Fanning (left) in pre-season action in Ravenhill. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
long game

Fanning 'living the dream' after taking long route to the top

From Tuggeranong Vikings to… well, Leinster. The winger is proof that patience and perseverance pays.

FOR SOME, NOT a whole lot hinges on pre-season friendlies.

But then, most haven’t taken the long route to the top like Darragh Fanning has.

After following the well-worn path out of Leinster and into Connacht, he took the road less travelled, to Canberra and the Tuggeranong Vikings.

“Sean McCarthy, who would have coached me here at St Mary’s, moved there to coach,” Fanning says as interrupts another day of Leinster training in Clonskeagh.

“He just gave me an opportunity to go there on a short-term deal, because I got  released so late by Connacht.

“I went there originally just for a few games, but when I came back I stood back and looked at the big picture; a few small offers to go to the Championship in England or maybe France. I just thought, ‘I was 25 at the time, I thought professional rugby was over for me in Ireland’. And that’s why I said I’d do one more year in Australia and then look to settle down and start a new life.”


He’s living a new life alright, working day-in, day-out with a strength and conditioning team who were initially keen on ending his sessions early as he got up to speed with the rigours of professionalism again.

Side by side with medal-laden veterans and academy tyros groomed for stardom, it wasn’t exactly a scenario he pictured on his way back north last year.

“No, this time last year was actually in Bali in Indonesia with one of my friends. We had just finished a season in Australia, so I was trying to work on my tan for a few days.

“I did not think I’d be standing here with two Leinster caps under my belt.”

“He’s been on our radar for a while,” says team manager Guy Easterby,” He played in an A game for us down in Munster last year and did well. He’s one of these guys who has improved with age – you can tell he’s hungry for it. He’s big, you know, he’s grown into his own skin. Physically, he’s able to hold his own and that’s a real positive.”

Despite the signing of Lote Tuqiri, the injuries which have taken Luke Fitzgerald, Fergus McFadden and now Darren Hudson out of the squad rotation will mean Fanning can make some small inroads into the feats of his father, Declan, whose image adorns the dressing rooms of the RDS.

“I probably shouldn’t have shown him,” the younger Fanning jokes, “he was absolutely delighted with that. I think he’s been showing everyone else.


©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“It’s brilliant, he’s massively proud at the moment. obviously he played for and captained Leinster, so he’s delighted at the moment, seeing me living out a dream.”

As reverie goes, facing down George North in a pre-season friendly in Donnybrook wouldn’t cut it for most. Yet during 80 minutes most quickly passed off meaningless to the season to come, Fanning made his mark.

Having gone into the game with the knowledge that his short-term training contract was about to run its course, he was told to suit up for training again the following week and asked to sign a contract to keep him training in UCD until January.

In the competitive games since, he’s unbeaten, (a rare early splurge of form from Leinster) and started the terrific Dave Kearney try against the Ospreys by doing the less glamorous work at a ruck on his own 10-metre line.

That’s the kind of thing you tend to get good at on the long route to the top.

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