Saturday 24 June 2017

'Chilled' Marsh confident he can fill Madigan void

Cathal Marsh is growing in confidence as Leo Cullen continues to hand him the reins during the Six Nations (SPORTSFILE)
Cathal Marsh is growing in confidence as Leo Cullen continues to hand him the reins during the Six Nations (SPORTSFILE)

Cathal Marsh's steady trajectory through the Leinster ranks has brought him to a crucial juncture in his fledgling career and there is a deep sense of self-awareness that a massive opportunity lies ahead.

When Ian Madigan departs for the south of France at the end of the season, Leinster are likely to focus their attentions on finding a new scrum-half rather than an out-half, showing faith in two more of the bright lights of their academy.

Ross Byrne is also destined for the top but as the more senior of the two (by three years), Marsh has slowly been embedded into the side this season.

Having been promoted to a senior contract last year, the former St Michael's College student extended his stay with the province earlier this week and although as a whole, it has been a good season for the 24-year-old, it hasn't all been plain sailing.

Coming on as an early replacement for Johnny Sexton in Coventry against Wasps, the step up to the Champions Cup was something of a baptism of fire for Marsh, but he has bounced back well in his two Pro12 appearances since.

"It was definitely a bit of a shock to the system," he admitted. "I hadn't played a huge amount; I'd played a few 'A' games in the weeks leading up to it but to go from that level to suddenly coming on against Wasps. . .

"Their defence is just a complete step up and their organisation. I found it a lot tougher to find space when we were behind.

"I think coming out of the game, you have learned a lot, things you should have done. We had a review process. I had a meeting with some of the boys. We looked at the tape and yeah it was definitely tough the days after but you have to just park it.

"That level is completely different, you are playing against athletes where space might open for a second and then you might go for it and then you are just levelled a second later.


"It's just different, you know. If I was playing with the 'A's, you might be playing against people in the (English) Championship. There's just not as much space at that level (Champions Cup)."

Marsh has represented Ireland at every age-grade level and has earned himself a reputation as an exciting, running 10. His game-management is the one key area that needs improving but training alongside one of the world's best in Sexton will certainly help his cause.

Their personalities may differ but Marsh is growing in confidence as Leo Cullen continues to hand him the reins during the Six Nations period.

"I guess we're all different. I would be a bit more chilled than Johnny," he smiled.

"You have to be (cranky), you need to be able to boss people around, get them in the right position.

"If people are in the wrong positions in a pod or a shape on a Tuesday or whatever, they're going to be in the wrong place on a Saturday or whatever. You do have to be assertive, but everyone is different."

During the World Cup, when Leinster were again without the majority of their first-choice XV, Marsh - like several of his team-mates - was given plenty of opportunities and he believes that they have learned to cope with that added pressure.

"I'm probably a bit more confident now, a bit more assertive," he said.

"I wouldn't have played a lot of games at all before the World Cup so you might be a bit tentative with the older boys but at this stage you are eminently more assertive, especially as an out-half you tend to boss the lads about a bit more, that's the way you have to be.

"The younger boys are really enjoy coming in and being a part of the squad and staking their claim for the future.

"I can only focus on myself. All of the young boys, just any time you're in a squad, you want to impress as much as you can because the competition around is very serious.

"I've always been pretty confident in my ability. Not playing for a couple of years was a dent in the confidence, but even throughout those years, I always felt that I was good enough to play at this level."

Like all good No 10s, Marsh doesn't lack the self-confidence needed to succeed, and now he is out to prove that he is good enough to do so.

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