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International Debut Beckons For Shane Daly After A Whirlwind Journey

28th November 2020 By The Editor

Shane Daly

Shane Daly is in line to make his Ireland debut on Sunday when Ireland face Georgia in their penultimate game of the Autumn Nations Cup.

The 23-year-old Cork native has been named on the bench for Andy Farrell’s side as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to England at Twickenham.

For the Bishopstown man, it has been an interesting road travelled. The versatile back has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last 12 months as he established himself as an important member of Johann van Graan’s squad in the 2019/20 campaign where he made 16 appearances for Munster which included a Heineken Champions Cup debut in the clash with Racing 92 in Paris.

Since graduating from Cork’s famed rugby nursery of Presentation College, Daly has enjoyed a whirlwind journey as he balanced his studies in Finance at UCC with a memorable run with the Ireland U20s to the Junior World Cup final in 2016. There was also life in the Munster Academy, travelling the globe with the Ireland Sevens and helping Cork Constitution to AIL success to contend with.

Daly was a talent at numerous sports in his early years, particularly in soccer and gaelic football, but it was midway through his time in Pres that the oval ball became his sole focus having first experienced the sport with Highfield RFC.

Although Daly failed to taste Senior Cup success with Pres in 2014 and 2015, he was beginning to make a name for himself in Cork rugby circles as assistant coach with Cork Con and former Munster out-half Jonny Holland recalls.

Shane Daly

Shane Daly in action against Ard Scoil Ris in 2015

“There would be a big Cork contingent who have been singing his praises for a while here as well, it would be no surprise to them,” Holland tells Munster Rugby.

“I think he’s such an exciting player. Personally, I find him fascinating to watch. I just like the way he moves and it will be great for the Cork contingent but obviously, it’s going to be unbelievable for Shane as well. He’s put a lot of effort into it as everyone else does. It’s nice to see someone with a success story.”

One man who has experience with identifying talent is Paul Barr. The experienced coach helped oversee Daly’s development at Pres and subsequently at Con.

Barr is currently working with Bandon RFC and he explains how it wasn’t until Shane saw his older brother James focus on rugby over soccer that prompted the younger sibling to follow in the same footsteps.

“Shane would have been more of a soccer player when he came to Pres first,” Barr says. “I would have coached Shane in rugby. His older brother was also good at soccer and rugby. I think James, Shane’s older brother, kind of set him up with rugby in his last few years with Pres.

Paul Barr ahead of the 2019 AIL final

“James focussing on rugby over soccer probably guided Shane to some degree. I think really only from Bowen Shield on that he really focussed on rugby at Pres. He was take it or leave it up until then, really.”

Although Daly’s talent on the pitch was evident for all to see, it was his attitude and willingness to learn which really stood out to Barr. In fact, after Daly suffered more Senior Cup heartbreak with Pres, Barr was reminded of a similar conversation he had with another young player years earlier during his time as head coach of Leinster Schools.

“I remember talking to Shane the day after,” Barr recalls.

“Obviously, he was very disappointed, but I remember the line of the conversation, Shane reminded me of it again recently, I said, you know, losing a Schools Cup is a huge disappointment for any young lad, but I really believe he has bigger fish to fry in rugby.

Shane Daly

Shane Daly scoring a try against Ard Scoil Ris in 2015

“I had the exact same conversation and I used the same phrase with Johnny Sexton in the years previously when I was head coach of Leinster Schools and Johnny got injured in the warm-up in an Interpro against Munster, played in Cork Con, ironically. I remember he was really upset not to play out-half for Leinster Schools that day and I remember saying to him, ‘Johnny, it’s very disappointing I know but I believe you have bigger fish to fry.’

“They’re different players but at that age-group, that 18-year-old (bracket), you can see a spark, that physical talent, that mental maturity, technical skill, a mental work-rate to hone your skill level to the maximum of their potential. I think that’s very important for young lads that they have an ethic, a personal ethic to maximise their skill level. I think Shane had that appetite as did Johnny a generation before him. I think that set Shane apart somewhat. Also, physically, he’s very, very talented. He’s a hell of an athlete.”

Both Holland and Barr agree that the Ireland Sevens programme played a big role in Daly’s development as it allowed him to hone and develop the core skills of the sport which he could then transfer back to the 15s game.

Holland and Barr also highlight Cork Con’s win over Trinity in the 2019 AIL semi-final at Temple Hill as a moment in which they realised how much Daly’s game had progressed in the intervening years.

Shane Daly and Sean French celebrate a try against Trinity in the 2019 AIL semi-final

Interestingly though, they pick out two different moments in that game which really stood out to them.

For Holland, he recalls Daly’s involvement in the build-up to Aidan Moynihan’s try which clinched the game to set up a final meeting with Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium.

“He had a couple of moments that would stand out to you,” Holland says.

“I talk about his defensive reads. There was a turning point in a game we had against Trinity with Con in the semi-final of the AIL. He had a good read, made the hit and the ball spilled. I’m not 100% sure he might have picked it up and finished as well. Maybe he didn’t but he was the one who got the turnover for us and broke that game up a small bit.

“In Con, it’s difficult to manage because we do get fellas that come back and we’re really happy to get them back and all we want to see is these guys eventually not coming back because that’s what our aim is, to get these guys to develop through the ranks and obviously Shane is a great success story that way.”

For Barr, he outlines Daly’s vision, decision making and pass execution as crucial to Sean French’s superb try in the first half.

“Sean got the ball in a bit of space on the wing and he chipped the last defender, caught the chip on the far side and ran under the posts to score. Really exceptional.”

Barr continues:

Con turned over the ball in the Trinity 22 and somebody hacked it out. Con got back and recovered it. Now, Shane was running to target the ruck because he needed to secure possession going back the pitch towards the Trinity 10-yard line but he wasn’t needed in the ruck. He pivoted unbelievably quickly into the first receiver position and again, I would say that this is the Sevens helping, he called the pass, he caught the pass and the Con fullback read the play and hit a line outside him and Sean was further wide.

“Shane pulled a bridge pass out, maybe a 20-metre pass of bridging the Trinity on-rushing defence and putting Sean into that space where people then picked up that (Twitter) clip from. It was a phenomenal piece of re-alignment and decision making.”

With Daly making his Ireland debut on Sunday, it will be a special moment not only for the player but for his family, friends and all of those who played a role in his development.

Daly has said previously that Barr had a major influence on his development but the Bandon RFC coach immediately deflects any credit which is put his way.

“He’s probably being a bit too gracious with that. I always think the players’ parents have a bigger influence. They’re the ones who wash the kit and bring it to training when he’s a young lad.

Shane Daly during Ireland training

“Shane was so receptive to information, so willing to learn, it was never a chore to work with Shane Daly that’s for sure. Really super personality in the changing room and a great guy to work with. For him to have said that, it wouldn’t be lost on you in fairness.”

And how does he think Daly will adapt to the demands of senior international rugby?

“I was fortunate in my time with Leinster Schools, Munster Schools and Irish Schools over the years to have coached a lot of his teammates playing on Sunday. I think Shane is well able, 100% in that company.

“No doubt.”

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