Thursday 23 November 2017

Prop idol Moore determined to put pressure on 'mentor' Ross

Young tighthead hails 'breeding ground' of AIL for rapid rise, writes David Kelly

Leinster's Martin Moore
Leinster's Martin Moore
David Kelly

David Kelly

Few players have embarked upon such a mesmeric rise as Leinster's Martin Moore.

Fewer still have done so in a position -- tighthead prop -- for whom progression is normally akin to a fine wine, taking considerable time to mature.

After all, Mike Ross didn't really establish himself with Leinster or Ireland until he had turned 30.

The 22-year-old Moore, on the other hand, despite being unleashed into the Leinster first-team squad in the opening weeks of his first pro contract, has already backboned a debut Heineken Cup away win for his province.

Not only that, he has also had numerous overseas clubs fluttering their eyelashes in his direction -- he has rebuffed their advances and will pen a new deal with Leinster some time this week.

It has been a whirlwind rise for this son of Lucan, who forged his reputation in schools rugby at Castleknock College, via the Irish underage sides before earning a stint on last summer's Emerging Ireland tour to Georgia.

"I'm very happy with the amount of game-time I've been able to get under my belt," says Moore.

EXPERIENCE

"It's all about experience at this stage and getting to play against quality opposition. And I've been lucky to do that this season. So hopefully I can push on from here.

"In your first season with the senior squad, the ambition is to break through and to get that sort of game time.

"I got lucky initially with the game time with a few games in the Rabo. I talked to the coaches about the game plan going forward and what I wanted to do so I was lucky to accomplish some of those things."

He's made his own luck though; propelled into the side in emergency circumstances away to Ospreys in October's opening Heineken Cup game, he brilliantly defended a scrum near his own line.

"Yeah, it's luck to get into that position but it's another thing to take advantage of those situations. I've been pleased with my performances to date so hopefully I can keep that up for the future," he says.

Moore will be the first to recognise that his graduation may not be as whirlwind as it first appeared; as with so many of his contemporaries, the All-Ireland League proved a fertile apprenticeship, in his case with Lansdowne.

"It's a brilliant breeding ground for young players coming through," he says. "We won the league last year with young players, and a lot of the top teams are basically made up of the provincial 'A' sides.

"They're full of Academy players from Munster, Ulster, Leinster and Connacht. Look at UCD now. The majority of their squad will be Leinster Academy as well.

"When you're playing against that sort of opposition week in, week out, it really gets you ready for the step up."

As Irish rugby wallowed in a glorious clean sweep last weekend, Moore immediately contacted his erstwhile club team-mate, Craig Ronaldson. The talented Connacht back is someone who bypassed the recognised Academy pathways to leap straight from club rugby into the lion's den of Toulouse, playing his role in the Heineken Cup's greatest ever shock last Sunday.

"It's hard to believe that I was playing AIL rugby last year and only a few months later I've been involved in some mammoth Heineken Cup clashes," says Ronaldson.

"I started on a clean slate this season and just wanted to learn every week. The speed of the game is scrutinised to the nth degree but being a professional gives me the time to do that.

"It's hard to know if I would have got a break without the AIL. It plays such an important part in the development of Irish rugby. The standard is getting better. Guys in the Academies need to be playing in it.

"I found myself playing against higher standard players, and that's the way that players like me will get looked at. We tried to be as professional in our set-up as possible with the coach and facilities and players from all over. The standard needs to be maintained."

Moore and Ronaldson have franked the AIL's importance as a breeding ground for Irish pros which, amidst the turmoil engulfing the professional game, should be keenly noted at IRFU HQ.

Moore also credits the influence of Ross on his development.

As he bats away questions about his international prospects, he points out that Corkman Ross is more of a mentor than a rival.

"Mike has been brilliant since I started in the Academy four years ago," adds Moore.

"He's been a mentor to me and always been in my ear about how I can improve and what I need to do to make myself a better player, which has been invaluable to me.

"I don't see him as a competitor at the moment -- he is that too but he's more of a mentor."

At this rate of progress, perhaps not for much longer.

Martin Moore factfile

Born: March 1, 1991, Lucan, Dublin

Height: 5' 11"

Weight: 19st 5lb

Clubs: Barnhall, Lansdowne

International honours:

Squad member on 2013 Emerging Ireland tour to Tbilisi Cup, Ireland U-20, U-19, U-18 Schools.

Leinster senior debut: April 13, 2012 v Edinburgh.

Heineken Cup debut: October 10, 2013, v Ospreys

Total appearances: 17 (11 as sub) Tries: 1 v Scarlets

Did you know? Moore is the only Leinster player from the July 2010 opening game at the Aviva Stadium for the combined Ulster/Leinster team to make his senior breakthrough.

Irish Independent

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