Thursday 17 October 2019

'I just didn't know how much I didn't know!'

The Big Interview: Barry Daly

Barry Daly beats Cardiff’s Matthew Morgan to the ball to score a try. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry Daly beats Cardiff’s Matthew Morgan to the ball to score a try. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry Daly. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry Daly with Isa Nacewa and Devin Toner. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Tomorrow in the Aviva Stadium, Barry Daly will step off the Leinster team bus and will take a significant step in his fledgling Leinster career. His 14th cap will be a first appearance at home against Munster but it will also be his first in the Aviva Stadium.

"It's amazing to be playing in the Aviva. I've never played there at all. I know some lads have played club games there over the years but no, for me this will be a first.

"Definitely a first playing in a stadium of that size, in front of a crowd that big of over 40,000 people. That tribal element too really adding to the atmosphere so I'm looking forward to it and hopefully doing the business."

While the thought of running out at the national stadium excites him, he doesn't want it be about the occasion either. He wants it to be about Leinster and what they need to do. There is, after all, a job to be done against a Munster team that have been going very well in Conference A and are coming off the back of a bonus-point win against Cardiff last weekend.

"I have found in the past that I can go tunnel vision with my focus, drown out the noise or the crowd. Now maybe that isn't quite as easy with 40,000 people but at the same time you have to try to focus on the next job and what needs to be done.

"I'm sure there will be a chance to savour elements of it before the game and maybe even moments to enjoy during the game, but look ultimately this isn't about the Aviva Stadium, or Munster and what they will do, this is about us and another four points in the Guinness PRO14 for the team and we have all trained well this week and we hope to make it count.

"There is any amount of enjoyment to be had if the team performs and wins on Saturday so that will be the focus, what can I do to make sure the team gets that level of performance?"

Taking a step back to the Aviva against Munster and this time last season, he was 24th man. From there to now, it's been quite the year for the 25-year-old former accountant.

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"That's right, this time last year I was 24th man. I had made my debut the week before off the bench and was in and around the squad for that Munster game then.

Buzz "So you're so close and you're in and around the match-day build-up but then once the warm-up is done, you step away and become a non-match-day squad member. It's cruel in a way! You're prepped to go for a game but then you step away.

"But even the buzz of that and being involved and hearing the crowd build. It's going to be pretty special now being involved properly on Saturday."

The year was of course full of highs as he made ten appearances, scoring four tries, in his debut season. He happily recounts his first try against Connacht in a packed RDS and then another on the return trip to the Sportsground some months later.

But like all careers it was also pockmarked with lows like the red card against Scarlets away from home and also dealing with the disappointments thereafter.

"I think I was going well until November but then the suspension after the red card against Scarlets hit and having to deal with that and watching from the sidelines for the best part of a month when I felt I could have been contributing. That was very frustrating because you're not injured, you feel good, but you are powerless to do anything so I had to wait for the Munster game on St Stephen's Day for my next opportunity.

"And then ultimately after Christmas as we started competing in bigger and bigger games not making the cut and dealing with that side of the professional life. It's not easy and it was a huge season for me in that regard. Learning to deal with adversity."

And that is where the 2016/'17 Barry Daly vintage differs from the newer 2017/'18 version. He can't pinpoint one moment or one spark but instead the cumulative effect of building on a good first season and gaining experience along the way.

"When I came in to Leinster I came in from performing well in the AIL with UCD and that was fine but I got a huge shock. I thought I was ready to hit the ground running! I was anything but! What I didn't know about rugby and preparation, and what I didn't realise would be required to get to that level consistently, caught me completely off guard. I just didn't know how much I didn't know!

"But now 12 months later I feel that after everything I have experienced in that time that I am a better player and I feel that now I walk into the gym or onto the training pitch in a much better place. I know my way around, I am comfortable in my surroundings and maybe it takes that time especially coming from a non-professional sporting environment. Even those days last season when I wasn't as involved as I'd have liked but I used that time to learn, to better myself, to help the team prepare but all the while really looking to push on. So now I feel that this has all stood to me and I feel like I am in a really good place."

That is encapsulated by the fact that in three games he has already scored the same amount of tries as all of last season and against Munster on Saturday, he'd like nothing more than to add to that tally.

In the four he has scored to date we have seen blistering pace, a nice step, we have seen him finish moves but we have also seen some serious air time against Cardiff in the RDS as he gathered a cross-field kick from Ross Byrne for one of the tries of the season.

Special The UCD man's been ticking all the boxes but there is something about scoring them at home.

"Against the Cheetahs, to be fair Noel and Locko put two tries on a plate for me and I did what I had to do for the other but that feeling of scoring at home is a pretty special one and it would be nice to do it again. That one against Connacht last season as I mentioned already and against Cardiff this season. Proud moments.

"Last season coming into these games I might have been worried but like I said I feel that I have grown hugely and now I feel really positive coming into them. For me I think I learn best by doing, and not thinking about things too much but just repping through it in training and then putting it into action in a game. It's all been building towards this moment now and as a player and as a squad, we just can't wait to run out now against Munster."

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