Jacob Stockdale (Ulster). Credit: INPHO

Jamison Gibson-Park on becoming an Irish citizen

It was noted, in a few dispatches, how Jamison Gibson-Park has taken up the role of tempo-setter and additional leader of the Leinster side, now that Johnny Sexton has retired. It is not a conscious decision, he insisted, but something that has naturally arisen as he is ‘the oldest back now, which is pretty depressing!’

Last December, after seven years of living here and starting a family with his wife, Patti, Gibson-Park became an Irish citizen.

“It was pretty awesome, man,” he recalled. “You get to reflect on the journey, so it was a pretty emotional time for myself, and my family. It was cool… the paper-work for it was the biggest test. My word! Thankfully, my wife was pretty great with that. It’s a crazy amount of paperwork, but it was certainly worth it.”

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