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O'Malley -- 'Cricket lads inspired me'

Everyone loves an underdog. The story of Rocky Balboa, for example, reinforces the notion that anyone can become a success and that anything is, indeed, possible.

Something about the idea triggers an impulse with Eoin O'Malley. Though the specific parallels are minimal, there is a lot that can be said for those who dig deep within and answer the questions that you ask of oneself.

In the middle of last week, an Irish side caused a shockwave across world sport when the founders of cricket were humbled by supposed minnows.

The 22-year-old thrived with the rest of the country in watching Ireland seize the initiative and dominate England in the Cricket World Cup.

Like any feel-good story, it triggered an impulse and in doing so revived a glimpse into his own story. "I actually missed most of the live action, but when word got through that Ireland had beaten England, against all the odds, it was a great feeling," said O'Malley. "It has been funny to watch the buzz that it has given fellas all over the place and the profile of cricket has shot through the roof.

"Feel-good stories motivate you and results like this one are one of the main reasons why people love sport. It's like the Rocky series, you know? Everyone loves an underdog.


"I would have played a little bit of cricket myself in my earlier days in Belvedere, but my career would have largely been spent out on the boundary twiddling my thumbs!

"My batting was quite quick, an in-and-out job usually! But in saying that, it was a great way to miss a few hours in school as the summer months approached."

Does the Hollywood-ised interpretation of sports tales of woe and triumph transfer to real-life reality? "In terms of accuracy, maybe not, because they're stories first and foremost," said O'Malley. "But if you're down in the dumps or maybe off-form, it's nice for players to have a reference point of better times.

"Sometimes watching old footage can give you back a bit of a spark and it's nice to trigger a positive memory.

"On the flip side of that point, whenever you get too comfortable or you think that you've 'made it' or that you just have to turn up, sometimes looking back on a bad performance can sharpen your instinct and keep you hungry. That different reminder can re-install a bit of that fear factor, which is no bad thing either."

It is said that before the storm comes a certain calmness. For O'Malley this week was about catching his breath after a whirlwind few months.

Of his 16 appearances to date, a dozen of them have seen him complete the full 80 minutes which is another important statement in itself given the injuries which had restricted his outings in recent years.

Those dark days put to bed, he has embraced his opportunities so far this season with the kind of vigour you'd expect from a man playing catch-up.

"It has been great, personally, to have played in a run of games this year, but collectively it's a brilliant environment to play in," he said. "If you look at it, Danny Riordan was the 50th player used by us in the Magners League during the Scarlets win so that means that everyone has a vested interest in the team; from the young lads coming in right up to the experienced internationals.

"From the outside looking in before I joined Leinster compared to the current set-up, I can't remember anything like the level of competition that exists currently in the squad. It's seriously competitive in training and everyone's driving each other on.

"I suppose as a young player it can be a little bit daunting (but) there has been a lot of encouragement from the coaches to the players and that confidence seems to be transferring into some positive results."

Further evidence of his growing reputation was the Dubliner's call-up to the Ireland Wolfhounds games against Scotland and then England. It was an important step and further whetted his appetite for big international days. "It was a huge honour for me personally, made even more special that my dad (Kevin) was up at the game in Inverness," he said.

"I'm looking forward to the Wales game this weekend and usually I'd watch it at home with a few friends.

"It's funny when you're out in pubs or even picking up on little bits of criticism of players from the lads, I can see the other side of it. It's quite easy being an armchair critic, but I know the effort that all of the lads are making every week.

"Sometimes things break down and mistakes can happen, but it's never for the want of trying."

You sometimes forget that it's just five years since O'Malley, Cian Healy, Paul O'Donohoe and Connacht's Ian Keatley starred for Belvedere College SJ in the Great Denmark Street side's Senior Cup victory over a Blackrock College side which included Luke Fitzgerald, Niall Morris and Ian Madigan. It was the school's first triumph in 33 years, a watershed moment after a barren time.

O'Malley said: "Perhaps the greatest aspect of that final was no-one gave us a chance coming into the game, so we weren't weighed down by any sense of expectation or history."

With this year's Senior Cup final just a week away, it provides a nice reminder of times past. A short break to recharge the batteries this week was a welcome interlude in a taxing campaign, but it was back to the analysis room and introspection.

Always seeking improvement.

For sometimes in life you have to review the past, to help in moving forward.