Belfast Telegraph

Fans hail hero of Ireland's Six Nations triumph Jacob Stockdale

By Jonathan Bradley

The morning after helping Ireland clinch the Six Nations title, Ulster sensation Jacob Stockdale was modestly meeting young rugby fans in Dublin.

After equalling the record for tries in a single championship campaign, the down to earth 21-year-old was milling around the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday morning with girlfriend Jessica Gardiner, taking pictures with supporters who had seen him in action in the Aviva Stadium against Scotland the day before.

There are 20 men in history who have scored more Test tries for Ireland than Jacob Stockdale. But he has just eight caps.

Now known throughout the rugby-playing world for his fast feet and beaming smile, Armagh-born Stockdale is putting together a season that will live long in the memory - and is already a firm favourite in Joe Schmidt's triumphant squad.

And it was another huge occasion for the former Wallace High pupil over the weekend as he ran in two scores against Scotland with three generations of Stockdales among the 51,000 packed into the Aviva Stadium.

Equalling the try record, and winning the first medal of his career in front of his family will have meant all the more to home-bird Stockdale.

As he was scooping two top gongs at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in January, the powerful winger paid tribute to the influence of his mum and dad.

"Two people who have been massive influences on me are my parents," he said as he was then preparing for the Six Nations tournament.

"My mum and dad never forced me to do anything I didn't want to do, and always supported me really well in everything that I did want to do.

"My mum was probably tearing her hair out when she thought rugby and the Schools' Cup was taking precedence over my A-levels, but she never forced me into being anything other than what or who I wanted to be."

Jacob comes from a family with the sport in its blood.

His father, former Presbyterian minister Rev Graham Stockdale, now a chaplain at Newry hospice and Maghaberry and Hydebank Prisons, recently said that rugby was "a big part of our life".

Rev Stockdale revealed that his father, Jacob's grandad, was a regular attender at Ireland rugby internationals in Dublin.

"My dad always took us to the internationals in Dublin once a year, which was a big trip in those days," the clergyman said.

"Then he bought Jacob a rugby ball when he was born, and that was it.

"Jacob started mini rugby in Ballynahinch when I was minister there, and was involved in schools rugby at Wallace High."

Jacob was invited into the Ulster Rugby academy on leaving school and made his senior debut at the age of 19.

After playing for Ireland Under-20s, the whole family was waiting anxiously to hear whether Jacob had been chosen for the senior team's summer tour in the US this year.

"He played a trick on us," Rev Stockdale said.

"We have a WhatsApp family group and we were waiting all day to hear news.

"Then he put in a comment saying: 'It's bad news'.

"So we replied: 'Oh, don't worry Jacob, you'll make it next time… maybe it was too soon'.

"We were giving him all this supportive advice, which he enjoyed reading, and only then he said: 'It's bad news because you'll not see me for three-and-a-half weeks'.

"Friday night is a great family night out - as long as Ulster win, of course."

Belfast Telegraph

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