Friday 20 October 2017

The Big Interview - Ivan Dineen

Book-smart centre took road less travelled to achieve dream of donning red jersey

Declan Rooney

If it all goes according to plan for Ivan Dineen this weekend at Musgrave Park, he should get the chance to run out against his all-time rugby hero, Brian O'Driscoll, next week at Thomond Park.

Since he was a young teenager starting to play the game, he has admired the skills of the Leinster and Ireland centre, but it took a departure from his family tradition to even have a rugby hero.

If the Dineen clan had their way, he would be joining them all to worship at the feet of Cork's hurling greats.

"I was the youngest in my family but I was the only one to play rugby. I had no older brothers or cousins that played the game," he says.

"It was a bit of a drama for me not to play Blackrock hurling because they all played there. There was a real family debate over me not playing hurling.

"If my uncles had their way I would be saying Jimmy Barry-Murphy was the man, but because I went to the other side, it's O'Driscoll.

"But they are happy it has gone well for me and they are happy to come to the games, so the Dineen family is somewhat satisfied again."

Aside from all the GAA influences, Ivan's father, Liam, was steadfast in his encouragement of his youngest son to chase the dream to play for Munster. He introduced him to the red shirt in the hubbub of classic Heineken Cup encounters, and Ivan was instantly attracted by it.

"Even though we are a hurling family, Dad always brought me to the games. I was at all the big games growing up: I was there for all the Heineken Cup games," he says.

"You really catch the bug. I was there for the Gloucester match, I was there to see ROG's late conversion against Saracens. I was at the two finals in Cardiff too.

"When you go to all those famous matches, it's not hard to fall in love with it. It really was on my dad's advice that I gave the game a go. He was always the one that wanted me to play rugby and he is the reason I went to Christians and gave it a go."

For a Dineen to go to Christian Brothers College was another strange occurrence, but Ivan has never been one to take the road most travelled. Until he rolled into UCC after his Leaving Cert, he had never played with a rugby club.

Even this year he is keen to retain his ties with the college as he nears the end of a masters in economics.

"I really have enjoyed my time in UCC. First off I studied a business information systems degree for four years. At the minute I am finishing off my masters.

WORKING

"I am slowly working my way through it. I finished my exams last year and have been doing a thesis ever since.

"It is slow work but I hope to have it done by January.

"It keeps me busy, but it was only on the advice of John Kelly that I took it on. He coached me in UCC for a few years and he was the one that pushed me towards doing a masters.

"It's great to have something outside of rugby to keep your mind ticking over, so you don't just live and die by those 80 minutes on the pitch on a Saturday.

"Being able to take my mind away from the game is huge – you find yourself more relaxed about training and matches, which I find benefits me.

"Once you get fully contracted and you have a match every week for the season, it is hard not to get totally bogged down in the whole thing.

"It is nice to have something else that you can get into. Personally I have an interest in trading and stock markets and things like that, so that's what I use to switch off."

While none of his Munster colleagues have sought his financial advice just yet, his team-mates are well aware of his academic prowess.

So much so that Donnacha Ryan – who is a housemate of Dineen's – provided the media with a list of tricky questions for him to answer at a recent press conference.

The Ireland second-row was immediately identified as the source of the joke, but Dineen seems happy to roll with the punches that come with being a first-teamer – as long as he remains fighting fit.

"Injuries have been a problem for me in the last few years, but it is great to feel healthy for the first pre-season in a long time," he says.

"I have struggled with my hip and my knees for a while. It was nothing that would rule me out for a full year or anything, but it just seemed as if I was breaking down after I'd play a couple of matches.

"I had tendinitis in both of my knees at some stage or another. The main problem was with my right knee and then the left kicked in. It is not a straightforward injury like pulling a hamstring, which you recover from; it is in the grey a bit as well.

"It's hard to deal with that for two years."

However, things look a bit more positive for the centre now. Already this season he has started two and featured in all three of Munster's games. In the last three weeks he has already notched up a quarter of his starts for the province.

"My dad said the exact same thing to me a few days ago. To have accumulated a quarter of my total appearances for Munster at this stage of the season is a huge boost.

"It just showed how little I was available for the last three seasons," he says.

"It's crazy to look at it like that, with the bare statistics, so hopefully I can stay injury-free and take on the challenges as they come my way. The chances will come and hopefully I will take them."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport