5 Dec, 11:40
Tommy O'Donnell will start from the bench for Munster A when they face Plymouth Albion in Round 3 of the British and Irish Cup tomorrow night.
Cronin made his B&I Cup debut in December away to Rotherham Titans and has gone on to start in every Munster A game since.
His consistent performances since inception have resulted in a RaboDirect PRO12 debut against Leinster, Heineken Cup squad inclusion and a Senior Development contract for season 2013/14.
Overall it’s been a great year for the 22 year old loose-head prop who is in his second year of the Munster Rugby Academy. “I got in for a B&I Cup game and thankfully everything has gone well and I’ve progressed. I’m happy with how things are going.
Obviously I got the first cap last week which was a great achievement but hopefully I’ll kick on now and get a couple of more games.”
Commenting on the B&I Cup competition James believes it provided him with the perfect opportunity to showcase his talent. “The physicality of the British and Irish Cup level is tough, you go to these teams in the South of England, like we played Cornish Pirates, a very physical team, and it took us till the very end to win! It’s a good stepping stone to RaboDirect and hopefully Heineken Cup in the future.”
A stepping stone it is, as he secured his first RaboDirect PRO12 cap last weekend against Leinster, “It was a great feeling to be honest, unfortunately the result went against us, but it was a proud day for me to make the cap in Thomond Park. My family were up there as well and it was just a fantastic day. I wasn’t too nervous, I was more excited to be honest and it was great to get the few minutes and I’ll hopefully get more game-time, but it was a great achievement with a good buzz.”
Building up to the biggest Interpro derby of the year, Cronin was well-advised and looked after by his team-mates. “Paulie was certainly one, anything I needed he just said to give him a call, Billy Holland and Dave O’Callaghan, they were all helping me out, and I knew the group was completely behind me.”
Driven by the success of a former Academy member, Dave Kilcoyne’s progression is proof of what the young prop can strive to achieve. “You do all the ground work in the Academy and I think the step up isn’t as big as it used to be. Killer had a great year with Heineken Cup and Irish Caps, and hopefully I can follow suit.”
In March James was named as one of three additional players added to Munster’s Heineken Cup squad, “It was kind of a surprise to be honest, I didn’t really expect it, obviously the work I was doing at B&I Cup level showed the coaches what I was capable of.
Peter Malone came up to me after a training session and asked me to sign a piece of paper and when he told me what it was for I signed it straight away, there were no questions asked!”
Cronin moves on from the academy at the end of this season after securing a Development contract for next year. “I’m happy to be around the squad, training day in and day out with Lions and Irish Internationals and I’m only going to progress as a player being around these people.”
Advancing from the Academy he is joined by his colleagues, Cian Bohane, Ronan O’Mahony and Niall Scannell at Development level next year, “Cian Bohane and Niall Scannell are two good friends of mine, Bohane is on the bench for tonight’s game, and it’s good to see us moving through together. We are all from the same club and it makes it all that easier.”