Monday 19 August 2019

Meet the Na Piarsaigh star juggling another All-Ireland attempt with working with one of England's biggest rugby teams

Wasps physio clocking up plenty air miles in pursuit of more glory with Na Piarsaigh

David Breen celebrating Na Piarsaigh’s 2016 All-Ireland success at
Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
David Breen celebrating Na Piarsaigh’s 2016 All-Ireland success at Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The plan was for David Breen's dad to have the car running outside Semple Stadium to whisk him back to Shannon Airport on Sunday for an evening flight back to Birmingham, in time for a Monday morning at the treatment table in Coventry, now home to English Premiership rugby club Wasps.

Breen is one of four physiotherapists at the club which had a 40-10 win over Newcastle Falcons at the weekend.

It was a match Breen should have been on duty for but the juggling act that he and his boss at the club have engaged in to allow him to continue his club hurling career once again kicked in.

"I missed the Newcastle game on Saturday, I was down to do that and, in fairness, he said they'd get one of the other physios to do it and fly me back on the Friday night. I've missed a couple of games but I make up for it. He gets me in when I'm back."

As luck would have it Wasps don't have a game until next Sunday so Monday training was shelved, allowing Breen to cancel the flight and celebrate a fourth Munster club title for Na Piarsaigh at the fourth attempt.

Breen chipped in impressively with two second-half goals, the second a bullet that was the crowning glory to a power-packed half-hour.


Balancing his career - he previously worked with Leinster - with a high level club involvement needs a lot of compromise from Wasps and the Na Piarsaigh management, he admitted.

"It was out of my control after moving over to England to be honest," said Breen.

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"It was up to the management whether they wanted me to still be involved and whether they felt it was fair to the rest of the panel.

"I was happy enough to try and keep doing it. It was the biggest challenge by far. It's one thing living in Dublin and driving down to train from Dublin but as soon as you're in a different country, it's a different kettle of fish.

"You're relying on having a Friday night or a Saturday game so you can work the game and then fly out of Birmingham afterwards and then asking Shane O'Neill (Na Piarsaigh manager) to have the training on the Sunday.

"You get in to Dublin on Saturday night, train on the Sunday down home and then fly out again. That's it, just co-ordinating it, looking at the fixture list and if you can get one guy to cover a game here or there."

At Wasps English internationals Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes, James Haskell and Elliot Daly are among those under his care, in addition to former Leinster players Marty Moore and Jimmy Gopperth, and the playing group in general have taken an interest in what he does.

Practice is difficult, however. He had planned on teaming up with Warwickshire but broke a bone in his ankle earlier in the year and that link didn't materialise.

A physiotherapist colleague with a background in hockey has taken to joining him for regular puck arounds but missing out on so much collective training is an obvious concern. Having the co-operation of his employers is the central requirement.

"It says a huge amount about them. They appreciate when guys are playing themselves and players appreciate that you understand high-level sport yourself so they have been happy enough to facilitate it, within reason.

"There are four physios over there and they have been pretty good at filling in here and there and I will cover for them too. I probably won't get much of a Christmas now.

"It will be a little less hectic at least. My boss over in Wasps is probably delighted that the next competitive game isn't until February, takes a bit of heat off him. But look, they've been very good on both sides."

Breen has been a mainstay of the Na Piarsaigh revolution in Limerick and Munster that had seen them extend their unbeaten provincial sequence to 11 games.

"We're proud of it. We don't think about the records too much. If anything we're more disappointed that we have that whole year on-year off cycle (they've won Limerick and Munster titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017).

"That's a challenge for us in itself to try and do a year, then do another year. So I think that's a mental thing as much as anything else."

Breen admits he'd find it hard to pull away from his club at this stage with the momentum they have.

"You remember the bad days. I made reference to 2009 and our first ever county final when we scored three points in the whole game. That was a real tough one to take. We had a mixture of old and young that day and we were playing an Adare team that was at the peak of their powers.

"We were nobodies really. If we got to a county quarter-final that year that would have been a bonus for us so, to come back eight years later and see where we are at now, you don't want t miss these days. You want to try and still be involved. It's sweet."

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