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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Carbery days long gone, so Tullamore man Joyce calmly takes the reins for 'Tarf

The out-half suffered more painful blows than being left out of a starting line-up last year.

JOEY CARBERY’S MOMENT in the sun last May, announcing himself to the country with a tour-de-force in the UBL final was a thrilling sight to behold, a mission statement of what the young playmaker intended to do in each of the higher grades that awaited him.

Darren Sweetnam with Joey Carbery Carbery cuts past Cork Con and Munster's Darren Sweetnam in last year's final. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Spare a thought, however, for the other midlands out-half on Clontarf’s team-sheet that day; a man in his third season with the club and firmly behind the precocious young Auckland-born tyro in the pecking order.

“You never want to be dropped,” says the affable, laid-back David Joyce, taking time out from his lunch break in a south Dublin office, a stone’s throw from Lansdowne Road, to speak with The42.

“You have to be a clubman as well sometimes. So I just did whatever I could in training and games whenever I was needed. So, yeah, truly understandable why he was playing.”

I was on the bench in the final and unfortunately didn’t get on, but look, a guy of Joey’s class – probably the best player I’ve ever played with in the league – you’re not going to take him off in a game like that.  He was absolutely terrific that day.”

It’s no exaggeration. Carbery was the spark that ‘Tarf roar in three tries before half-time and continually threatened to scythe and swerved through gaps as he helped bring the north Dublin club bring the title home with a 28 – 25 win over Cork Con.

Rather than end last year’s campaign allowing his medal make him sore at being left out of the starting XV or vowing to prove a point, Joyce is able to take the widescreen view and simply cherishes the experience of having played with an outrageous talent who would be closing out Ireland’s historic win over the All Blacks within six months.

“You hear lads saying it, but he was an absolute joy to watch when you’re on the bench. You might be behind the posts warming up and he’d make a silly break and almost go the length himself.

“If I came off the bench, Joey would go to fullback for part of the game. He’s still a huge threat from back there. He’d always have a go himself.”

David Joyce is tacked by Elie Mundu and Darren Ryan Joyce doesn't mind having a cut either. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Fast forward 12 months and the community entrenched club are back in the final this Sunday, ready to defend that title against the same opponent. This time with Joyce back at the wheel.

For a long time this season, a return to this stage looked unlikely as ‘Tarf lost five of their first seven games of the Ulster Bank League season — a rough patch that must be at least partly attributed to another mental test put in front of Joyce during a Leinster League meeting with his former club Dublin University in early September.

Someone fell in on my leg awkwardly. I was in an awkward position and… it happened in a split second and I could hear and feel the ‘pop’.”

The sudden blast of pain was a fibia fracture. Joyce was left to spend the months approaching his 27th birthday going from cast to protective boot and into rehab. The Tullamore man doesn’t talk about the leg break like a war story though — no fuss, no drama, just a composed approach to the steps leading back him to the field.

“I’ve had no trouble with it at all since I came back. To be honest, I don’t think of it any more. We’ve a really good physio  in Clontarf, Niall Barry, and he worked me through it really well, didn’t rush me.

“I was lucky enough, got surgery on it the next day. The surgery went well. I was in a cast for maybe four weeks and another four weeks in a boot. Then it was about getting back into putting weight on it, rehabbing it and then started running again around December time, get the fitness back up. Because you can’t really do anything fitness-wise with it.

David Joyce kicks a conversion Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

“Sure (upper body weight training) is awkward enough, even! You can’t put any weight down (through your leg), so you need someone there to hand you everything. So that  took a backward step as well.”

There haven’t been many since.

Joyce returned to action for the 29 – 0 win over Trinity in College Park in January, the start of a run of seven wins in nine matches as they battled back into a tight play-off race. It was also a run that included a dogged 22 – 13 win over Cork Con in February, though the out-half is points out that the February mudbath on Castle Avenue will have little bearing on the hard track promised by the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

“That was very much a kicking night, there was no room for playing from the wrong part of the pitch. So it will be a lot different for both teams.

“It’s going to be a seriously tough game.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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