'Country' stars an inspiration as Dooley aims for the sky
Published 29/11/2016 | 02:30
Growing up, Peter Dooley could always relate more to the path that the likes of John Hayes and Sean O'Brien followed into their provincial set-ups.
Not having the Senior Cup as a platform to impress, players from outside the major schools largely come through the clubs system, but in many cases, a balance is required with other sports.
Tadhg Furlong is the latest high-profile example of someone who has taken the road less travelled to the international stage, and for the many youngsters from rural areas around the country, Furlong is further proof that schools rugby is not the be all and end all.
Hailing from Offaly, hurling was naturally a major draw for Dooley and it wasn't until he was given a trial for Leinster Youths that his head was fully turned.
"The country lads growing up, we don't get the training like the schools boys do," Dooley says. "We're off playing hurling or football like Tadhg there.
"When I was growing up my father coached me for 10 years. We were kind of coaching each other.
"Now you have such good coaches. It shows a great pathway. It's only going (to end up with) more and more country people coming through, so it's great to see.
"Sean O'Brien was a big inspiration. I used to be a back-row, coming up and he broke onto the scene when I was getting into the rugby. And I'm still looking up at Tadhg the way he's going at the minute.
"They're probably the two main ones. I won the Shane Horgan Cup and he (Horgan) is one you'd look up to as well."
Like Furlong, O'Brien and Hayes, Dooley comes from good farming stock, which is where he believes most of his natural strength comes from.
"I'm lucky, all my uncles and my father are big men," he explains. "You have your farmer's strength, and they call it the mirror muscle - the opposites. I feel good farmer's strength helps me a lot. You work a whole lot in the gym, but it's just good to have that raw strength.
"My father was a farmer as well. It's good to see. It shows that all rugby accepts all walks and all backgrounds."
A conversation at the Leinster trial meant that the then 17-year Dooley returned to Birr RFC as a loosehead prop.
Five years later, Dooley's reputation continues to grow within Leinster but he faces the unenviable task of trying to dislodge Jack McGrath and Cian Healy in the pecking order. And that's not to mention the highly rated Andrew Porter, who is a certain future Ireland international lying in wait.
For now at least, Dooley is happy to bide his time but he is ambitious enough to know that more first-team opportunities may eventually lie elsewhere.
"You have to be very patient," he says. "The two boys have international duty and that's good for me. With the two of them there, people say "Do you get fed up?"
"But you learn from them, they're two world-class looseheads, the best in their field at the minute. You pick up little things. And you try and take your opportunity when they're away.
"Jack is as honest as you get, and Cian had a good impact at the weekend. Two solid scrums to finish out the game, so explosive around the park and a good impact as well. Also a good scrummager.
"I think all the looseheads in Leinster are all kind of different players.
"I'm ambitions. I obviously want to be the best in my field. I'm still young though as well for a prop, I'm only gone 22. Time will tell with the boys away."
Furlong continues to make waves on the international stage and while he reckons all the talk of him touring with the Lions next summer is "kind of daunting", those watching on are in little doubt of his capability.
"He had an unreal autumn in fairness to him," Dooley enthuses.
"For a tighthead, he has been so good around the park, and his set-piece has been very strong and he's really put his hand up for Lions contention.
"It's great to see, I suppose he's every young country lad's inspiration at the moment."