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Stalled Carr running out of time to prove worth

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Fionn Carr

Fionn Carr

Fionn Carr

FIONN CARR is arguably the quickest winger in Irish rugby since Denis Hickie used to switch on the afterburners.

Comparisons, however, end there. Carr's career is threatening to pass him by just as speedily.

Already 27, his career has stalled in mid-division. It hasn't accelerated with his presumably lofty expectations.

He knew there were no guarantees when he returned to his home club two summers ago after what had been a successful sojourn way out west as the supreme finisher for perennial underdogs Connacht.

Having started his career with Leinster in 2007, it was understandable why he would want to return to what had now become the leading side in European rugby. Regrettably, his timing, a crucial aspect of a winger's game, was not exactly precise.

Tossed

Leinster initially demurred when Carr's name was tossed in their direction. After all, Joe Schmidt's men were doing quite nicely for outside backs thank you very much. The search broadened and Carr's name was soon popping up on the radar of clubs throughout Europe.

Most took a pass. Ulster were interested, but apparently the passion was not mutual. When the music stopped, Carr eventually wound up back where it began for him -- in Donnybrook.

The only difference was that both parties -- club and player -- knew which was the more desperate.

When Carr played last term, he played decently enough. Five tries in 15 starts is not a shabby return, unless cast in the shadow of his astonishing strike rate with Connacht. Their all-time leading try-scorer (34), he managed to register in every other game.

One season, he scored more tries than the rest of his team-mates put together.

So, we know he can still finish. his problem is when and where. Although he played ten 80-minute games last term, all were in the Pro 12 and the majority when the club's international stars were away.

He didn't get beyond 40 minutes in his two, brief, Heineken Cup stints.

The irony is that Carr's ambition to play at the highest level saw his move unluckily pre-date Connacht's ascension for the first time to Heineken Cup competition thanks to Leinster's final win over Leicester.

Thereafter, the perception of the big fish in the small pond, struggling to stay above water in more exalted company, has been difficult to shake off.

Despite one try from his three opening games this season, there is little evidence to suggest -- Luke Fitzgerald's cruel injury fate notwithstanding -- that this season's script will alter once the big hitters are available for Heineken Cup duty.

His coaches, particularly Schmidt, have demanded more of him, presumably to display more vigour infield and not remain isolated on the wing.

Carr was only offered a one-year deal last summer, so, one guesses, that the Kildare man must make an impression soon or else slip even further away from the spotlight.

"Last year, maybe I didn't get some of the big games, which was obviously disappointing for me, but it is a fantastic squad and great to be part of it.

"I just want to keep driving on and giving Joe headaches every week," he says.

"That's why the game time at the moment is really important for me, just to keep playing."

Some may question why he chose to move at all, particularly when his opportunities have been so clearly restricted.

"It's not about moving to be a part of a squad," he insists.

"You are moving to try and get into the team. Obviously, we have a great squad and everyone wants to get in the squad and that can't happen. I have to take my chances.

"I have to bide my time and take my opportunities with both hands. You don't want to be a squad player at the end of the day, but sometimes it happens.

feedback

"You get feedback from the coaches the whole time about your game, the little things that you might change. It could be defence, attack, positioning. It could be anything and it varies from game to game, so I have to have different goals for every game and show the coaches where I am at."

For his part, assistant coach Richie Murphy claims Leinster are just demanding that Carr put in the type of remorseless endeavour that has catapulted guys like Dave Kearney ahead of him in the queue.

"Fionn has stepped up to the mark," he says. "It would be unfair to talk about things that we have discussed with him in private, but the thing about all the players here is that when they are given stuff to go away and work on, there is a real focus from them to go and improve in those areas.

"That is the only way you will survive around here. If you are not improving in those areas, you will just go down to the bottom of the pecking order."

Murphy also revealed that Gordon D'Arcy is likely to return to action for the first time this season in tomorrow's RDS clash against Edinburgh.

However, Rob Kearney's return is likely to be delayed for another week while South African second row Quinn Roux will miss out with an ankle injury.

Irish Independent