It can be a bit surreal for a young Munster player coming through as he switches from being a fan to a player, but Cian Bohane knew a few years ago that the time was right to make the switch when he was on the cusp of achieving his dream.
Most young players in Munster grow up being fans but only a few manage to make the breakthrough and get the chance to wear the famous red jersey. Bohane knew when it was time to leave the hero-worship aside.
"I was a massive fan growing up and I had all the Munster team posters all over my bedroom wall. The Heineken Cup final against Biarritz and Peter Stringer's try is up there with my stand-out memories as a young fella.
"Then a few years ago when I made the breakthrough I realised that I should be taking them posters down. It was getting a little bit strange having pictures of the lads on my wall," said Bohane, who joined up with the Munster seniors this season on a development contract.
His first taste of action with the seniors came away to Zebre at the end of last season in his final year in the academy. Another appearance came against Edinburgh earlier this season.
But the reality of making the step-up from the underage grade to the top table is that game time is divided thinly and often the less experienced faces are left go hungry for action.
"I'd love some more time on the field," said Bohane. "The reason we are all here is to get first-team action. It's very tough at the minute with the likes of James Downey, Ivan Dineen and Casey Laulala playing very well.
"It's tough to budge lads like that. It's all about waiting for my chance to crop up though. My chance will come, but it's up to the coaches to assess what will benefit the squad most ahead of the Heineken Cup," he says.
A year in the sub-academy was followed by two years in the academy after his graduation from Presentation Brothers in Cork, and the promising centre thinks a difficult first year with Munster was the perfect grounding.
"In the sub-academy you have to do all the same training as the academy lads, but basically the only difference is you don't get paid for it. Academy players are given a grant, it's not a wage, but it covers college expenses and things like that. But they do a hell of a lot of work.
"I suppose it could be considered a test to see if a guy has the drive and the work-rate required. But not everyone wants to carry on after a year, it's up to the individual at times. But the coaches get to find out your strengths and weaknesses. It is a good test for sure to see how players develop over the year. It's a very worthwhile experience anyway.
"Then after the academy the development contract is a good introduction to the senior set-up. Pre-season was pretty tough, it was a small bit of a shock though. When you come home, an hour's sleep is most welcome because you could have to be back in for another session at 2pm. You definitely sleep well at night anyway," he says.
A natural No 12, Bohane has started all six of Munster 'A's B&I Cup games this season – including two at outside centre – but with game time at a premium he has also featured heavily for Dolphin in the Ulster Bank League.
Without the club he would never have cut it as a pro, he says.
"The club is massive for me. Without Dolphin, I would 100pc not be involved in the Munster set-up. They have been very good to me. (Dolphin coach) Steve Ford has been massive in my development, the way he gave me my chance straight out of school.
"And learning from the likes of Barry Keeshan and Rory Kenneally was huge too. They kind of took me under their wing a bit and helped me along, gave me the slap on the wrist when it was needed, but gave plenty of advice too.
"I'll never forget – my first real game for them was a senior cup tie against Belfast Harlequins. I was just out of school and started on the wing. I was lucky enough to score a try on debut as well.
"It was a bit of a baptism of fire making my first start up the north, but it was a great learning experience for me. James Coughlan played for us that day, so did Barry Keeshan and Christy Condon so it was an experienced team that I started with.
"I was the young fella, I was quite nervous it being my first game, but it was a good one and it propelled me up the ranks fairly quickly in the club."
While the Douglas native is delighted to maintain his progress with Dolphin and the Munster 'A', he still retains plenty of ambition. He wants to challenge for a starting shirt with Munster and with Laulala on his way out, he is primed to take his chance in the next year whatever position it may be in.
"The last two games for the 'As', I played 13 for them. I love playing there and consider myself being able to play both. I am comfortable playing both positions. I'd never rule out 13.
"And you have to have a bit of ambition as a player. My ambition is to push whoever is there to be the starting No 12. But 12 months is a long time and a lot can happen in the game in that period, we'll just have to see what it brings I suppose," he says.