Dreams Do Come True: RUNY Signs Iona Scrumhalf Connor Buckley. Quotes From Those Involved

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“He is the best American player I coached at any level.” – Iona Head Coach Bruce McLane

NEW ROCHELLE, NY – When you’re a kid growing up in the USA, you dream of things you’ll be when you grow up. For many of you reading this, that dream likely included being a professional athlete. I know it did for me. But never once did that dream ever include being a professional rugby player. Why not? Two reasons: 1) I didn’t have a clue what rugby was – other than a Ralph Lauren shirt  2) There was no professional rugby in the USA to play, let alone watch.

Boy, have things changed.

Connor Michael Buckley is a kid from Rockaway Beach, NY. Rockaway has always been a blue-collar town, that is until the interlopers began discovering it. It’s an almost-sleepy beach town but a strong stone’s throw from NYC. It’s also home to the Rockaway Fishheads. Buckley grew up around rugby and went to Xavier High School, which counts recent USA Eagles Seamus Kelly, Chris Mattina and current Major League Rugby scrumhalf, Mike Petri – who played in THREE Rugby World Cups.

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If you continue just north of NYC to New Rochelle, you’ll find Iona College. The “Gaels” are now a force in college rugby – another thing that has exploded in recent years. The ICRFC has become solid in a relatively short time. Under Bruce McLane and his impressive staff of Paul Burke, Dave Flemister, Jim Daley, Billy O’Connell, Tim Downey, Mike Riordon, John D’Allara & Andrew Abt, there has been and no shortage of raised eyebrows re the rugby talent they have molded and unleashed on the college scene. And now they are producing potential professionals.

Cut to Connor Buckley… and what Coach McLane had to say about him:
“He is the best American player I coached at any level. His upside is huge because he knows how to lead teams and make teams go forward even when they are outmatched dramatically. He can do it all. He can kick pass tackle make decisions and control the game. That’ll all just improve as the level and challenges improve.

Connor Buckley, Rugby_Wrap_UpHe is his own man. I don’t really compare him to anyone. Petri is his biggest influence but they’re different in demeanor. Similar in work ethic, support lines.

He has very good footwork when he runs. He’s got decent speed (good for a 9), he tackles well but isn’t a big hitter like [Nate] AugspurgerHe’s got a great ball and he’s just a guy who brings out the best in other players and makes big plays when needed… Blocking kicks, breaking lines, etc.

Again, his upside is off the charts. He just turned 21. The fact he wasn’t drafted is laughable.”

It will certainly be laughable if even half of what McLane says is true. In the meantime, Rugby United New York, after getting some reactionary grief for trading its two picks to the expansion Dallas Jackals for an extra foreign player spot in 2021, ends up looking smart. They got their guy and added foreign player flexibility. Granted, Mr. Buckley may not have been drafted but it is a business, after all. Moreover, many a sports legend can tell of their perceived Draft Day slights. Heck, NFL stars Wes Welker, Kurt Warner and Antonio Gates weren’t drafted at all. Tom Brady went in the 6th round. In baseball,  Mike Piazza went in the 62nd round, 1,390th pick – as a favor from his godfather Tommy Lasorda. Indeed Piazza, the Hall of Fame catcher inducted as a New York Met, may be the one to inspire Buckley, as the RUNY young-gun is a Mets fan; so he’s got taste to go with talent.

But hey, let’s hear from Buckley:

RWU: When your contract was finally signed, what went through your head?
CB: [I was] Pumped to potentially play at home with RUNY. I’ve wanted to play for them since they first entered the league and they’ve had my back since I’ve gotten out of high school, so to finally sign is really cool.

RWU: Lofty praise from Coach McLane. What do his words mean to you?
CB: For Bruce to say that about me is wild. Bruce has coached so many amazing players throughout his coaching career and I’ve always looked up to Bruce. His coaching resumé is second to none, so to even be considered among one of the best he has coached is surreal.

RWU: What’s your degree in and where do you see yourself in five years.
CB: My degree will be in finance when I graduate in December. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 5 years. Hopefully still playing some rugby.

RWU: Unlike many of us older sorts, you knew about rugby before high school, growing up in the same zip code as the Rockaway Fishheads, right?
CB: I was familiar with rugby prior to Xavier but I was more of a baseball guy. I’ve played a few games for the younger Fishheads teams, never for the men’s teams. And I almost always take part in the Rockaway 7s Tournament. Even with my limited involvement with the Fishheads, they’ve always supported me. When I got to Xavier is when I started to invest myself more and more in rugby.

Need more Hollywood feel-good fluff?

Buckley will be learning from Greg McWilliams, the RUNY skipper and USA Rugby Assistant Coach, who had this to say:

“We are delighted Connor is joining Rugby United New York. We have been monitoring Connor for some time, Bruce and the coaches at Iona have done a great job and our role is to facilitate Connor’s development further.”

Add to that the fact Buckely may end up playing with the aforementioned Petri and Mattina for his new employers, Rugby United New York. The “may” part of the equation revolves around Petri and Mattina signing new contracts with the team – a thing this pundit thinks will happen. But only death, taxes and stitches are certainties in life… along with our dreams. And we can add a new dream for our kids – a rugby dream – and it’s come to be because of Major League Rugby, the likes of RUNY and… young men like Connor Buckley.

Stick that good news in your pipe and smoke it!

WANT MORE RUGBY? Scroll down for our last couple of shows and the most recent Virtual Rugby battle, pitting RUNY against Rapid Rugby’s South China Tigers

Starting with this week’s MLR show, featuring England legend-turned NBC analyst, Alex Corbisiero, MLR booth god, Dan Power, Americas Rugby News superstar Bryan Ray and our Matt McCarthy, in a grand finale of “Best MLR Playershows. In this one, the Panel picks Major League Rugby’s Best Wings & Fullback. They also dive further into the #MLR2020Team Naming Controversyand get a surprise visit from a USA Rugby 7s star


Watch… Listen/Download the Podcast version… Please share and join our weekly newsletter: https://rugbywrapup.com/weekly-updates/

ANDHow about the latest VIRTUAL RUGBY?
Rugby United NY vs the Hong Kong-based South China Tigers in a virtual throw-down. Piggy-backing the popular Virtual MLR matches, this first-of-at-least two slug-fests between Major League Rugby’s and Rapid Rugby’s big-city teams is a doozie. Replete with pre-game, halftime and post-game chats and some out-of-the-ordinary play call & color commentary by Matt McCarthy and #RUNY star Alex MacDonald, respectively. “British Ben” Higgins and Guy “The Aussie” Spanton bring it for the visiting Tigers, while Penn State heartthrob Rob “The Hammer” Iremescu fights for all of America.

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Roosters vs Tigers. Brought to you by @RugbyWrapUp: CLICK THIS TO WATCH


DALLAS, TX – With the L.A. Giltinis and Dallas Jackals joining Major League Rugby, stunning coaching changes, arguments over kicking stats AND our Pundit Panel’s selections of the Best #9, #10, #12 & #13, this is a show you don’t want to miss. Featuring Alex Corbisiero, Dan Power, Bryan Ray and Matt McCarthy, along with a cameo by Zack Test, the new Co-Head Coach of the San Diego Legion.


NEW YORK, NY – After a down week as per a #Covid-19 scare, we’re back with an action-packed, opinionated blast of a show. Alex “David Banner” Corbisiero, Dan “MJ” Power, Bryan “Hunter S. Thompson” Ray and Matt McCarthy give their Best Loose Forwards in Major League 2020 (some BIG surprises, but not before arguing about the upcoming MLR College Draft and calling bullspit on some Global Rugby Rumors.


Watch… Listen/Download the Podcast version… Please share and join our weekly newsletter: https://rugbywrapup.com/weekly-updates/

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About Matt McCarthy 754 Articles
Matt McCarthy comes to RugbyWrapUp.com from their partner in the USA, MeetTheMatts.com. RWU and MTM feature a stable of diverse contributors, with coverage that is both serious and with a wink. Find him on twitter: @Matt_McCarthy00