Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty: Sharing a dream from Under-8 to World Cup stage
It's a bond that started during their schooldays in Athlone and has gone all the way to the Rugby World Cup.
The story of the sporting friendship of Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty is told by Cian Tracey in 'Lineout' magazine, published free with the Irish Independent tomorrow.
From their homes on the shores of Lough Ree to donning the green jersey and going to Japan in Joe Schmidt's squad, it's been a special journey for the pair.
"Every young lad's dream is to play with Ireland and to get the chance to do that with one of your best mates from underage is a dream come true," said Henshaw, who is out of Ireland's tournament opener against Scotland on Sunday. But his coaches are confident the Leinster and former Connacht player will yet play a part in the World Cup.
"It is great to see Jack's hard work paying off. It was coming for a while. I used to tell him to be patient, that he would get his shot," Henshaw told 'Lineout'.
The close bond between the two families has existed since an early age, and Carty has never forgotten the encouragement he got from Henshaw and his dad, Tony.
"Robbie's dad, every time I met him, he would tell me that I was playing good stuff," Carty recalls.
"He would always be very positive towards me. Even if I had played a stinker, he would always be like, 'Keep going, you're almost there'."
Down in Dubarry Park with Buccaneers, the local club in Athlone, Henshaw and Carty were playing together from as young as the under-8s.
Although their family homes are only 10 minutes away from each other, they grew up on different sides of the county line - Henshaw is from Westmeath, while Carty is a Roscommon man.
Before rugby really took hold when they entered the Connacht Academy, both players had already enjoyed a huge amount of success on the sporting field.
In Marist College, they lined out together as centre-half partners in the U-14 team that won an All-Ireland soccer title. Henshaw says "there is definitely more hunger for rugby in the midlands over the last few years. It has grown so much. Even from talking to people in the club, they are saying that the pitch is literally full of minis every Saturday morning.
"The hunger for the sport has gone to a new level. This area is steeped in Gaelic football more so than rugby, but we like to promote the sport as much as we can to the younger generation, and we'll keep doing that," said Henshaw.
"Being from Athlone, it wouldn't have been the heartbeat of Connacht Rugby," Carty explains.
"It was very much Galway but that has changed now - it's pretty much all of the province now."