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Dublin: 6°C Monday 18 January 2021

Promising Munster hooker Casey thriving under 'more professional' attitude

The Cork native has taken the road less traveled into professional rugby.

Casey aims to rival Gordon D'Arcy in the beard stakes.
Casey aims to rival Gordon D'Arcy in the beard stakes.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THERE IS A new breed of player breaking into professional rugby, with Munster’s Duncan Casey providing a striking example.

This is not in reference to the hooker’s physical readiness to make his debut for the province in a Heineken Cup match, but rather the intelligent and articulate personality that makes him a rounded character off the pitch, as well as a level-headed player on it.

A quick glance at the 23-year-old’s Twitter page illustrates his interest in current affairs and politics, while the fact that he “wouldn’t have been overly disappointed” if his attempts to break into Munster’s senior squad had been unsuccessful is a welcome change from the normal narrative too.

Not that the Cork native is unappreciative of all that he has achieved; Casey recognises that Munster’s academy had a conversion rate [of prospects into professionals] of only around 70% during his time as a member, and admits to having had “a real feeling of elation” when making his debut against Perpignan this season.

“I suppose it took me by surprise a bit in that it happened so quickly. I suppose you could say on the one hand that it was the next progression that I was in line to make, but at the same time it did happen very quickly.

I had to adjust to a new life in the professional set-up quite rapidly and I found that difficult at the start. The highest level I would have played at would have been the British & Irish Cup prior to making my debut in the Heineken Cup.”

Casey’s performances for Munster since that initial outing have spoken of real potential – recognised with a two-year contract recently – but to have made it to this point at all is noteworthy.

Many of the best rugby players have been involved in the game since they were old enough to participate in team sports; the resulting accumulation of perception, handling, communication and physical skills is seen as essential in many coaches’ theories on the game.

However, growing up in the “nice rural” Cork village of Carrignavar, Casey played only GAA and soccer. It was not until he joined Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick for his secondary schooling that he caught the rugby bug.

Impressive performances followed almost immediately, as Casey went on to represent Munster at U16, U18, U19 and U20 level, while also lining out for the Ireland Schools and U20 sides. Without a ‘home’ team in Cork, his first ever club rugby game was for Clanwilliam following the conclusion of Senior Cup commitments with Glenstal.

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imageCasey’s line-out throwing has shown up well this season. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

His next move saw him leaving his home province, but the lure was too hard to resist. Sitting in the University of Limerick and sporting the three-month old beard that resulted in Jerry Flannery congratulating him for becoming the first hobbit to play for Munster, Casey explains.

“After I left school, I had a brief stint with Lansdowne and I went to university in Trinity College in Dublin, just for a couple of months. It didn’t last too long and when I got away from things in Munster, I was looking back and thinking I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t go down and give things a try.

“I knew I would have been highly-rated by the coaches that I would have previously come into contact with. It’s worked out up to this point, so hopefully it’ll continue to work out for another few years.”

With that two-year contract secured, it appears that Casey will indeed be gracing the pitches of Thomond Park and Musgrave in Cork over the coming seasons, with many of the province’s fans enthusiastic about the Shannon RFC man’s potential.

Making the step up from being one of the many fringe players who are “essentially training full-time with a side you’re not playing with at the weekend” at Munster has been an enjoyable experience for the laid-back front row.

What exactly has been involved in the challenge of becoming a man who has already made six senior appearances for Munster?

It’s really everything. It’s a step up physically, mentally and everything else that goes along with it in terms of your preparation and looking after yourself. You do take more notice of the small things when you’re involved with the match-day 23.

“You really say to yourself ‘I don’t have a choice here, I have to put in the hours doing the boring stuff.’ Recovery, rehab, prehab, that kind of thing. So I suppose, although it mightn’t be the same in everyone’s case, I’d like to think I’ve become more professional in my attitude since I’ve got the game time and become involved in the match day squad more regularly.

“Physically and mentally, it’s bigger people, it’s more seasoned professionals. You might think that you’re ready, but you’ll always be surprised by just how demanding it is when you get to taste it.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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