Fineen Wycherley rises to top of Munster rugby as West Cork's latest rugby prospect

The O’Donovan rowers began it at the Rio Olympics four years ago. After that, it seemed anything the oarsmen and women of West Cork achieved, so, too, could the young rugby players of the region.

Fineen Wycherley rises to top of Munster rugby as West Cork's latest rugby prospect

The O’Donovan rowers began it at the Rio Olympics four years ago. After that, it seemed anything the oarsmen and women of West Cork achieved, so, too, could the young rugby players of the region.

Darren Sweetnam, from Dunmanway, was an underage Cork hurler and Irish hockey star when he turned to rugby.

Hot on his heels came the Coombes cousins, Gavin and Liam, the Wycherley brothers, Fineen and Josh, and highly promising wing-forward John Hodnett.

West Cork is proud of what these talented youngsters. And chief among them is the Wycherley family, for whom second-row Fineen is proving a huge influence, as he builds a reputation as one of the most promising young forwards in the country. He made the point proudly this week.

“How things have changed at home; just how when I was younger, there were five or six people at training and now it has changed totally and there are 25 or 30,” says Fineen.

“The likes of Sweets getting Irish caps, and stuff like that, really getting young fellows excited.

"Obviously, it’s coming through more and more, with John Hodnett getting his first Munster cap last week.

“It’s massively important for those guys from small towns in West Cork that they can get to wear the red jersey, from places you’d think guys couldn’t do that.

“And down in Waterford, you have Jack O’Donoghue leading the way, and Thomas Ahern coming through, playing great rugby, and going on to play for Ireland.

“When the under-10s and 12s see these fellas doing this, they become their idols and it’s massively important that their success feeds back into their clubs,” says Fineen.

“Sweets is probably the one who has progressed most from West Cork. When we were growing up, we would have watched him and how he passed on from the hurling to the academy and he was the first from our locality to actually push on with Munster.

“When I was younger, my dad, Florence, encouraged me and I went to Cork Con for a year, before returning to West Cork and to Bantry.

"I have a lot of brothers who wanted to play rugby and dad was encouraging them all the time.

“He and a couple of his brothers came together and set up the underage in Bantry and it progressed more and more.”

Fineen’s next big assignment comes against Scarlets, at Thomond Park on Saturday.

“Yeah, a huge game”, he says. “Look, everything went right for us in the last two games and we’re delighted with the bonus points, but, equally, we want to finish well in this, the last game in this block.

“In those games, we were damned if we did and damned if we didn’t... they were just the Kings and Zebre, but that’s all out the window this weekend.

"Scarlets have massive depth in their squad and we know this is going to be a massive test.

“Personally, my amount of game-time has maybe come off the back of injuries, and that kind of thing, with Tadhg [Beirne] and JK [Jean Kleyn] out, but I’ve been happy with my performances so far.”

Fineen smiled knowingly as a familiar subject raised its head: the Munster-Leinster game at Thomond Park, Christmas 2018, and how the barely 21-year-old tangled with no less than Johnny Sexton.

“I expect that’s going to be brought up for the rest of my career,” he smiles easily.

“It was such a big game for me. All my family were there. Munster versus Leinster is one of those games I have watched all my life and I was very happy the way it went that day.

“I haven’t really encountered Johnny since ... just momentarily, after last year’s semi-final; otherwise, no,” Fineen says.

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