For a player leaving his home province with a heavy heart, Joey Carbery is determined to make his move to Munster a success.
The 22-year-old fly-half yesterday confirmed he had rejected a move north from Leinster to Ulster and had instead decided that if his search for game time at number 10 meant leaving the only team he had ever wanted to play for, then his future instead lay south of the Pale.
“I’ve decided to go down to Munster,” Carbery said yesterday following Ireland training at Carton House.
“I feel it’s been a tough few weeks. My head’s been a bit fried, trying to get all my cards on the table. I’ve had the help of some really good advisors, giving me confidence, telling me a few things.
“I’m really excited by the opportunity, it’s obviously extremely tough to be leaving Leinster, all my friends, all my mates, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity and I feel that a really good thing could come from it.”
It has been a trying four or five weeks for Carbery since Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt made him an offer he was at liberty to refuse.
After being seen as a future full-back rather than fly-half at Leinster by head coach Leo Cullen and senior coach Stuart Lancaster, an Ulster outfit needing to replace Paddy Jackson was an opportunity for the New Zealand-born player from Athy, Co Kildare, to take the reins of a team as a playmaker.
Yet, when word leaked of Ulster’s interest, it attracted the attention of Munster head coach Johann van Graan and the South African saw an opportunity to offer Carbery what he sought and find a solution to a position that has caused problems early in his tenure.
“Yeah, that (Ulster) was an option. I suppose it was a personal decision. I thought the opportunity would be better down in Munster. I was going off the cards I had in front of me. That was why I made the decision.
“There are no guarantees, but I just know that with a few opportunities where I can get to, that’s what I’m going off.”
Van Graan’s conversations with the player offered Carbery all the assurances he needed that a move to Munster was the right decision, even if that decision is understood to have taken his new team’s chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald and the head coach by surprise.
“I wouldn’t say (it was) persuasion. I met up with him and he’s a really good guy,” Carbery said.
“I felt like I connected with him and he seemed like a really honest guy, which I like; someone I can go to, especially if I’m living away.
“I’m going to need someone who’s a good advisor, who I can trust and just have chats to, even not regarding rugby. I felt like he could definitely be that person I could talk to, so I really liked him.”
The good vibes he sensed off van Graan, as well as the positivity towards the new boss from his future Munster team-mates during Ireland training camps, meant Carbery felt no need to go beyond his closest advisors for further recommendation.
“I was trying to keep it down as low as possible, but from what I’ve heard through other people, and not necessarily through asking, but that he was a really good guy. Everyone sings his praises, which is good.”
Although there are no guarantees at a province with four fly-halves already on its books, Carbery clearly feels he will get extended minutes at number 10 in the coming season, many of them alongside Ireland’s standout scrum-half Conor Murray.
“The game time, getting more of an influence at 10 maybe, that’s the big one,” Carbery said.
“I know people down there too, they’ll make things more easy. Just getting to play more regularly is the main one. It’s purely a rugby-based decision. I’m excited for the opportunity.
"Obviously, it’d be great to play with [Murray], but it’s more about the game time than playing with players. Leinster had Luke, obviously, so I’m not losing too much, it’s more about game time."
All that is needed now is for the two parties to work out personal terms and the length of his stay in Limerick.
The main thing for Carbery is that he has made his decision and he can fly off with Ireland today with a weight lifted off his shoulders ahead of the three-Test series with the Wallabies.
“That’s being ironed out, all I’ve told them is my decision, that’s what they’re waiting for, it’s all out of my hands. I just wanted to get my decision out there before I got on the plane, so I could have a bit of a clear head, I suppose.”
When Carbery returns from Australia and makes the move down the M7 to Limerick, he will do so feeling his apprenticeship has been completed with his home club.
He will arrive at Munster’s High Performance Centre for pre-season as a Champions Cup winner and PRO14 title winner.
“I know myself to develop... Leinster have got me to a stage now where I feel like I’m just about ready. Now I need to go out and develop even more. I’ll always have a huge part of Leinster in me for that.
“But I suppose it was all a self-based decision, with my dad being my closest advisor. I’ve been chatting to him a lot and he’s had a few sleepless nights, as well as I have.
“It’s purely based on the opportunity of playing 10. That’s what it came down to, and going out of my comfort zone, I suppose, is going to be pretty tricky.
“It’s going to be tough but I’m a rugby player and I’ve got to concentrate on my rugby.”
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