Carbery in 'pinch yourself territory' as he vows to keep improving
Joey Carbery has revealed how he is still getting to grips with his incredible rise to prominence over the last six months, admitting that his recent exploits with Ireland have left him in "pinch yourself territory".
In May, Carbery (21) played for Clontarf in the Ulster Bank League final; in November, he made his international debut in Chicago and steered Ireland to a historic victory over New Zealand.
Two weeks later, he was pitched in before half-time against Australia, playing out of position at full-back in a makeshift Ireland backline, and impressed again in another win.
He is still trying to process what has been a dream journey, while remaining determined to keep improving.
"It's hard to believe how quickly it has all come about. It's only a few weeks ago that I was called into Carton House for the first time proper and now here I am," he said.
"It's pinch yourself territory but you need to put it behind you and try to play as well as you can to put yourself in the best position to be selected again."
As he ran onto Soldier Field as a replacement for Johnny Sexton just before the hour mark, Carbery, who had just turned 21, became the 1,081st player to be capped by Ireland.
Ireland were leading the All Blacks 33-22, but the back-to-back world champions were on the charge. Carbery belied his inexperience with a mature display to guide the ship home against the country of his birth.
The celebrations will live with Carbery for years to come.
"The place was just buzzing and you could see what it meant to some of the older lads," he said. "It was brilliant for us all but some lads had been very close in the past and hadn't got there so you'd be delighted for them. The atmosphere and the noise was incredible."
Injuries to Sexton gave Carbery the platform to put in a string of fine performances for Leinster, but he is still finding his feet at the highest level. In the Ireland camp, Carbery saw first hand the dedication required to become an established player under Joe Schmidt.
"Joe is very keen on the one per-centers, and doing those really well day after day. They all add up, so by the time you get to the Saturday you should be able to pull together a performance," he explained.
"So I've seen that level of intensity and drive up close and I'd love to get there again, so those are the things that I can take away and learn from and keep building."