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Mick McGrath: I'd given up on my Leinster rugby dream

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Clontarf's Mick McGrath, pictured at the launch of the Ulster Bank AIL awards, has earned a Leinster contract until the end of the season. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Clontarf's Mick McGrath, pictured at the launch of the Ulster Bank AIL awards, has earned a Leinster contract until the end of the season. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Clontarf's Mick McGrath, pictured at the launch of the Ulster Bank AIL awards, has earned a Leinster contract until the end of the season. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Two years ago, he had given up his dream of playing professional rugby but, as he finds himself back in the comforting surroundings of the Clontarf clubhouse, Mick McGrath is still taking it all in.

After an injury-hit eight-month spell in the English Championship with Plymouth Albion, the wing returned home and after Bernard Jackman persuaded him to join Clontarf, his class in the AIL shone through as he twice finished top try-scorer.

Having monitored his progress in helping 'Tarf to their first ever AIL title last season, Matt O'Connor decided to invite him to pre-season training and he has since picked up a contract that runs until the end of the season.

"Two years ago, I kind of had it in my head that if I got top try-scorer in the AIL, some club would pick me up but once it didn't come then, I thought to myself that this was as good as it was going to get," he admits.

"I conceded to the fact that I'd go back studying but thankfully this opportunity came along and I've grabbed it with both hands.

"It's all been pretty good. I've been kind of riding my luck for some parts of it to be honest. I've fitted in and I've got my contract sorted so I'm delighted.

"Matt has given me five or six caps this season already and I've been involved in pretty much every game. I couldn't have asked for more from Matt or from Leinster.

"Looking back to where I was 12 months ago, I would have grabbed your hand off for this opportunity."

McGrath's sense of realism allows him to take stock of his situation but the 23-year old rejects the notion that he is putting himself in the shop window for other clubs to pick him up.

EMERGENCE

With the likes of Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden returning from injury, as well as the emergence of Darragh Fanning, McGrath is likely to slip further down the pecking order.

The British and Irish Cup is set to resume tomorrow and although it is the secondary competition to the Champions Cup, McGrath is more than happy to play whenever he is asked.

"For me to get onto the team, it's going to get a lot tougher now," he concedes.

"I'm delighted the lads are back though because the more I'm involved with them, the better player I'm going to become.

"I'm not trying to rush to get a starting position. Obviously if it comes my way I'll take it but right now, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can off these players.

"I'm not wishing my time away at Leinster, I'm happy to wait my turn. I've got great exposure already. With the internationals coming back, if it means that I play a few 'A' games, I'll just be delighted to turn up every day."

McGrath has impressed in his performances in the Pro12 this season but the "physicality took him by surprise" but now that he's adapting to it, he insists that O'Connor wants him to remain the same player who took the AIL by storm.

"Matt has just basically told me to show up every day and do what I do at AIL level and bring it up to the level that is required at Leinster.

"He's not really asking me to change my game, just stay the same but be better at it."

Irish Independent