David Breen knew that his role in the snowballing success story that is Na Piarsaigh’s senior hurling team was in the lap of the gods when he moved to England to start work as a first-team physiotherapist with Wasps Rugby Club.
For two years he had managed to juggle his day job with Leinster Rugby and his own playing ambitions with the Limerick outfit, but relocating to Coventry was a much more complicated ask and it remained to be seen what his new employers would make of it all.
They understood implicitly.
Ali James is the head of physio at the Premiership outfit and, with four people working under him, there was the flexibility and willingness to allow Breen fly over and back and maintain his link with a Na Piarsaigh side that on Sunday claimed a fourth Munster Club title in seven seasons.
“It says a huge amount about them,” said Breen. “They appreciate when guys are playing themselves and players appreciate that you understand high-level sport yourself. So they have been happy enough to facilitate it within reason… I probably won’t get much of a Christmas now.”
By rights, he should have been in Coventry over the weekend.
Wasps had a league game at home to Newcastle on the Saturday, but James gave the Irishman the nod to leave to make the 20-minute trip to Birmingham Airport on the Friday. The club did just fine without him in pulling away to a comfortable 40-10 win at the Ricoh Arena.
So Breen returned to base yesterday a happy man.
His two second-half goals were pivotal in engineering daylight between the Limerick side and Ballygunner in the Thurles decider. His brother, Adrian, bagged 1-5 and the man-of-the-match award as they booked an All-Ireland semi-final with Slaughtneil in the new year.
“It was out of my control after moving over to England, to be honest. It was up to the management whether they wanted me to still be involved and whether they felt it was fair to the rest of the panel. So then they asked me the question back then.
“I was happy enough to try and keep doing it. It was the biggest challenge by far. It’s one thing living in Dublin and driving down to train from Dublin but as soon as you’re in a different country it’s a different kettle of fish.
“Very happy, very sweet.”
Even better is the fact Wasps’ next game isn’t until next Sunday, away to London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. That meant no training yesterday, which in turn meant no need to run for the 7pm flight back and, instead, a night soaking up the celebrations back in Caherdavin.
The fates have been kind that way so far. He may have missed out on the Newcastle game this time around but he has been ever-present for Na Piarsaigh, when fit, as they cut a familiar swathe through the county and the province.
“Yeah, I’ve got my priorities straight all right,” he laughed. “If I miss one game that could be the end of it for me so I can’t afford to miss out.”
It’s easy to understand why he would want to wring every last drop out of it.
Breen was one of only half-a-dozen from Sunday’s starting side that featured in the first of their four Munster title wins six years ago, but he remembers days before that when the thoughts of going 11 games unbeaten through Munster — and counting — would have been pure fantasy.
“100%. I made reference earlier to 2009 and our first-ever county final when we scored three points in the whole game. That was a real tough one to take. We had a mixture of old and young that day and we were playing an Adare team that was at the peak of their powers.
“We were nobodies, really. If we had gotten to a county quarter-final that year that would have been a bonus for us so to come back eight years later and see where we are at now, you don’t want to miss those days. You want to try and still be involved. It’s sweet.”
Wasps appreciate when guys are playing themselves and players appreciate you understand high-level sport
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