Search icon


08th May 2015

An Irish rugby player is winning heaps of praise in England for his artwork

Jonny May 'Broken Dreams'

Patrick McCarry

Rugby player becomes fêted artist.

It is not the sentence you usually relate to the muck and bullets world of rugby. For Shane Monahan, however, it is a journey still in its early days but one that is proving thoroughly rewarding.

The 28-year-old Gloucester winger, who has previously played for Leinster and Connacht, is beginning to make a modest, but welcome, living on the side through his paintings.

The former Ireland Under-20 international tells us that he rediscovered his love for art after a planned joke on team-mate Mike Tindall back-fired.

‘We were doing Secret Santa, in my first season at Gloucester [2012/13], and I picked out Mike Tindall.

‘I asked my dad to bring over an Irish tricolour when he was coming over, for a game. Being a member of the Royal Family [Tindall is married to Zara Phillips], I thought he’d enjoy the flag.

‘My dad flew back home with the flag and I thought “Ah shite, I’ve no present”. The Christmas party was the next day so I needed to put something together quickly. I sketched a picture of Mike and, when I gave it to him on the night, the lads said “Jesus, that’s pretty good”.’

Tindall art

The Meath native had taken an art class in secondary school [‘We pretty much did what we wanted in that class’] and was able to use his talent for drawing when he took up a Production Design course at Dublin Institute of Technology. The artistic side of the course, he said, was enjoyable. The engineering and maths, not so much.

As he settled into life with Gloucester, Monahan began to pursue his painting and sketching. Ireland’s Cian Healy dabbles in some art but Monahan found former England cricketer Jack Russell as his main inspiration. ‘Art and sports memorabilia are popular but there are not many rugby players involved. I have access to many of the players so can give people a feel for their characters, and the game, through my work.’

Monahan is, to a large extent, self-taught when it comes to art. ‘There’s nothing to say I won’t go back and do some courses. I am a long way off where I want to be.

‘A lot of artists have their own, distinct style. Andy Warhol, for example. I did a Pop-Art Players series. That was received well but is not necessarily my style.’

The winger is grateful to Josh Frape from the Rugby Players’ Association for engaging with him, when it comes to his renewed artistic passion. Indeed, Monahan’s large-scale prints of England internationals James Haskell and Ben Morgan will be on show at the association’s end-of-season dinner, next week.

Both players will sign the prints and profits made will go towards ‘Restart’, the RPA charity that aids players who have been forced to retire through injury or illness.

James Simpson-Daniel and Shane Monahan pose beside 'Sinbad'.

Monahan has recently begun designing products such as mugs, t-shirts and hoodies. His Gloucester-inspired series ‘Eat, Sleep, Shed, Repeat’ has gone down a storm.

The hope, he says, is to continue on with a sustainable artistic career during, and after, his playing days. His work has already appeared in a number of exhibitions, most notably at Hynam Court, with prints sold in aid of the Piper Charity. ‘I love doing it,’ he says, ‘and if I can combine my art with rugby, and make money from it, I will be delighted.’

While art is going well for Monahan, rugby has proved to be a frustration this season. He has only featured in four games since David Humphreys took over as the Cherries’ director of rugby, last summer. ‘Unfortunately, David see me in the picture here. I was fit for three-quarters of the season but only played LV and Challenge Cup games. It has been a bit of a disaster, rugby-wise.’

Injury has ended his season early and he is ‘hitting the re-set button’ over the summer. That includes leaving Gloucester, after three seasons, 34 games and 13 tries. He has been in discussions with English Premiership and Championship sides, and clubs in France.’

Monahan will get home over the summer, too, and while he is here, he is hoping to meet up with a couple of Irish internationals so he can start on a new series of paintings.

SportsJOE has already requested a Paul O’Connell print.

[All pictures courtesy of Shane Monahan Designs]

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?