Saturday 1 October 2016

Molony is walking on air after dream debut alongside 'blue babies'

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Leinster's Man of the Match Ross Molony, right, and Stuart Hooper, left, of Bath in action at the RDS arena. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.
Leinster's Man of the Match Ross Molony, right, and Stuart Hooper, left, of Bath in action at the RDS arena. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

It only takes ten minutes for Ross Molony to walk from the RDS to his Sandymount home.

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On this special night of nights, if he paused with each step to suck in the excitement still wafting through the night air, he might still be but halfway there. For there may not have been enough time to quite consume the impressive feats that he and his fellow band of "blue babies" had managed to achieve on Europe's highest stage. It will take him a long time to forget this occasion but he was not so violently moved as to discard the searingly straight-laced professionalism innate in so many modern pros.

"Obviously I'm delighted to be given the man of the match," said Molony, at 21, as old as the competition itself. "It's about looking forward now, putting that behind me and focusing on the Six Nations period. And for Leinster focusing on the Wasps game next week and then the Dragons game."

No matter, his personality screamed louder than any mundane, if well-meaning, post-match platitudes. From tackling to thieving in the air and making yardage with seemingly every imposing collision, this was a performance that announced a serious future in the sport for both club and country.

From the flourishing St Michael's College hothouse, which appears to be producing more players of striking potential than the entire province of Munster in recent years, Molony has always been marked down as someone with leadership potential.

He has marked himself out; he has called the lineouts since he was 14 and he did so on Saturday night to great effect; young James Tracy, another of the six maiden starters in Europe, ne'er missed a dart though his first two throws lagged a tad; the first concession from the set-piece came on Sean Cronin's watch. His coach Cullen expressed his anxiety at taking such a huge risk on a swathe of young talent - imagine the opprobrium had the gambit fallen flat?

Yet in a way it couldn't but succeed; or, at the very least, abject failure was unlikely. Thankfully, Bath's passivity helped as did the fact that there were only two nondescript scrums for the four newbies in the tight five to deal with. Molony, too, had enough work to do during the week which inured him against the threat of racing thoughts.

"I probably was a bit nervous," is his sole concession to any fretful fidgets betraying his icy exterior.

"We also knew we had nothing to play for in this pool so we had nothing to lose. So we could go out and just play rugby. Thankfully that came off for us.

Emotions

"I tried to put thoughts out of my head, not let the emotions get the best of me. I met Ian Madigan early in the week and we went through the game-sheet, focusing on our roles and how we were going to call each play, staying calm on the pitch.

"So really, whenever I was close to letting thoughts creep into my head, or anything like that, I just focused on what I was supposed to be doing. I'm quite comfortable calling the lineouts and it helps when the work pays off."

A reminder that not luck, rather hard work and talent, was the key to this success. After his role in a special European occasion , you ask him his first European memory of Leinster.

"My first memory of the Heineken Cup would be, off the top of my head, being at the 2009 final in Edinburgh, when I was 14," he says. "I could remember more if I think hard enough. I was playing U-14s at that stage in school, I knew I loved rugby and I just wanted to play it every day."

He is now living that reality.

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