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Ian Nagle

Ian Nagle

SPORTSFILE

Ian Nagle

JUST at the time you want to have a lengthy run in the team, injury strikes. It seems Ian Nagle's season could be summed up by that sentence.

Nagle (25) has had a rough year. After a couple of seasons toeing the line behind his international colleagues waiting for his moment in the spotlight he felt this was his season to impress.

After putting in a positive pre-season, Nagle replaced Donncha O'Callaghan in the second-row during Munster's first warm-up game against Gloucester at Musgrave Park. Things went well for him that day and he was named to start the following week against London Irish.

Fifty minutes later he was nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out for two weeks. And 31 minutes into his comeback game in Zebre he sustained a sprained foot. He must be due a positive dose of karma some time soon.

"It was bad timing. It has been pretty frustrating with the injuries I picked up and when they happened. I suppose there is such good talent in Munster that it can be rare enough at times that you get an opportunity.

"Sometimes you can see when an opportunity might come your way, the way the fixtures turn out or when the lads are away on international duty. Over the last while at key times I have been injured, which is a shame.

"You can't really do much unless you get a chance to show yourself and when you miss out on that chance it is tough. Hopefully I'll get some opportunities in the coming weeks and hopefully I'll make the most of it when I do," said Nagle, who made his debut for Munster at the end of the 2009-10 season.

His early promise in the game was such that he was fast-tracked from year two of the academy straight into a development contract with the senior set-up. Around that time he shone against the touring Australian side and went on to be named Munster's Young Player of the Year in 2010.

There was plenty of interest in capturing the Buttevant lad when the end of that deal approached. Northampton Saints and Connacht were among the sides believed to be interested in his signature, but Nagle wanted to stay a red.

He signed for another season this time last year and admits he still has plenty to prove – there's more to come from him. Success in the B&I Cup has really helped though.

"I only signed a one-year deal last year for a couple of reasons so we'll see how it goes this year. I don't have to make any decision just yet so we'll see how I stand before too long.

"One of the positive things for me is that the 'A' team has been going so well. We are all getting plenty of experience from that and it is a real chance to prove what you can do. Everyone appreciated the fact that if the 'A' team didn't qualify for the last eight it would be a quiet end of the year for us.

SEAMLESS

"Lots of lads might have been twiddling their thumbs if we hadn't won that and it really is appreciated in the squad. It has been mentioned a lot and it will help us keep the intensity up for the season.

"Playing an identical game plan to the seniors helps a lot too. The line-outs are the same, the structure is the same, so it really is a seamless move from one team to the other," he said.

A former Mallow RFC and UCC player, Nagle shot to attention after his move across Cork during his third year of university. A double winning season with Cork Con in 2009-10 AIL season brought him into view of the national rugby fraternity but, in a club side like Con of that year, it was tough to stand out.

"That was a great team and we won the league and cup that year. Unfortunately the following year we lost the final to Old Belvedere, but that was a top-class bunch of guys. The team at the end of those couple of seasons, every single fella had or went on to have a Munster cap.

"When you have the likes of Denis Fogarty, Stephen Archer, Brian Hayes, Peter O'Mahony, Duncan Williams, Scott Deasy, Tom Gleeson and Simon Zebo in a team you are going to win games," he said.

Despite his limited first-team action this season – Nagle has just 129 minutes under his belt – the B&I Cup continues to be his saviour. Since his return from injury he has started all four games for Peter Malone's side and has fulfilled the key role of calling the line-outs.

Game time has been limited, but his race is far from run and he retains hopes that a turn in fortune will soon come his way.

"I suppose the opportunity to shine is limited. I call the line-outs at 'A' level, but at senior level the chances haven't arrived. That's one thing I'd love to get more of, but that's the way it is here.

"You can't argue too much when you have a Lions captain and Irish internationals ahead of you in the pecking order. I like calling them and jumping at 5. Paul O'Connell, Dave Foley, Billy Holland and Donnacha Ryan are all the same too so there is five of us who love that role and are all well able to do it.

"But when you are looking for opportunities, you want to take every chance you get to impress. If I can run the line-out well it is another string to my bow. Right now, I guess I want to get as much game time as I can. I don't know how much of it will come but I'll take whatever comes my way gladly."

Sometimes the daggers might be out for the management team who don't pick a particular player, but Nagle doesn't conform to that idea. He thinks Rob Penney's influence on the squad is a huge force behind their good form.

"Rob has been great, you can definitely see he is doing a huge amount right around the place," he said. "The morale in the squad is outstanding. And you can see that so many of the results we have picked up this year are down to character.

"It's been the final five or 10 minutes where fellas have pulled through really. The coaching staff have a lot to do with that. There is no man left behind in the squad, there is no ego anywhere or no hierarchy.

"Here in Munster people have never been regarded by the number of caps they have and with Rob it's the same under him. He tries to make sure he has a happy camp and we have seen the benefit of it when games get tight."

Irish Independent