McNamara: O'Connell is a huge addition to U-20s set-up
Noel McNamara's route from a small, hurling dominated village in county Clare to becoming Ireland U-20s coach has been unconventional if nothing else, but it is one that acts as a timely reminder that you don't have to have an illustrious playing career behind you to make your way in what is an increasingly tough environment.
O'Callaghan's Mills is more renowned for producing All-Ireland winners like PJ O'Connell and Patrick Donnellan rather than top class rugby coaches, but McNamara has slowly been forging his reputation.
Having studied teaching at the University of Limerick, a stint in Glenstal Abbey was followed by a decade in Clongowes where he enjoyed Senior Cup successes in 2010 and 2011.
Since then, he has moved up the ladder with UCD, and spent several years with the Leinster and Irish schools teams as well as working closely with the province's Academy and 'A' side.
"I think you have got to work hard no matter what," McNamara said of his rise through the ranks.
"If you have a strong playing career behind you it definitely puts you in a strong position to get in the door. The reality is that very quickly you realise that you have got to deliver and it was no different for me.
"I feel like I've worked hard but the reality is I loved what I've done and enjoyed every second of it. It doesn't feel like work."
Taking charge of the Ireland U-20s is the obvious next step and the early impression given is that his thinking is very much along the same lines as Nigel Carolan, who since enjoying huge success at age grade level, has landed himself a full-time, professional gig with Connacht.
The addition of Paul O'Connell to the coaching staff will ensure that even more of a spotlight will be shone on the U-20s, which is a vital cog in Irish Rugby's wheel.
"I have been trying to get him on board with the U-18s for a couple of seasons as well," McNamara explained.
"It was something that he was keen to be involved in and the opportunity arose and it was something we were obviously keen to grab with both hands.
"Paul has been a huge addition to the coaching group. Obviously he is someone who has a huge standing, not only in Irish rugby but in world rugby. He's added a lot of value."
O'Connell has already had a big impact in camp, and he will continue to do so when the squad reconvenes this morning as preparations ramp up ahead of their Six Nations opener in France next week.
"First and foremost, Paul is a really good person," McNamara continued.
"He's extremely humble. He's come in and very openly said that there are things that he needs to learn as well.
"Obviously he has a very strong background in rugby but the coaching and everything else, he's done some work with different teams already but he's not someone who is coming in and telling guys 'You have to do this, you have to do that.'
"Of course he has got a great standing and he has a good standing amongst the players but the reality is, these guys have been involved in rugby for quite a while themselves.
"We have a lot of guys who have experienced high end coaching already. I think they have got a pretty good grounding."
McNamara has named a 32-strong Six Nations squad, with Tommy O'Brien confirmed as captain after a player vote.
"Tommy has got a great attitude towards getting better," he added.
"He is continually working on and improving, not only the areas he's deficient on but also on his strengths. I think that's something that we would value quite highly, that quality and that chasing getting better."
Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC