Sheehan in action against France. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Dan the Man

Sheehan keen to build on 'valuable' outing in Paris with first Ireland start

The 23-year-old has impressed off Ireland’s bench this season.

THERE’S NO DOUBTING that Dan Sheehan has looked at home in Test rugby so far and the 23-year-old hooker looks set to take the next step with his first Ireland start on Sunday against Italy.

The Leinster man has come off the bench in his first four caps, making a notable impact on each occasion, particularly in his 54-minute stint off the bench away to France two weekends ago in the Six Nations.

Sheehan replaced the injured Rónan Kelleher on that occasion and with the latter now ruled out of the remainder of this championship due to his shoulder issue, Sheehan is in line for a start against the Italians.

Ulster’s experienced Rob Herring is back in the Ireland squad after a calf injury, while Connacht’s Dave Heffernan is also in the mix, but Sheehan has been visualising a start for his country for a long time.

“As a kid, you don’t picture yourself on the bench in these dreams that you have,” says Sheehan.

“It’s all about that two jersey that you’ve been striving for for so long. Obviously, an opportunity has come up for me and Rob to be going after.

“He’s experienced it before so I need to make sure that I get my chance to experience it. If given that, I need to take it with two hands.”

Sheehan has firmly grabbed every chance that has come his way so far. He has enjoyed an impressive rise since making his Leinster debut in October 2020, with his dynamism, skill levels, footwork, size, power in the tackle, and lineout throwing all standing out.

Getting such a long stint on the pitch in Paris was another big step for Sheehan.

“I think it was extremely valuable the whole thing,” he says. “To get a 60-minute block at that level and at that intensity was a huge step which I probably hadn’t experienced before. So to get that experience for games down the line which share the same significance, it was huge.

dan-sheehan Sheehan at Ireland training this week. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“In terms of performance, I thought I went well. I thought as a team we maybe struggled to do the basics and commit to our game plan and just execute on the smaller things like set-piece and executing our set-piece moves. We didn’t really get into our flow and sometimes with discipline and losing breakdown, we couldn’t get momentum and it was them just kicking points.”

Among the highlights in Sheehan’s performance at Stade de France was his late try-saving tackle on French fullback Melvyn Jaminet, when the Ireland hooker showed remarkable pace to cover across.

“He’s a smaller fella so I felt I had him in my grips and got my hands under,” says Sheehan of that tackle.

“I didn’t know if they were going to give it because of me being on his back, I was just relying on my hands and you never know with those calls, but I definitely thought I had him up. I think so!”

Things have been happening fast for Sheehan, with one achievement following swiftly after the other. 

The Lansdowne hooker is doing his best to stay grounded and keep improving.

“I was only chatting to someone yesterday and I was saying how I spent four years in the academy doing the same sort of thing for four years and then made my debut for Leinster in October last season, then Ireland debut a year later, and then Six Nations debut only a few months later. 

“It’s all happened really quickly and it’s just me trying to stay in the zone and keep focused on the task ahead and not getting too taken away by it all and just enjoying the moment.”

Gavan Casey is joined by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella to look ahead to Italy, chat about the provinces’ latest signings, and remember ‘Inga the Winga’.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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