Friday 24 January 2020

Daly phones a friend and finds perfect response

Connacht's Tom Daly. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Connacht's Tom Daly. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Tom Daly had no qualms about picking up his phone and dialling Andy Friend's number last Monday night.

After all, he had already made the toughest call of all by admitting defeat in his attempt to break into the Leinster squad.

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Now, after moving west, it seemed like the very reason he had done so was being undermined by the simple fact that the coach wasn't picking him as much as he'd like.

And so he made the call and asked one simple question.

"Why am I not starting?"

Friend's reaction was equally simple; instead of giving him an immediate response, he would give Daly the opportunity to answer his own question.

He wasn't going to start the game against Gloucester in the Champions Cup but the coach was eager to see what might happen when afforded the opportunity to finish it. It's probably fair to say both men got what they wished.

Daly's stunning late intervention, and invention - an offload to Robin Copeland for a last-gasp winning try - sealed a spectacular triumph for all.

"It was a really enjoyable finish," he smiles after playing for well over an hour when Niyi Adeolokun's knee injury flared up again.

Opportunity "I'm getting an opportunity to do things like that over here that maybe I wouldn't have got over in Leinster. I made the move and it's really sticking to me. I'm getting the chances I always wanted."

They've been slow enough in coming; his first start this season only arrived against the Ospreys at the start of November after he made an impact as a replacement against the Cheetahs a week earlier, scoring a brace of tries in Galway.

A former Sevens captain, the 25-year-old centre had been part of the Leinster senior squad since 2016 and represented Ireland at U-18, U-19 and U-20 level.

He made his debut in blue against Zebre in 2016 but an ACL injury, and the formidable roadblock in front of him, meant the Carlow centre was unable to add to only one more start before the province allowed him to go west on loan at the tail end of 2018.

When Leo Cullen alerted him to Connacht's interest, Daly didn't hesitate to pick up the phone. Clearly, it's good to talk.

He pitched up against Munster in his second week at the club and in his first three months, he played more rugby than in the entire six years he had spent in Leinster's Academy and full-time set-up.

He will start against Munster this weekend with Bundee Aki in Irish camp.

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