An elated expression is etched onto Cillian Reardon's exhausted face as he reflects on a remarkable year. The Leinster strength and conditioning coach helped facilitate a pro14 and Champions Cup double with the province but that is not what has him presently delighted. He has just taken another step on his remarkable pro boxing career with a convincing victory.
On Saturday night, Reardon moved to 4-0 on the Celtic Clash 7 card at Good Counsel GAA Club, Drimnagh. A gruelling six-rounder against veteran Casey Blair that saw him prevail with a 59-55 decision.
The result is that nine months after making his professional debut, Reardon has his eyes fixed on the possibility of Irish titles. His forehead is cut from a clash of heads and his voice is coarse after the taxing excursions but there is no mistaking the merriment after passing his toughest test yet.
"That was just, really good. Hard! He was a tough opponent but I got what I came for which was a good six round performance."
His Bangor opponent quickly found his beat and immediately forced Reardon to the ropes. This was a style of fight that the Stillorgan middleweight hadn't previously encountered and that is saying something given his debut was against a cruiserweight 15 kilos heavier than him.
I don’t have a massive amateur career at all. So the way I have always fought is on the inside. I'm used to fighting at midrange, throwing a lot of punches. Just come forward and hit hard. But there is always someone who can throw more punches and hit harder. Tonight was a guy who has a significant threat in terms of how heavy his hands are. To beat him, you have to do some work on the outside. I practised that for the last seven or eight weeks and it came through tonight which is brilliant.
A noticeable feature of Reardon's burgeoning career has been the support from Leinster players, both on social media and in person. The likes of Cian Healy and Tadgh Furlong have been regular attendees at his bouts but he is quick to cite the hidden benefits of exposure to an elite group of players.
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Great night at the @assassin_boxing card in tallaght last night. Great to go 3-0 as well. Thanks to my team @denton376, @dave_cutman_kavanagh for their work over the camp. congrats to my teammates franzy luzho, @patrick_nevin23 & @craigmccarthy_boom who all got wins last night.Thanks to all who came out. The support was unbelievable..#assassinpromotions #riseagain #aslan #orourkesgym
Reardon is an expert sports scientist and performance coach. Leinster have benefitted from his expertise since 2011 while he has worked with the Dublin senior and U-21 footballers in the past. Now working on a PhD, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience at his finger-tips that is routinely utilised.
"It really does help, there are all the people that I get access to on a day-by-day basis. Top tier nutritionists, other strength and conditioning coaches that I work with who I can bounce stuff off and put a plan together. Then I go to Steve O'Rourke in the club to cover the boxing side.
For example, Daniel Davey our nutritionist, he would help me with my cut. My whole amateur career I was 75 kilograms and I boxed at 75 so cutting wasn’t something on my radar. Coming into box professionally I was thinking 'how am I going to do this?' I sit two desks away from someone who is the best guy in the world at this!
But just the environment as well, just being in an environment with lads who are genuinely the best at what they do in the world. You are seeing what they do that makes them so good, and then asking 'can I take anything they do that can make me better?'
"They are very supportive, the whole province is really supportive. Loads of the lads are coming out to a lot of fights. That's great. "
For Irish boxing, nights like Saturday represent the indisputable quality that continues to perform in the Republic. The blockbuster card produced two full-throttle rumbles as Martin Quinn was controversially edged out by Karl Kelly in their six-round lightweight contest while Carl McDonald opened the door to some potentially huge future fights as he claimed the BUI Irish super-bantamweight title over Dylan McDonagh.
The year is set to end with a bang with Ray Moylette's WBC International champion title fight taking place in Castlebar this December. That stacked card will be televised live on TG4 and included on the bill are Reardon's stablemates Victor Rabei and Roy Sheahan.
Promising developments for a sport that desperately needed stimulation. Reardon laughs as the arena's roars reach into the dressing room hallway before declaring his delight once more, this has been an encouraging year for himself and for Irish boxing.
"I'm really happy to be a part of that. Really lucky to be a part of Assassin's stable because of what they are doing right now. Irish boxing seems to resurgent and a lot of that is because of what they are doing. Because it was dead for a while, it really was. Not anymore."