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Denis Hurley testing the Ulster defence
Dan Sheridan
Hurley Making The Most Of Things
1 January 2010, 10:17 am
A year ago, it was almost a question of Denis Hurley being on the outside looking in as Munster prepared for the penultimate Pool game against Sale Sharks at Thomond Park Stadium
That day he wore the number 22 jersey and managed four minutes as a replacement for Ronan O'Gara at a stage when the bonus point victory was well and truly sealed. The following weekend in France, in Montauban, he got about two minutes longer, on again for O'Gara,and as was the case in Limerick the previous week, he slotted into Paul Warwick's full back position with the Aussie shifting to 10 when O'Gara had departed the scene.

And with former All Black Doug Howlett on one wing and Ian Dowling playing out of his skin on the other, apart from Magners League outings, it looked like the 22 jersey would be his lot for the foreseeable future.

How bad you might think for the then 25 year old until you recall the previous season and how he burst into people's consciousness. It started when Declan Kidney named him in the Munster side for Heineken Cup quarter final away to Gloucester. Named ahead of crowd favourite, Mr Reliability himself Shaun Payne. And for a game against a side considered almost unbeatable at that stage of the season at one of the most intimating venues - intimidating that is for visiting teams.

But Hurley came through with flying colours, threaded through a delightful grubber for Howlett to score and certainly hastened the end of a great career for Payne.

Injury disrupted the start of the 08/09 and saw Warwick and Keith Earls preferred at 15 and when he did a Magners League run at the end of February start of March, he didn't do enough to change people's minds.

It was, he accepts a tough time. "I got catapulted into the Heineken Cup and then things didn't come into fruition for me the following season. I was at a point where I was considering my career as a rugby player and it was a tough time.

"At times like that I'd chat to my father (Gerry). He's be a good man for that sort of thing. Working through things like. I just had to re-focus on what I wanted to do, and just re-set myself."

He is convinced that "the experience made me stronger as a player and I'm better for it now and I'm delighted to be in the squad and happy with the way I've been playing recently."

Warwick continues to wear the number 15 jersey and Hurley is now holding down the wing position ahead of Ian Dowling.

"At 15 you're a lot more involved. On the wing you're more of a decoy runner or you try to get yourself into positions and take opportunities, but it depends on the match.

"The backline has come together over the past number of years. The 10 man rugby played before - well that day and age is well gone. We mix between the forwards and the backs, and hopefully we make it hard for teams to play against us. Well that's what we'd like to achieve anyway.

"I appreciate my chances more now and enjoy the high tempo games."

One of the many highlights of Munster's win in Perpignan was his performance and in particular his second half try. But when asked about that score his self-deprecating response is to lavish praise on others. " It was the way the forwards took it on, coming round the corner again and again. Then Paul's pass was absolutely perfect. Hard and fast. His pass made me take the line I took."

Nor will he allow himself think beyond Munster in terms of what next. " All my focus is on this game on Saturday. I'm just concerned with getting myself onto the starting field every week and anything after that I wouldn't put much thought into."

No, but others will.

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