'Sometimes I felt I was playing good rugby but not getting picked'

25-year-old Shane Daly is excited about Munster’s season but first, he has the Emerging Ireland tour.

Shane Daly was speaking at the announcement of Munster's new partnership with FREE NOW.
Shane Daly was speaking at the announcement of Munster's new partnership with FREE NOW.

THE EMERGING IRELAND tour came out of the blue even for the players who are set to jet out to South Africa this Sunday.

There wasn’t any early inside knowledge or heads-up. The players knew about as much as had been reported in the media. So for the likes of 25-year-old Munster man Shane Daly, it wasn’t clear whether he was in the frame to be on the trip.

It turns out that he’s one of four previously capped Ireland internationals in the final Emerging Ireland squad. Daly will certainly be a senior figure within an inexperienced group, one that he says he’s excited to be part of.  

“We got an email before the squad was announced, that same day. It wasn’t until I saw the group and the tour layout, I was massively excited,” he explains.

“It’s a serious group of players and people going down. I’m hoping to get as much game time as I can.”

Daly started the first game of Munster’s URC season as they lost to Cardiff but will miss this Sunday’s visit to Dragons and at least two other rounds of action. With plenty of competition in Munster’s back three, he could have made a big statement with a strong start to the season.

So it’s easy to wonder whether Daly’s career might have been better served by sticking around at Munster. But for the Cork man, the chance to be part of an Irish team is invaluable.

shane-daly Daly in action for Ireland against Japan in 2021. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“The opportunity to play in an Ireland structure in front of the Ireland coaches is something that doesn’t come around too often. You can’t replicate that.

“Every province plays their own way and the Irish coaches can’t really tell unless you’re in an Irish jersey. It’s a massive opportunity and if you take it, it puts you in a great place.”

Daly is hoping that whatever impression he makes in South Africa leaves him better positioned to add to his two senior caps, both of which came in the 2020/21 season.

He made his debut against Georgia in November 2020 and delighted in realising just how much his achievement meant to so many other people. His phone pinged all week with messages from good friends and lots of people he hadn’t heard from for years.

“Extended family, friends of my family, you realise how many people are following and want you to do well. It was incredibly moving in a sense, that so many people support me and it’s not just me out there. I felt I was in it for a much bigger cause.” 

Though he had to wait until the summer of 2021 for his second cap against Japan, Daly was part of the wider Ireland squad for that year’s Six Nations. He was impressed by Andy Farrell’s leadership behind the scenes at a time when it wasn’t totally obvious from the outside that Ireland were going in the right direction.

“It was just how calm and relaxed it was. You had heard things about how it was highly stressed before but under Andy Farrell, the experience I had was around how relaxed he was and how he dealt with players. If you weren’t playing, he was very honest with you.

shane-daly-and-soso-matiashvili Daly made his Ireland debut against Georgia. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“You never felt out of place or that you weren’t part of the group, that’s the way he manages players.

“And then the way we were playing on the field – it was about being alive all the time, having all options at all times. There were teething problems but you’re seeing now how effective it can be against the best teams.”

While Daly wants to grab his chance with Emerging Ireland over the next couple of weeks, he also recognises that he needs to be involved in Munster’s biggest games of the season if he wants to add to his Test cap tally with Ireland.

He fell out of senior Ireland contention last season as he had a frustrating time of it with Munster, often even missing out on their frontline matchday squad as Johann van Graan opted for 6/2 splits with his bench.

“There were times I felt I played good rugby the week before or weeks leading up to it, but I’d miss out on squads. It might be the 6/2 bench or whatever the previous coaches felt was best for the team. That’s something you have to take on the chin.

“There were obviously times where I didn’t perform my best but you can’t get frustrated in those scenarios – that’s on you. But there were times I felt I was playing good rugby but not getting picked. That kind of knocks your confidence.”

So Daly is very excited about the new era in Munster under Graham Rowntree and with attacking coach Mike Prendergast a big influence in a shift of mentality around how they play.

Daly is enjoying how Prendergast is encouraging players to express themselves and make decisions rather than always being told exactly what to do in every situation. He says Prendergast is a calming presence who has impressive attention to detail. 

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“Rugby-wise, it would be the flexibility the players have now, the ability to actually have your say on the field now,” says Daly of what excites him most.

shane-daly Daly didn't get a Champions Cup start last season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Especially from a back three perspective, I’m able to get involved in the game when I feel it’s the right thing to do rather than waiting for the ball to come and staying in system and shape all the time. Having that freedom and empowerment as a player has been huge for me, being able to make decisions again.

“I grew up playing as a centre and having the skills to make a decision and pass is something I’m able to do as much as I want to now. That’s really empowering for me and I’m really looking forward to showing that side of my game. Previously, it’s something I maybe didn’t have as much license to do.”

Daly feels he has always thrived under coaches with this kind of liberating ethos, whether it was Paul Barr back in his school days at PBC or Nigel Carolan with the Ireland U20s.

It feels like this could be a season where we get to see the real Daly.

“Last year, I probably would have been looked at more as a strike runner and a kick chaser,” he says. “I was happy to do that because I was playing when I was doing that well, but that’s not what I grew up doing or where I felt I was best utilised.

“There was that frustration coming off the pitch, the feeling that I could do so much more. It’s about showing that now and having the confidence to do it.

“I need to put myself forward and do those things again.” 

Ireland’s leading multi mobility app FREE NOW is partnering with Munster Rugby as its Official Mobility Partner until 2025. The new partnership will bring FREE NOW and Munster Rugby together for the 2022-23 season and over the next three years. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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