Tuesday 23 July 2019

I've worked hard for every cap, insists 200 hero Holland

Munster's Billy Holland. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster's Billy Holland. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Billy Holland will chalk up his 200th appearance for Munster this weekend in Galway but it took the toss of a coin - or several tosses as it turned out - for him to remain with his native province a few years ago.

The queue for places in the Munster second-row just never looked like getting shorter … Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Mick O'Driscoll and Donnacha Ryan were all ahead of him.

And when he tried his luck in the back-row he found it impossible to shift the likes of David Wallace, Denis Leamy, Alan Quinlan and James Coughlan, among others, so seven or eight years ago he had enough and started to consider a move. An offer came in from the UK and Holland was in two minds whether to uproot and try make the breakthrough elsewhere.

"I was very close to going to a club in the UK, went over to the grounds and everything; I said the night before I had to decide I'd toss a coin and it landed on the side to go to the club in the UK so I tossed it another 49 times!

"I wouldn't be much of a gambler I must say but I think it ended up 26-24 to stay at Munster. There were a lot of other considerations. My family were all in Cork and Ireland and my now wife was in Ireland so you know it wasn't just the rugby there was more to it.

Stubborn "I'd be quite stubborn and determined. I felt like I hadn't done what I could do with Munster and I wasn't prepared to leave until I had achieved some of my goals. I had achieved one which was to play for Munster but nothing else."

He was 22 when he made his debut against Llanelli in his native Cork, was 25 when he played in the Champions Cup for the first time and was 31 two seasons when he followed in the footsteps of his father Jerry and became an Irish international.

He only really started to stack up the Munster appearances when Anthony Foley took charge and says he is often bemused when he hears young players these days bemoaning their lack of game-time.

"I got a lash of games a few years ago and it's like all the young fellas here who are 19 and they have one or two caps and they are 20 and are getting annoyed. I didn't get my first cap until I was 22 so I've gotten all these caps in just over 10 years so it's certainly been back-ended by patience, stubbornness, determination. But I've worked hard for every single one of them," said Holland, who will be 34 in March and who is contracted to the summer of 2020.

These are special times for Holland. He and his wife Lanlih had their first baby Emmeline in November and now he is about to join the small list of Munster players to chalk up 200 appearances.

Irish Independent

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