Saturday 24 June 2017

O'Malley content to bide time and learn from Blues masters

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

When Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden meet the media, the line of questioning tends to follow a set pattern.

The Leinster centres live their professional lives in the shadows of one of the most famous combinations in world rugby in Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll, and it is inevitable that the rigours of trying to displace Ireland's famed double act are top of the agenda.

Both Old Belvedere backs are patient young men, content to learn from the masters of the art and bide their time for snippets of game time such as this Saturday's Magners League clash with Edinburgh at the RDS.

With the November Internationals looming and the frontliners wrapped in their cotton wool, it's a chance for provincial lesser lights to shine.

O'Malley has played the full 80 minutes three times already this season and came off the bench at Treviso and Edinburgh.

However, when the glitz and glamour of the Aviva Stadium clash with Munster and Heineken Cup rugby against Racing Metro and Saracens rolled into town, the 22-year-old stepped aside.

Part of the issue for O'Malley and McFadden is that the men they shadow are institutions, two of the all-time greats who they grew up trying to mimic on the pitches at school. They may be team-mates, but they were once heroes and the impression is that that's hard to shake.

"They're all still hanging above my bed somewhere," O'Malley jokes when asked if he was an autograph-hunter in his younger days. "I'm sure I was!

"I was just delighted to play alongside these kind of guys, it's a great thing to say. The talent they have makes it a lot easier for you. It was just a big honour.

"It was a bit of a strange one when I first trained with them. I might have been only 18 at the time and I'd spent most of my school days looking up to those guys. My main goal was just to get through the session without making too many mistakes, keep my head down and not cause any stir."

So, having spent four years behind his idols, has O'Malley considered a move to England in search of game time?

Three years younger than McFadden, he believes time is on his side despite both being overlooked in favour of Luke Fitzgerald, adding another mountain to overcome. But after McFadden's Ireland call-up at the end of last season, O'Malley is happy to stay at home and wait his turn.

"Leinster's been a very good place for me to develop," he says. "There's a very good atmosphere around the place -- especially when you're young and training opposite Brian and Gordon every day. You can't get a better apprenticeship.


"I suppose it does have its frustrations at times, but you're constantly learning and then when you do get your chances you have to take them.

"There'll be opportunities hopefully in the next few weeks and there's young lads like myself constantly looking for them. But you can't really say a whole lot if you don't take them.

"Fergus has had a great year or so, even two years. The two of us started off the same way. His Ireland call-up and everything else is encouraging for everyone, not just for me but for other young lads watching it, and he's holding his own in those teams.

"I've played with Ferg a good bit now; even in club and 'A' games over the last few years, it's nice to be playing with each other.

"Ferg's good to play outside -- he's a lot of voice, he's a strong runner, so hopefully as the games go on we'll start to get stronger together."

Irish Independent

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