Tuesday 26 September 2017

'Darren has shown what can be done - if you put in hard work'

Late-developing loosehead hoping to emulate housemate Sweetnam and make breakthrough

Prop Peter McCabe is hoping to force his way into the senior side this season Picture: Sportsfile
Prop Peter McCabe is hoping to force his way into the senior side this season Picture: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Young winger Darren Sweetnam is the talk of Munster Rugby at present, but Peter McCabe hopes to make the same progress this season and get his chance in the senior set-up.

The two are housemates in Castletroy, and both originally from County Cork - Sweetnam comes from west Cork and McCabe grew up in the north of the county - while they both attended UCC, and they also have big GAA backgrounds.

At 24, loosehead prop McCabe, is one year older than his good friend. And he is desperate to make the breakthrough this season after Munster gave him a one-year deal before his previous development contract ran its course.

The 12-month extension was a testament to the potential he has shown playing for Dolphin and UCC in the Ulster Bank League. But with Ireland internationals Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin ahead of him in the pecking order at Munster, McCabe knows it will never be easy to find a place in the starting 15.

"It's hard when they play well. It's out of my hands, they are two internationals and it's hard to get over them. For me it's just hoping I get a break and then I need to prove myself," says McCabe.

"They are in the system longer than I am. I am relatively new to the Munster system. This is my second year and last year was a poor enough year for me because I was injured.

"This year I am gelling into it more. All I can do is train well and perform well with my club. Hopefully I can get a chance."

Whatever follows in 2016-17, surely McCabe cannot be as unlucky as recent years, where knee and pectoral muscle injuries curtailed his development.

But the Dromtarriffe youngster kept his head down and through the promise he had shown in the B&I Cup and UBL, Munster did not hesitate to renew his contract.

"I was a bit worried after the injury that they might not renew it but it shows they have good faith in me," says McCabe. "Hopefully I can do the same again and put a good season together. Hopefully it works out for me.

"Rassie (Erasmus) said to be top of your game and tick off the small boxes. Scrummaging is the main one, you have to on top of that. Then work on everything else, your tackling, your carrying, your knowledge of the game.

"If they all come together it should be good but they all have to work out, for anyone who wants a new contract."

Studied

The former CBC student studied Arts in UCC, and then Sports Psychology in the Cork College of Commerce before he moved to Limerick in the summer.

He hopes to go back to college in the new year, but for now he is just revelling in the comforts that come with the new High Performance Centre in UL, and living so close by.

His house in Castletroy is beside the new state of the art complex, and that added luxury has fuelled the fire even more for McCabe and his dreams of becoming a fully-fledged Munster No 1.

He has transitioned between tighthead and loosehead in recent years, but in 2016-17 he has homed in on one position.

And after a pre-season full of the dreaded scrum-conditioning training McCabe feels like a more rounded player.

"It was a good pre-season. It was very hard, tough and physical this year," he explains. "The scrum tech we did with Jerry Flannery benefited my game a lot. We did that a lot more than previous seasons and it has paid off really.

"It really prepares you for a game. We did it twice a week after training. It's a total different fitness than running on a pitch. Scrummaging fitness is completely different. It sets you up for a game. We didn't do that before and it's benefiting the scrum massively this season and we will keep it going.

"He had different drills for us. We had one-on-ones, with two props against each other mimicking a scrum, you would go back and forward and hold that for about 30 seconds.

"And then you would switch onto your next station which would be a bear-crawl on the ground, they would put a weight on your back and it fatigues you in that position, the scrummaging position.

"Then we go onto live scrums, it mimics the whole thing in a match with higher intensity. You get to that stage in a match where you are immune to it. It's tough going but it is good."

McCabe transferred back from Dolphin to UCC when the college were reinstated as a Division 1B side at the start of the season, and there he has racked up the minutes.

The only thing that's left is to do that in a Munster senior jersey. He has been a replacement in the past, but never got game-time. He knows he can do what Sweetnam did this season, but it won't be easy.

"I've lived with Darren for the last two years but we didn't live near each other back home. He is west Cork and I am from near Mallow," he says.

"I know him from rugby, I played with him in UCC in my first year there and then we just became friends. We lived with each other last year and we have a good friendship now.

"It's brilliant what he's doing, Darren is a great lad. This time last year he was getting frustrated that he was wasn't getting any games.

"If you fast-forward 12 months he is flying and getting called up to Irish camp. It just shows that it can be done but the hard work had to be put in."

Irish Independent

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