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'The move to Connacht came at a point in my career where I was kinda lost'

Carlow man Tom Daly is playing the best rugby of his career under Andy Friend.

Tom Daly on his way to scoring against Leinster last weekend.
Tom Daly on his way to scoring against Leinster last weekend.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

UNTIL THE LAST few months, Tom Daly hadn’t really known the feeling of being a regular starter in professional rugby.

He has loved his three years with Connacht but admits that he was in and out of the team even while playing good rugby last season due to the level of competition in midfield.

Before his move west, Daly was only intermittently used by his native Leinster, making 10 appearances in total due to injuries and the province’s depth.

But now, at the age of 27, Daly is delighting in racking up consistent minutes as he increasingly makes himself an important player for Andy Friend’s Connacht. Daly was superb in last weekend’s win over Leinster at the RDS, with his excellent intercept try sealing the bonus-point for the visitors.

“It’s probably the first time in my career that I’ve had eight, nine games starting in a row, so I’m really starting to reap the rewards from that,” says Daly.

“It’s probably the best rugby I’ve played in my career and I’m really enjoying it.”

Daly is a prime example of a talented player showing exactly what he’s capable of when given consistent chances to do so. Making up back-to-back-to-back starts has allowed him to build confidence, get into a flow, and improve with each game.

The former Ireland 7s international even shifted into out-half earlier this season against Edinburgh when injuries struck in that position and says he’s “happy enough to slip in there if needs be.”

While Daly can also play at 13, he is most at home in the number 12 shirt, from where his dynamic ball-carrying, defensive aggression, and subtle skillset have shone for Connacht this season.

He also feels entirely at home in Galway now, just over three years on from an initial loan move from Leinster in December 2018.

tom-daly Daly has been excellent for Connacht this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Daly reflects on his decision to head west as one of the best he has made. 

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“It probably came at a point in my career where I was kinda lost nearly,” says the Carlow man.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time. I can clearly remember getting the call from Friendy, I nearly took his arm off for the opportunity because there wasn’t much happening for me in Leinster.

“I was just back from a knee injury and I couldn’t really get my way back into the team, so I was looking around for contracts. There probably wasn’t that much coming up because I hadn’t been playing that often so it was quite a tough time, but Friendy gave me a call on a random Sunday, said they had a few injuries and would I be interested.

“I jumped at it, I was down the next Monday and a week or two later, I was playing against Munster.

“So it has worked out pretty well for me and this year, in particular, with the game time, it has really stood to me and I think my performances have been pretty good, so I’m happy with it.”

Daly is proof that inter-provincial transfers can be brilliant for some players – the likes of Conor Oliver, Alex Wootton, and Sammy Arnold have also benefited from joining Connacht – and while the centre did have some contact from English clubs back in 2018, he was thrilled to get a chance to stay on these shores.

“You want to stay in Ireland and every rugby player’s dream here is to play for Ireland.

“I was always looking for maybe one of the other provinces, that would have been my first choice, and it came at a good time that Friendy called.

“It probably wasn’t from what he saw but what he heard from other coaches that might have recommended me. That helped me and it has been the dream move really.”

– First published 06.30, 7 January

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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