Dan Leavy may be the man of the moment but the Leinster and Ireland flanker was keen to spread the love in the wake of his starring Champions Cup quarter-final performance against Saracens in Dublin.
Most sportspeople tend to name-check team-mates or coaches after the final whistle. The St Michael’s graduate cast his net far wider. All the way to Mullingar where his grandmother Joan Leavy was celebrating his man-of-the-match performance and her own 96th birthday.
There is no rugby tradition in the Leavy family, but the support from kin has been constant.
His father Donal and brother Adam – the latter an academy winger with Connacht – managed to wangle last-minute tickets for his Six Nations bow, away to England two seasons ago when he was promoted from 24th man for an injured Jamie Heaslip.
His nan had already taken in his Irish debut three months earlier, when Joe Schmidt awarded him 13 minutes off the bench against Canada, but it is her grandson and not the game itself that has drawn her in.
“She’s a Dan fan,” Leavy laughed. “I don’t think anyone in my family, even my parents, know the rules yet. They’re Dan fans anyway. So, she’s at home and I’d like to say happy birthday to her. She’d love to see her name in the papers.”
His aunts got a mention, too. “They’ll be annoyed if they don’t get a shout out.” Leavy shouldn’t worry, he has plenty of credit in the bank with pretty much everyone these days. A force of nature for Ireland in the Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign, he has been exceptional for Leinster either side of that Test window and he’s eager to kick on now as the province chases success on two fronts.
“We’re back home now with our clubs. Leinster is like a family. Obviously, it’s a huge honour and it’s brilliant, and it’s such an honour to play for your country, but Leinster is your home for 90% of the year. You’re with your best mates, it’s special and something we’ve touched on.
A standout for Ireland in the Six Nations, Dan Leavy has carried his form into the Champions Cup...
A try he started a finished, excellent score from the Leinster's number 7️⃣ pic.twitter.com/CyndSn4sbu— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 1, 2018
“So, it’s all well and good winning a lot in the league and stuff, but it’s do or die when it comes to the end of the season.”
Like so many of his teammates and the Leinster coaching staff, Leavy is quick to make reference to the semi-final losses to Scarlets and Clermont Auvergne last season. Complacency doesn’t sound like it will be a factor in the coming months.
Leavy played in both of those defeats so he knows the enormity of the task awaiting them against a Scarlets side that had their number even when reduced to 14 men at the RDS last May and one dripping with Welsh internationals.
Leinster have played five times at the Aviva Stadium in a knockout European tie and won every one and the experience of seeing off Saracens at the venue two days ago will serve as an ideal trial run for the task at hand in three weeks’ time.
“The crowd was incredible,” said Leavy. “We almost had a full house, we’re hoping for the same or even better again in three weeks’ time. It would be brilliant because it makes a massive difference. Even though we’ve got home advantage here, we’ve got to use it and, you know, hearing the crowd roar like that and get behind you, it gives players two or three per cent that can be the winning or losing of the game.”
Confidence levels among the likes of Leavy must be stratospheric. James Ryan has still to lose a professional game of rugby through 19 appearances for club and country, Garry Ringrose has shown no signs of rust after his long injury layoff and Leavy is racking up a plethora of man of the match awards. It’s almost getting, dare we say, out of hand?
“Eh, out of hand? Do you want us to lose one?” he countered. “We haven’t won anything yet. That’s one thing we need to learn from last year. You can play incredible rugby all year, but when it actually comes down to it, it’s days like this when you have to put in a performance. It’s do-or-die and we performed again [on Sunday]. There’s a lot we can learn from it and things we can brush up on, but we took another big step forward to where we want to be, so that was brilliant.”
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