Dooley made his Leinster return last weekend. Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Birr men making an impression as Leinster's Dooley gets back into swing of things

The 26-year-old loosehead was in excellent form last season before the lockdown.

THE BIRR BOYS are flying.

26-year-old loosehead prop Peter Dooley made his return for Leinster last weekend – his first senior appearance since February – and was replaced in the second half by 21-year-old Michael Milne.

Meanwhile, down in New Zealand, 23-year-old lock Jack Regan has been in strong form for Otago, who have been impressive in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Regan was previously a Leinster and Ireland underage player before he moved to the Ulster academy and then onto New Zealand earlier this year.

Dooley is pleased to his fellow Birr RFC man flying the flag.

“Jack was unlucky not to get more opportunity here, he had a bad back injury, but he’s living the life down in Dunedin,” says Dooley.

“He’s doing well and I remember Jamison Gibson-Park telling me about the Ranfurly Shield before, so it’s mad that a Birr man has won that! He’s grown into a big man and he deserves it.

“Who knows what the future holds but a big lump of a second row wouldn’t go astray somewhere in Ireland, I suppose.”

With another Birr RFC man, Ronan Loughnane, now in the Leinster sub-academy there can justifiably be some pride in the club, where Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt also started playing rugby.

peter-dooley Dooley was in flying form before the lockdown. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Dooley hopes to see a few more following in the pathway, but for now he’s busy getting back into the swing of things with Leinster.

The loosehead was in flying form last season before the lockdown, featuring three times for Leinster in the Champions Cup as he earned second-choice status behind Cian Healy. 

Eager to maintain his conditioning, Dooley moved in with Josh van der Flier for lockdown and says they “motivated each other and got the best out of each other as much as we could,” with the notoriously hard-working openside flanker unwilling to let anything slip.

“I’d be trying to get him to have an ice cream one of the nights and he wouldn’t even dabble even though we weren’t going to be playing for a few months,” says Dooley with a smile.

“He’s something else, the ultimate professional. We had a lovely set-up with a gym in the garden and we’d be running too, so we’re hopefully reaping the rewards now.”

That said, Dooley was unfortunate to have to undergo a shoulder procedure just as Leinster started back training together again over the summer and that meant he was behind the curve as rugby games finally restarted again.

Ed Byrne took full advantage and has risen all the way into the Ireland squad to win his first cap last weekend against Italy. Dooley shares his delight for his team-mate and says that debut was “fully deserved” but he must wonder what might have been.

Dooley has his head down now and is hoping for a strong run of starts with Leinster as he continues to chase his “massive long-term goal” of playing for Ireland.

peter-dooley Dooley in action for the Ireland U20s in 2014. Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Not that Dooley is letting goals and targets get on top of him. Last season, he benefitted from being more relaxed about his game.

“I read something about over-trying, you’re over-eager trying to impress,” he explains. “This time last year, the enjoyment of the game nearly went out of it for me and I was putting myself under too much pressure.

“I had to get back to the basics of enjoying games. I was talking to an old alickadoo from Birr RFC and he just told me to go back to doing what I had done when I was younger, running around with the ball. That’s why you play. So it’s just about not getting too worked up about things.”

With that in mind, Dooley is looking forward to Monday’s clash away to Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro14 as he sets about getting back onto the upward trajectory he was on last season.

“I just want to get a run of games under my belt. Things were going well before lockdown, I thought I was playing not too badly. I put that down to playing the inter-pros at Christmas, then the Champions Cup games and two more games before we unfortunately got locked down.

“I want to get back to that match sharpness and fitness. With the lads away, I want to do my best and play well in the European games.”

Pragmatists Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join the deludedly optimistic Gavan Casey to look ahead to the big one in Paris:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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