Saturday 17 March 2018

Marsh targets first-team role after inspiring B&I triumph

Cathal Marsh in action for Leinster A against Pontypridd
Cathal Marsh in action for Leinster A against Pontypridd
Cathal Marsh in action for Leinster A against Leeds Carnegie at Donnybrook Stadium. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When Girvan Dempsey name-checked Cathal Marsh as the one to pull the strings in last week's British & Irish Cup final triumph, it didn't really come as much of a surprise.

Prior to last Friday's win over Leeds Carnegie, Marsh was the tournament's top scorer but perhaps more importantly, his all-round play had been outstanding.

Eight from eight place-kicks gave him a personal haul of 19 points in what was a faultless performance from a young fly-half who is sooner rather than later, primed for the bigger stage.

"He has had performances like that throughout the competition. He has backed up the form that he finished last season with and I'm really looking to seeing him kick on in the future," Leinster 'A' coach Dempsey said of the 22-year old.

"It's funny, for a guy with his experience already, he's only moving into his third year of the academy."

So what is the secret behind the relative ease with which Marsh guides those who have far more experience and the way in which he effortlessly strokes touchline place-kicks straight between the posts?


"I guess it comes from training with the seniors," Marsh says. "I've been training with them for a couple of years now. When you're training against them week in, week out, when it comes to the B&I, it really stands to you.

"Playing with St Mary's in the AIL has been huge and then coming into Leinster and starting in the B&I Cup. I think once you get a consistent run of games, it all just comes together."

Matt O'Connor has had his own headaches with the fly-half position in the senior side this season. Jimmy Gopperth and Ian Madigan have battled it out for the No 10 jersey all year but come next season, Marsh will be pushing for more of a role in O'Connor's plans.

"That's definitely the next step for me. We're all very motivated and hopefully if we get our opportunities with the senior team, we'll be able to take them, but that's obviously up to the coaches," Marsh says.

When asked this week about Marsh's progress, O'Connor said that it hadn't gone unnoticed and that the former St Michael's student knows exactly what he needs to do to take the next step up.

"He has been brilliant at that level. The challenge for him is being that good again against professional athletes, but if he takes his opportunities, he will get some for sure next season," O'Connor said.

"He was outstanding against Leeds. He guided them around the park, kicked all his goals and was a real threat with the ball. You can't ask for much more than that," the Australian added.

Marsh has now led Leinster to back-to-back British & Irish Cup titles for the first time in the competition's history.

"It's amazing to be part of this team. There's the same core there from last year with a few fresh faces and everyone just really buys into it," Marsh adds.

"Some of the senior lads could be disappointed with not playing in the Heineken and then they come down but they really give it their all, which makes for a great atmosphere."

Marsh has a long way to go in terms of his development but he has already firmly caught the attention of the Leinster top brass. "There's definitely exciting things ahead for him," Dempsey enthused.

It's difficult to disagree.

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