Jack Carty knows that being voted on to the four-man shortlist for the Zurich Players’ Player of the Year does not mean he will automatically receive a ticket to Japan later this year.
But being listed alongside Peter O’Mahony, James Ryan, and Tadhg Beirne has surely done his chances no harm.
“I’m in good company, yeah, to get recognised by my fellow players is something that is a huge honour for me,” said Carty.
“I don’t think you can get voted for by players in your own province, so to get voted by the Leinster, Munster and Ulster players is something I’m proud of.”
Carty has gone from being not even mentioned in the Test arena, to being a player with three Six Nations appearances under his belt earlier this year.
He leapfrogged Leinster out half Ross Byrne into the squad, and then with Joey Carbery succumbing to injury, the Connacht man made a trio of appearances.
It was priceless experience for the 26 year-old who has had to be patient for his chance, and while it might have been fleeting, being named as one of four players for this season’s main award as well as the Supporter’s Player of the Year award has boosted his self-belief.
“I don’t think the [Ireland] coaches are going to pay much heed to the awards but for my own personal confidence it’s class,” Carty said.
“If I was told at the beginning of the year I’d be up for two nominations never mind one I’d be absolutely delighted with myself.
“I think the extended squad will be named in the next couple of weeks so it gives me confidence knowing what I’ve done, and what I hopefully can be able to do, that I can be in the extended squad going into the pre-season ahead of the World Cup.”
Johnny Sexton remains the undisputed no.1 in the camp, but could the gap to understudy be narrowing?
“With injuries and stuff and lads not playing technically I probably am [No.2 choice] but Joey [Carbery] will probably be coming back in the next two or three weeks.
“You saw how Ross [Byrne] has been playing in the last couple of weeks too. I’d a good Six Nations but the fact is there are three or four lads there who are all vying for second spot I think all of us are looking to start for our country.
Carty’s all-round game has improved in Galway this season, and he’s praised the input of head coach Andy Friend, who arrived last summer, replacing Kieran Keane, who struggled to match the impact made by Pat Lam.
Lam led the province to their first ever senior title.
Now the Westerners are back in the play-offs, facing Ulster in Belfast this Saturday, and Carty says the club’s laid-back Australian coach has had a big hand in the province’s turnaround.
“On the pitch, at the start of the season, Andy talked about how every player has a weapon, he talked to everyone, one-on-one, going, ‘what’s your weapon? What’s your work-on?’” Carty said.
“Instead of focusing on what everyone’s work-on is, he is always focused on what everyone’s weapon is. If players can bring their weapon on the training ground and onto the pitch every week, Connacht will be much better.
“He is also rewarding players for the little things that might go unnoticed.
“We all enjoy working with each other and, when you’re in a work environment you enjoy, it’s nice to be around.”
The Zurich Players’ Player of the Year Awards will take place on Wednesday, May, 15 at the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge.