Barry Daly insists he's not out to prove anyone wrong after finally hitting the big time with Leinster.
The slight winger scored his fifth try of the season in Leinster's 23-17 Champions Cup win over Montpellier last Saturday, helping the province to a bonus point win on his European debut.
That game came just one week after he'd been given the nod to start against Munster in Aviva Stadium – his first time playing at Lansdowne Road on Leinster duty.
Daly's fortnight is made all the more impressive when you consider it's not much more than a year ago since he was with Leinster only on trial, having been plucked from the AIL with UCD.
The 25-year-old was let go by Leinster before the academy level, deemed 'not what we need' at the time.
But that didn't dent his ambitions, and he returned to UCD where under the tutelage of Noel O'Connor – who later recommended him to Leinster again – he impressed sufficiently to reunite with some of his former sub-academy teammates like Jack Conan and Tadhg Furlong.
“I asked myself questions back then, but I didn't really know why I wasn't good enough to get into the academy, but that decision was made for me,” he said.
“So I kept playing for UCD, kept loving the game, kept training Tuesdays, Thursdays, playing Saturday, I love that, it was great.
“I don't think rejection was something I needed, I'm not doing it to prove anyone wrong, I'm just doing it for myself and to play rugby and to love it.
“I always thought I was good enough to play at the top myself, but at the same time, I always thought there were loads of guys good enough to play in the AIL. It's just whatever way it works; they get an injury at the wrong time, I broke my hand in the first game of the U20 Six Nations, things happen - and it doesn't work out for many guys.”
Daly left his job with KPMG 15 months ago, when Leinster came calling after Luke Fitzgerald was forced to retire prematurely with a neck injury.
He'd often asked to be released on Ireland 7s duty, but this time he was not just looking to take a break – he wanted a divorce.
“In the year before I left I was asking for time off work every month or six weeks, and that wasn't exactly ideal for them, they'd signed me up as someone who'd work every day as a trainee accountant, but they couldn't have been more helpful or understanding,” Daly said.
“I didn't see it as a massive risk or anything, I thought they handled it extremely well, and I was extremely grateful for how they handled it.
“It was a big decision to leave, but my dad has always helped me out with that kind of stuff, I talked to him a lot and he told me to do what I thought was best for me.”
A year on, the decision looks a wise one, and who knows what lies ahead if he can maintain the current run of form that has seen him score one try more than he did in the whole of last season.
“Saturday was a dream day, pretty much,” he said. “It was a great day, the week before as well was another big one. I hadn't played in that kind of game before, so now I've a bit more confidence I can handle the big games.
“A couple of years ago I was watching these guys on the couch, now I'm playing with them every day. It's amazing. I feel like I'm going well, so I'm happy.”
Daly is one of very few players to force their way into senior teams having missed out on the earlier academy conveyor belt, but backs coach Girvan Dempsey is happy he's finally made it.
“Looking at his performances with UCD the season before last, you couldn't deny he'd found that sort of maturity and understanding, the awareness to go with his finishing ability,” Dempsey said.
“He came in last season and performed unbelievably well, he's kicked on and just grown in confidence. He's improved his aerial skills, defence, across his game he's been excellent.
“It's great to see a player on form and in confidence, that finish at the weekend with two men on him going into the corner, it was excellent.”
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