Friday 19 January 2018

Delighted to pass first big test as exams loom

UCD student has set his sights on more involvement next season after landing man of the match award on full debut

Nick McCarthy of Leinster is tackled by Adam Ashe of Glasgow during last weekend’s Guinness PRO12 Picture: Sportsfile
Nick McCarthy of Leinster is tackled by Adam Ashe of Glasgow during last weekend’s Guinness PRO12 Picture: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

The Leinster Rugby base in UCD is noticeably quieter these days. Exams are only around the corner, and with that the students scurry off to the nearest library or watering hole, depending on their academic year to date.

For UCD engineering student, Nick McCarthy the watering hole option isn't really a runner. So it's to the library he goes in search of the answers for the three exams that lie in wait in the coming weeks. Not easy when you're still buzzing after a win over the 2015 Guinness PRO12 champions. Or your first start for Leinster.

"We knew that Glasgow were going to come at us with everything they had," says the scrum-half. "They needed to win to stay in the hunt for top four and they went with a really strong team.


"So to come out of that with a win and to have performed so well for that first half in particular was really pleasing. It was nice to be able to play my part."

Not only did he play his part, his first start in seven appearances was a man of the match performance in front of over 12,000 people in the RDS.

"I looked up in the stand afterwards and I could see a few family and friends and I was delighted for them.

"You are in your own bubble a lot of the time and when things don't go well you go home and they are the ones in the firing line. It was nice to be able to get that start and get the award in front of them but ultimately I was just delighted for the team to get the win and to keep us top of the table."

The night was special for McCarthy but equally so for others like Ross Molony, in his first game as captain, and Tom Daly, in his first RDS start.

"I went to school with Ross so I've known him a long time but we've all been through the Academy together and then with Leinster 'A' so you know what lads have gone through to get those opportunities," says McCarthy.

"Tom has had some really unfortunate injuries. So when you get good days like last Friday evening, you take it in.

"There we were after the game on the pitch celebrating a win with our mates. I've known Ross Byrne, Dan Leavy, Locko all my life really, and there is such a tight group of players in Leinster. Where else would you rather be?"

It's clear that his coaches feel the same way, having awarded him his first senior contract a few months ago. Not all plain sailing for the former St Michael's man but he sees the bigger picture.

"With Luke (McGrath) and Jamison (Gibson-Park) going so well I have had to be patient and there are times when you wonder, but you train as strong and as hard as possible and help prepare the lads as well as you can to ensure that they are in the best position to perform at the weekend.

"Putting the team first is crucial because when your time comes, they will do the same for you. So last week was great. When you are confirmed to start, you get the full reps in at training and you feel fully prepared heading into the game and I just couldn't wait to run out."

McGrath and Gibson-Park are the two senior scrum-halves at Leinster but at 24 and 25 years of age, they're not exactly laden with caps and medals either.

Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan had plenty of those, up until their departures last season. So how has that experience vacuum been filled by effectively four No 9s (including Charlie Rock) under the age of 25?

"I don't think you can fill it," says McCarthy. "Bossy and Redser had maybe 100 Ireland caps between them and had won everything there is to win with Leinster and in Redser's case with Wasps as well.

"So you can't replace that with four lads of our age-profile and relative inexperience. Don't get me wrong, Lukey has done brilliantly and has been capped by Ireland now and Jamison has played with the Maori All Blacks and has won a Super Rugby title but you can't just manufacture that kind of experience that the two lads had."

The 22-year-old knows there is only one way to get to that level. And it's not by sitting in wait.

"You have to live it and experience it yourself," he says. "I made my first start last week. Charlie made his debut this season so we are a long way off where Bossy and Redser were but then again I think it's now a case of backing what we have in Leinster.

"Four young nines that are really ambitious and want to progress and go better at this club.

"We were all surprised when Redser announced his retirement while on tour with Ireland but it's a great opportunity for the four of us. And we've received brilliant support from the coaches.

"Girvan (Dempsey) has been excellent with on-pitch stuff but also extra video sessions whether that's looking at an AIL game or a Leinster 'A' game.

"Emmet Farrell the same on our kicking. Extra sessions on Wednesday to work on the technical side of things. I've worked with Noel McNamara a long time and he's been very supportive.

"So while it is a challenge for us, we have been very well coached and receive great support in every aspect of the game and I think we have seen this season that regardless of who gets the No 9 or 21 shirt, they have performed and that's all you can ask for."

As mentioned, his own form has resulted in that first senior contract with Leinster and with the recent start in the RDS fresh in his head, he's of a mind to look back on the season in a positive manner even if he'd have liked to have had more than the four caps.


"I had an injury that didn't help and there were definitely times when I would have liked more of a go," he says.

"But the last few months I've been going well and have had some really positive moments.

"Playing out that last 15 or 20 minutes against the Ospreys where Ross drops that goal right at the death to win it. The Connacht game up there in Galway and now the win over Glasgow.

All really positive moments for me and with that security of a first contract sorted, I'm looking forward to next season already."

Before that he has three engineering exams.

And hopefully the small matter of three Guinness PRO12 examinations with Leinster.

Irish Independent

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