Sunday 25 February 2018

Hanrahan shows his class

JJ Hanrahan in action for Rockwell
JJ Hanrahan in action for Rockwell
Munster’s JJ Hanrahan evades the tackle of Chris Cusiter on his way to scoring a try in an impressive performance against Glasgow

Denis Leamy

It didn't surprise me one bit that JJ Hanrahan went out last weekend and produced a man-of-the-match performance in Glasgow. I was thrilled for him and so were many others who have been keeping an eye on him.

JJ was around for about the last year before I retired. He was educated at my old school Rockwell College, where I'm coaching now, and while he was born and bred in Kerry, we have always claimed him as half a Tipperary man.

His father's people are from Ballingarry in south Tipperary and between that, Rockwell College and him coming on to the Munster scene the year before I retired, I have been keeping an eye on him.

It was a tough station for him over what happened in Murrayfield a few weeks ago in the Heineken Cup. He will have been disappointed for 24 hours after that but he knows he has a lot of talent and a lot of steel going through him and it doesn't surprise me he has gone out and delivered a big performance away to the leaders.

JJ is a confident player – though he is not a bit cocky – and he would have a lot of belief in what he is capable of. We are seeing that more and more now compared to a few years ago when players tended to be a bit more introverted.

We saw it last year with Conor Murray, who made a similar mistake away to Racing Metro in the opening game of the Heineken Cup, and look at the way he put that behind him and moved on.

JJ would have learned from that as well and it is some measure of the man that he could go back to Scotland and deliver a man-of-the-match display against the league leaders to end an unbeaten home run that went back to last December.


My brother Kevin coached him in Rockwell and he was just one of those kids who stood out. He has a big future and just needs one or two breaks to go his way. He is still only a young lad, he doesn't have the benefit of a decade of rugby behind him and you can't knock him for having a go.

JJ made that decision in Murrayfield in good faith and tried to execute a difficult move and it didn't come off but rugby is like that and on another day he could have been the one at the other end of the field dotting it down.

You can't blame lads for having a go and when it does blow up in their faces you can't jump down on them. I'm in coaching now and one thing I do is try not to take from players, let their own instinct have a chance and let them learn from it.

You have got to give them a chance to try things. I remember when I was trying to break on the scene and if I came off the bench with 10 minutes remaining, or five minutes, then I was absolutely determined to make a mark in that time.

You have to push the boundaries, especially when you are trying to make the grade. You can't be cautious and coaches shouldn't take the instincts away from young players. There is a lot of competition in every squad and you have to express yourself.

When I was coming through, whether it was starting a game or getting a few minutes at the end, I felt I had to be the man of the match or I would not get selected because the guy ahead of me was so experienced and talented.

I felt I just had to put my stamp on the match and that's what JJ and the other young players have to do. It won't always work but they have got to try it and that's why it was so good to see it work out for him in Glasgow.

I work with Tom Mulcahy and Mark Butler in Rockwell College, who trained JJ with my brother, and they say they have never seen a player like him. He had so much confidence in his own ability at that age, but not an ounce of cockiness. He's a lovely fella. Those lads were adamant then that he would go on to play for Ireland.

I saw him a few times and there was one day in Clanwilliam in a gale and he controlled the game. Rockwell were trailing by a point or two, they had played 10 or 11 minutes of injury-time, and they got him into position and he landed a drop-goal to win it for them.

I saw another fella do that a few times when we were playing together for Munster, so who knows how far JJ will go?

Irish Independent

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