Captaining your club and your country to successive honours only weeks apart is the stuff dreams are made of. Donnybrook and Bucharest, miles apart but one central figure connecting both.
Dominic Ryan is only 24 years of age but the coaching set-up at both Leinster ‘A’ and Emerging Ireland felt that the time was right and that he was the man for the job.
“Raising a trophy on behalf of any team is special and to raise a trophy on behalf of the Leinster lads in the B&I Cup and at home as well in Donnybrook was everything you’d want it to be,” he says.
“In front of your home support, family and friends in attendance and ultimately leading a really professional and good group of lads. . . Thinking back we really clicked that evening so yeah, couldn’t have asked for more from the lads.”
A month later, this time in Bucharest for the IRB Cup and again, it fell upon Ryan’s broad shoulders to accept the cup on behalf of his fellow countrymen.
“I suppose there was some good fortune into the mix here as well. Mike McCarthy was originally selected as captain but he had to withdraw due to injury but when I was asked of course it was a huge moment.
“To pull on the green jersey is a special feeling but to walk out an Irish team for a final is a feeling that I will never forget.
“Again, I was leading a really good group of men. All consummate pros and all eager to perform, so while I will benefit hugely from both experiences and what I bring to the role of captain, when you are dealing with these two groups, it was fairly seamless.”
The Emerging Ireland tour has of course led to senior caps for a number of his Leinster team-mates, a point that is not lost on the Lansdowne player.
“Look at the progress Marty Moore or Jordi Murphy made last year. You have to take positives from that, knowing that how you perform on tour with the team, does have an impact and does get fed back into the senior team,” says Ryan.
“It was either that or sit on a beach somewhere, and I know which will have a bigger bearing on selection or not!
“So yeah, I think these tours are a great stepping stone and a great shop window to show the senior coaches what you can do when given a green jersey.”
There was of course plenty of time for the beach after the tour. Ryan enjoyed trips to Portugal and Croatia, as well as some time in Kerry, where the family have a home.
“We have a place in Beaufort near Killarney but I spent the time this summer in Kenmare and Sneem, and with the summer we had it might as well have been abroad,” says Ryan.
“It’s a good spot too as you base yourself there but hit Dingle or Killarney or anywhere else really. We’ve had a great time there over the years and it’s always good to recharge the batteries there.”
The balance between recharging and letting off steam is a critical one.
“You always have the fear! Fear of that first morning back. So for the four weeks off. . . I certainly enjoyed the first two weeks, complete switch-off, but for the last two weeks you do start thinking again about rugby and the season ahead,” says Ryan.
“I pulled on the runners and went out for a few jogs just to get the heart rate up again and to ensure as far as you can that the first morning isn’t too bad.
“But you have to enjoy the four weeks too, otherwise you could end up feeling flat only a few months into the season.”
That new season has started well for Ryan. A start last weekend away to Glasgow and another start tomorrow at home to Scarlets.
“It is very early yet both personally and collectively. I know from last weekend I have my targets for the Scarlets game and things that I have to work on and tidy up. But we know where we went wrong,” he explains.
“It was the same at half-time last Saturday. Yes there were home truths but it was also a calm enough place. We were able to identify what had gone wrong and we outlined the steps we needed to take to address those issues.
“You can’t get too angry or worked up as ultimately you have to be focused on those key things for the second half. It’s the same for Saturday. It’s been a busy week on the training pitch but we know what we have to do.”
It was also a busy week for the Ryan family as on Wednesday, Special Olympics Leinster was one of two charities announced as partners to Leinster Rugby for the coming season, the other being LauraLynn.
“My sister Clodagh is a member of the Blackrock Fliers club so she came along to the announcement. She is big into her basketball and I help out coaching on a Monday evenings with them so it was great that they were selected,” he says.
“I’ve been helping for a number of years having been introduced by IRUPA and then Peter O’Brien. His daughter Aisling and Clodagh are team-mates but the club and Special Olympics as a whole are hugely reliant on volunteers so hopefully this partnership will bring home that message and will get more people involved in their local Special Olympics club.”