Tadhg Beirne spent three frustrating years trying to make it at Leinster before building a career for himself in Wales.
It’s the kind of experience that could provide a larger pouch of ammunition this week but he speaks like the kind of guy who has moved on as he returns to the RDS for tomorrow’s Guinness Pro12 semi-final with the Scarlets.
A 6’ 6” lock who can put in a shift at blindside, Beirne is the sort of player that doesn’t come along all that often in Irish rugby but injury scuppered his big chance with Leinster’s academy at a time when he needed to be making a mark. Adductor and shoulder injuries in year two did most to hold him back and, though he persuaded Leo Cullen to give him a third year, only four appearances off the bench followed before his agent went looking elsewhere and found him a post in Llanelli.
“I had a pretty stressful time in Leinster,” said the Kildare man. “My first year in the academy went really well and things were looking really good. Then I picked up that adductor injury and it took me a long time to recover from it. In that period, a lot of people passed me out.
“From that perspective, it was frustrating. With the environment in Leinster, you learn a lot and become a better person and a better player. I have no regrets in staying there but, in hindsight, I could have left earlier. But I wasn’t getting game time so I didn’t really have much footage to leave earlier.”
He’s philosophical enough to balance any residual disappointment with the knowledge he wouldn’t be where he is now without that foundation work at his home province and the place he finds himself now is pretty damn sweet for a number of reasons.
“He’s had a massive impact,” said Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac. “If you said value for money he’d be right up there at the top of the list. He came over for an opportunity and he’s taken it with both hands. It’s one of the success stories of our side this year.”
Beirne has played 22 times for the region so far and his partnership in the second row with Wales international Jake Ball has blossomed in a side with a style of play that seems to suit the Irishman and his wide range of skills.
“Defensively, (Pivac) lets us tackle the way we want to tackle and gives us the ability to poach the ball. That’s an area I can be quite strong at; going over the ball. Then we like to play an open game. My skill set helps that. I like to throw the ball around a bit.”
Beirne’s path isn’t unique. For every 2.5 players who graduate from the Leinster academy to the senior team, there are is another one who has made a life for himself as a pro elsewhere and his own story is another example of how the Ulster Bank League can resurrect a career.
Like Joey Carbery, Craig Ronaldson and others, Beirne benefited from his involvement with Lansdowne under Mike Ruddock and Declan Fassbender and it was clips of him playing AIL that helped persuade Pivac to take a punt on him at the time.
Performances against Saracens and Toulon in the Champions Cup were particularly notable given the quality of the opposition and, though he will likely stay with Scarlets another year at least, attention from home shores is inevitable if he continues to thrive across the Irish Sea.
“I’m taking it as it comes,” he said. “I need to focus on Scarlets.
“I can’t jump ahead and think internationally or anything like that because I’ve only just broken into the first team this year.
“I have another year with Scarlets so I’ll just see how that goes.
“I’m not looking that far into the future, if I’m being honest.”
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