Tuesday 22 August 2017

Outstanding Beirne seizes his moment and revels in Scarlets' stunning glory

Kildare native Tadhg Beirne celebrates the Scarlets victory. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Kildare native Tadhg Beirne celebrates the Scarlets victory. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Tadhg Beirne's distinctive blue scrum cap is a reminder of a place he once called home and while he may one day return to these shores, his is a journey that will inspire the plethora of young Irish players who don't make the cut at home.

To understand how close Beirne was to ending his professional career before it really got started, it's important to rewind to this time 12 months ago.

Having made just four appearances for Leinster, the Eadestown, Co Kildare native's options were so limited that he had lined himself up to do a masters in real estate at DIT.

That was until the last week in May when Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac came calling. The Kiwi offered Beirne a chance to kick-start his career and it is one the 24-year-old has seized with both hands.

It's been an incredible season for Beirne and it culminated at the Aviva on Saturday, where he put in another outstanding performance to help the Scarlets win their second Guinness PRO12 title.

"It was make or break," Beirne admitted.

"I spoke to my parents and I said 'look, I want to have one more crack at it'. They said 'just go for it, you'll regret it if you don't'. It was the best decision I ever made. It's worked out for me in every aspect.

"It's hard to put into words really. It's been one of the best years of my life. Going to Scarlets, I wanted to get game time. I didn't think I would become a PRO12 champion.

"I remember sitting down with Wayne Pivac before I signed and he talked me through the whole team. I was like 'it's a pretty good team who could do well', but to think we would come the whole way, especially after our start, and be crowned champions is incredible."

Beirne's 31st-minute try was a snapshot of what he has been all about this season - a relentless desire to succeed.

He tossed Dave Kilcoyne to the side like a rag doll before barrelling through Niall Scannell and CJ Stander. It was a moment to savour for a player who was deemed surplus to requirements by Leinster.

The irony that Munster are currently in the market for a replacement for Racing 92-bound Donnacha Ryan was not lost, as for the second week running Beirne was the best lock on the pitch in Dublin.

Predictably the Scarlets have extended his initial one-year contract for another season.

"I think the chairman just signed him for another five years," a delighted Pivac quipped.

"He's nowhere near on the biggest contract, I can tell you, but he's one of the biggest players."

Beirne spent plenty of his early years playing in the back-row and the value of that was seen all through the season as he finished with 20 turnovers - the highest that any lock managed in the PRO12.

While his try was a result of power and footwork, his deft pass that released Jonathan Davies in the build-up to Steff Evans' try was quite stunning.

As well as a quality skill-set, Beirne also possesses an incredible engine. In the final minute Jean Deysel lined him up in midfield, but Beirne hauled him down and less than a minute later James Davies rubbed salt into Munster's wounds with a sixth try.

The next step along Beirne's winding journey is international recognition, but he knows he must return to Ireland to have any hope of winning a first cap.

His performances won't have gone unnoticed by Joe Schmidt, who was at the Aviva, and the reality is that there isn't an Irish lock in better form than Beirne right now.

"I've been asked a few times whether it's a point to prove - not really," he maintained.

"There's a little bit of an element of that. I've been unlucky with my injuries and so I didn't get my opportunity. My ability has always been there. I've developed week-in, week-out since I got here.

"If I want to play for Ireland, I've to come home. That's the reality. Everyone wants to play for their country since they've been kids."

There will be no shortage of potential suitors when his contract is up next year.

And as for the scrum cap, he added: "I forgot my scrum cap one day at Lansdowne. They had a spare one and I've worn it ever since. It's a reminder of one of the clubs I've come from."

It might not have worked out for Beirne at Leinster, but he has never forgotten his roots. The hope is that he can soon be enticed back into the Irish system.

Irish Independent

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