Saturday 19 October 2019

Dave Kilcoyne's joy as 'get better' mantra pushed him into Schmidt's 31

Dave Kilcoyne. Photo: Sportsfile
Dave Kilcoyne. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Every morning when Dave Kilcoyne wakes up, the first thing he sees are the words 'Try and get better everyday'.

Written on his bedroom wall, it's a constant reminder of the relentless pursuit of success, which in recent years has become even more intense.

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Four years ago, Kilcoyne was overlooked for Ireland's World Cup squad in favour of Jack McGrath, who then went on to play in all three Lions Tests on the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

Back then, the odds on Kilcoyne making the plane to Japan would have been slim, but such have been the impressive improvements in his all-round game, he has timed his run perfectly to usurp McGrath.

Of all the Ireland players in pre-season, Kilcoyne made huge ground in terms of cementing his place in the squad, particularly after his barnstorming display in Cardiff.

The 30-year-old looks fitter, sharper and more robust than ever, which in turn offers Joe Schmidt another explosive option from the bench.

Kilcoyne has come a long way since having his World Cup dream crushed in 2015, but without that painful experience he knows he might not have transformed his own game enough to become an even better player than he was back then.

"That was a massive driver for me, yeah," he admits. "I suppose that was one thing that... after getting that phone call, I remember having a chat with my brother Alan and saying, 'I'm going to be on that plane in four years'.

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"That was one of the texts that we had between each other. He said he remembered being in my house after I didn't make it and that he was so proud that I did make it this time.

"As your career progresses you get very limited opportunity to play in a World Cup, so I wanted to make sure I left no stone unturned to try and make it.

"There wasn't a whole lot to turn around. It was quite a close call at the time. But I think I looked more towards myself rather than the coaches.

"I looked at areas in my game that I could improve. I suppose work-ons are the nature of sport. You are constantly trying to get better.

"I have that written up in my room at home - 'Try and get better everyday'. That's what I try and do."

Promise

That conversation with his brother remained with Kilcoyne as much as the one with Schmidt, and it wasn't an empty promise either.

The loosehead's parents, Pat and Pauline, have been with him every step of the way. Making the World Cup squad was as much for them as it was for himself.

"Look I'm a big family man, my parents have been with me through thick and thin, and my two brothers," Kilcoyne says.

"I didn't make the last World Cup and I was obviously bitterly disappointed. They've been there for me, not so much a shoulder to cry on but they feel the hurt as well, you know, when you get that call on the Sunday night to say that you didn't make it.

"I suppose they take great pride in seeing me going to this World Cup. My dad, especially, and my mum.

"They know how hard I've worked for this and my two brothers, Alan and Padraig, they know how hard I've worked to get here, and their messages would probably mean the most."

Kilcoyne is a proud man and that also stems from his upbringing in Limerick.

There has been a distinct lack of Limerick forwards in and around the Ireland squad in recent years, but 'Killer' is certainly flying that flag high along with Conor Murray and Keith Earls in the backs.

It helps, too, that his cousin Marcus Horan also travelled the same path. Seeing someone close to him play for Ireland at two World Cups made the dream that bit more of a reality.

"I have a good relationship with Marcus," Kilcoyne adds. "I broke into the Munster seniors when Marcus was still playing. It's good that you have family who have done it before. Hopefully you can go one step more.

"I am a very proud Limerick man. To see Conor and Keith here is great too. 31 is a very limited number. It's good to see a fella from Limerick in the pack.

"I take massive pride in being the only Limerick forward in the 31. It's great to represent your city."

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