Thursday 21 February 2019

'Robbie's success is a confidence boost for all of us'

Dublin-born centre hoping to follow Henshaw into Irish team as he blossoms in injury-free run

Dave McSharry
Dave McSharry

The Big Interview: Daragh Small

It's a more a case of 'when' and not 'if' injury comes your way as a professional rugby player, but for Dave McSharry they have arrived at the most inopportune stages in his career.

The 25-year-old centre has recently been the leading light in the province's midfield with Robbie Henshaw unavailable, while injury has also ruled out new arrival Bundee Aki.

McSharry has been a vital cog in Pat Lam's revolution at the Sportsground but he might not be here were it not for some cruel injuries that he suffered over the years.

The Dubliner, who has clocked up 64 appearances for Connacht and scored six tries, was on his way towards a Leinster academy spot before a shoulder injury ended that dream.

Then last year when he was on the cusp of the Irish set-up, an ongoing hip issue at the time kept him from making the breakthrough.

But there is a silver lining, McSharry is back to his best this year, and with an extended run in the Connacht starting 15 he is looking to push for an international call-up with the World Cup just around the corner.

"I was involved in the Six Nations squad and I played Wolfhounds the year before that. Then last year I had surgery on both my hips and that hindered my progression a small bit," he says.

"But I feel like I have played a lot more games now and I am getting back playing a lot more confidently and at a level like I was when I got selected for Ireland squads.

"That is obviously still a huge goal of mine to get back in and around that mix. I was in the squad when Robbie (Henshaw) first went into the Six Nations squad so seeing where he has got to as well, it gives the other lads a lot of confidence.

"Robbie is playing at 12 for Ireland at the moment and he is flying. He is doing really, really well. All I can do is keep my head down and keep trying my best for Connacht. Hopefully the team can reach its goals and then my personal goals should take care of themselves."

McSharry went to Templeogue College, where his Gaelic football skills were key in him turning into an accomplished out-half.

GAA was his first love and he played football for Templeogue Synge Street all the way up until minor when he decided to concentrate on rugby.

Excelled

His kicking skills meant he excelled as a fly-half but his tackling skills led him away from a Leinster Schools No 10 jersey. On a tour to South Africa he moved out to inside-centre and never looked back from there.

"I found myself comfortable there and that is where I have felt most comfortable ever since," he says.

"I always felt when I was playing as an out-half in school that tackling was one of main attributes. Maybe the coaches saw that I was able to play centre because one of my main strengths was my tackling."

McSharry played his club rugby for UCD - his older brothers Colm, Brian and Frank had all played, and it was their influence that got him interested in the first place.

His performances were getting him noticed on the national scene and he played for the Irish Schools side before making the progression through to the U-20s.

"I played Leinster Schools and with the Ireland Schools and then I went to the U-20 World Championships in Argentina," he recalls.

"Nigel Carolan was our backs coach there. I had a year leading up to that World Championships where I had surgery on my shoulder and had missed a fair bit of rugby.

"I kept in touch with Leinster and they said that they were going to keep an eye on me for the next year to see could I stay injury-free.

"I hadn't played much rugby that season bar the U-20 World Championships but Nigel saw enough in me during that to offer me a position at Connacht during the year where I was just playing with UCD.

"I had a good year with them in the AIL and had no injuries. I felt I was playing very well and he asked me to come down for a trial. I was delighted; I took that opportunity and I came down for pre-season.

"A few months later I found myself starting pretty much all the games for Connacht. And then shortly after I signed a two-year contract, which was brilliant."

McSharry made his debut on in October 2011, coming on as a replacement in a 30-20 defeat to his native Leinster at RDS. His first start came in another inter-provincial loss, this time at Ravenhill four weeks later.

McSharry soon became a mainstay in the centre, just as Connacht were embarking on their inaugural Heineken Cup campaign, and he started against Harlequins in the province's first ever game in Europe's top tier.

"I have great time for Eric Elwood, he was the one who gave me my break," he says.

"A lot has changed since with Pat coming in and the place has just been going from strength to strength - the attendances for the games at the Sportsground and the new Clan Stand. It is all on the up and it is showing this year especially in our performances on the pitch - it all helps.

"With an old-head like Mils Muliaina there directing the young lads it is great. There is a lot of potential to come as long as we can hold on to our young talented players."

Irish Independent

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