It has been a long road back from injury but Tadhg Beirne will begin his third season at Munster this Saturday against old club Scarlets having never felt better and highly ambitious for both silverware and Test recognition.
A little less than nine months on the sidelines following the ankle fracture in a Heineken Champions Cup pool match at Saracens in December 2019 came to end on August 30 with a try-scoring man of the match performance on his comeback in the Guinness PRO14 win over Connacht.
The return, which had been delayed due to a short-term leg injury, was short-lived as Munster’s prolonged season came to an end the following week with a semi-final exit to Leinster, but Beirne now feels in excellent shape to hit the ground running when he returns to Parc y Scarlets for the first time since he swapped one red jersey for another in the summer of 2018.
With RG Snyman set to be missing for most of the 2020-21 campaign following the serious knee injury the World Cup-winning South African suffered on his Munster debut on August 22, Munster will rely heavily on Beirne’s experience for both Ireland and as a PRO12 title winner with Scarlets as the province begins its 10th season in the hunt to regain silverware for the first time since 2011.
That suits the Kildare native down to the ground as his ambition continues to burn bright and promises to do so for a long time to come.
Who knows where a standout performance in west Wales could lead with British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland scheduled to be present at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon to run the rule over a plethora of Irish and Welsh talents hopeful of making the plane for South Africa next summer. Beirne, though, is taking one step at a time.
“I suppose I'm still 28 so there's a lot of lads who play on until they're 35 and you look at some lads there going into a European final, they're still 35, 36-year-olds going in there so it's never too late to win silverware,” he said on Monday.
"You can never not be ambitious and I wanna keep going for as long as I can keep going, and right now my goal is to win some silverware with Munster and keep pushing to get into the Irish squad, and into a jersey there and hopefully win silverware there as well.
Having spent much of 2020 not just in Covid-19 lockdown but sidelined with injury, Beirne is raring to go and not too distressed that the two events coincided for much of that nine-month rehabilitation period.
"It probably worked out in my favour in some regards, I had that leg break and it gave me time.
"Obviously it wasn't ideal because you're not getting the same kind of rehab or the treatment that I would have gotten had we been in, but then from a mental side of things you're not missing out on too much so you can give it that extra bit of time and obviously I was carrying the second knock as well, so to have that period did help me as well.
"But then coming back it's been quite strange, but for me, it's probably worked out for the better because I've given it the right amount of time and I'm coming back 100% now.
And where better than against his old club in his first game against Scarlets, home or away since he left in search of international honours two summers ago.
It was Scarlets and then-head coach Wayne Pivac who took a punt on an inexperienced Leinster fringe player in the summer of 2016 and were rewarded with one of the guiding lights in a run to that season’s PRO12 title, Beirne scoring a try in the 46-22 final hammering of Munster at Aviva Stadium in May 2017.
"That's where I got my opportunity and I'll always be thankful to Scarlets for that,” Beirne said.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I was successful there as well, winning silverware, so I look back on that part of my career with a big smile on my face, for sure.
"Yeah, it will be my first time lining up against them, so it will be a bit of a strange one.
"But I'm excited to play them, I'm excited to play the lads and yeah, we haven't been on a plane in a long time, either, so that could be quite strange for all of us. But I'm sure it will just be a lot of protocols and it will be quite straightforward, so really looking forward to it.”