bright spark

20-year-old Craig Casey's energy an exciting prospect for Munster

The Shannon scrum-half showed his potential in a cameo off the bench at Thomond Park yesterday.

AMONG THE OTHER little glimpses of his potential yesterday at Thomond Park, there was the sight of 20-year-old Craig Casey, all 5ft 5ins and 76kg of him, giving grizzled Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate a couple of shoves.

Wales and Lions international Lydiate, standing 6ft 4ins tall and weighing over 110kg, looked a little surprised and laughed it off, but Casey’s aggression went some way towards underlining why Munster fans are so excited about the scrum-half.

craig-casey Casey scored a try in his first involvement off the bench. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

A Grand Slam champion with the Ireland U20s last year, Casey has an infectious energy about him. He may be a relatively small man but he plays big. His lack of size hasn’t held him back yet and looks unlikely to do so.

Munster’s win over the Ospreys in a Champions Cup dead rubber was a dull watch at times but moments like Casey’s try with his first involvement after coming off the bench were exactly what the majority of the 19,891 crowd had hoped to see – green shoots.

Munster were dead and buried in Europe but here was something to chew over post-match in JJ Bowles and the Curragower, or on the journey back to Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kerry, and Clare.

There will be an effort on Munster’s part not to let too much pressure ride on Casey’s shoulders but he’s a man on the rise, with the potential and mindset to become a real fan favourite. It’s certainly bad news that Munster’s European season is over, but at least their fans can focus on their excitement about Casey and the other youngsters who featured yesterday.

Casey’s sharply-taken try off the base of a dominant scrum metres out from the Ospreys tryline, completely hoodwinking the hugely experienced Lydiate and a couple of other Welshman, was a delightful highlight amidst an error-strewn game at Thomond Park.

Casey Try

[Click here if you cannot view the clip above]

Casey’s sniping game is a strength, while he is a brave defender too – literally to a fault yesterday. His next involvement after scoring his try was to take down Ospreys wing Luke Morgan when he had broken through a pair of missed tackles.

Casey dove in front of the fast-moving Morgan and took a crack of the Welshman’s left knee to his head, forcing him to depart for a Head Injury Assessment that he passed, allowing him back on for the closing minutes of the contest.

The Shannon RFC man only had to make nine passes during his 13-minute cameo but there was evidence of his skills in that regard. With a low centre of gravity, Casey is capable of whipping passes straight off the ground without any need for steps to generate power.  

If his try had flashes of Peter Stringer against Biarritz in 2006 about it, the comparison of their passing styles is perhaps more pertinent. 

A bossy scrum-half in the petit général mould, Casey has a habit of clapping his hands as he arrives at the breakdown – his demand for the ball to be offered back in as clean a state as possible, ready be moved on quickly again. 

There was another linebreak for Casey in the very final passage of the game, his eye for a gap and awareness of the fringe defence evident as he sniped to tee up a promising Munster attack.


[Click here if you cannot view the clip above]

Casey will certainly have far, far tougher tasks in the coming seasons as he looks to establish himself as a mainstay for Munster but this was an encouraging cameo on a day when the province’s fans could have gone home with little to be enthusiastic.

Casey, who came through Ardscoil Rís, has much to learn but Munster’s senior players will look to guide him in learning how to run games.

There were also good signs from 22-year-old wing Calvin Nash as he got a start in the absence of Keith Earls and Shane Daly, winning a strong turnover penalty out wide, as well as showing his aerial skills.

22-year-old lock Fineen Wycherley offered his usual physicality, while academy number eight Jack O’Sullivan and out-half Ben Healy got minutes off the bench too. These were the names Munster fans left Thomond Park discussing.

The challenge for head coach Johann van Graan now is continuing to facilitate their development with game time as he looks to drive Munster towards a Pro14 trophy. 

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