Ireland’s newest cap Matt Healy is hoping that out of the disappointment of a series defeat in South Africa his nascent Test career can flourish.
Healy, Connacht’s leading try scorer in their Pro12- winning season, came into the Ireland touring party at the last minute, a late call-up as Dave Kearney withdrew due to injury. His reward at the end of a wonderful campaign was a Test debut off the bench in the final Test at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Healy saw some early action as head coach Joe Schmidt reorganised an already makeshift backline when Connacht team-mate Tiernan O’Halloran went off for a Head Injury Assessment after being taken out in the air by Willie Le Roux.
Mercifully O’Halloran was cleared from concussion and returned to the field but when he failed to reappear for the second half, still feeling the effects of the aerial collision with bruised ribs, Healy had a further 40 minutes of Test action to experience.
It ended in defeat but the Connacht wing had plenty of positives to take.
“Mixed feelings is exactly it,” Healy said. “It’s disappointment, it’s elation in a way but for me personally I suppose that game has capped off an incredible season.
“We are massively disappointed not to finish it in the style that we would have wanted but I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to be involved in this tour, such a good tour with a great bunch of lads but, again, it’s massively disappointing.”
Like O’Halloran, who earned his debut in the second Test and was making his first start in Port Elizabeth, Healy had a lot of catching up to do to get up to speed with life in Schmidt’s detail-heavy camp.
“I came into the squad in Dublin and there’s so much to learn. Luckily enough I had some top guys in Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls and the boys were massively helpful.
“I hated for the last two or three weeks being that annoying little guy in the corner constantly asking silly questions but they were massively helpful. There’s a lot of homework to do but I got over that initial period and learnt my stuff and thankfully I was given my chance this weekend, which I was delighted about.
“I did enjoy it. It was tough, certainly a step up, but I’d prepared for it, especially talking to a few of the lads like Eoin Reddan was a massive help during the week and gave some really good pointers and talking to the lads like Ultan and Finlay who’d been there before. They gave some good points to think about and I felt prepared.
“It’s just given me something to build on for the future and hopefully I can lead into the next season now and just carry on the form that I’ve brought this year and hopefully go from there.
“I definitely think this experience has bettered me as a player. It’s given me a better understanding of what’s expected at this level and it’s certainly a step up. I’ll have a good break now for the next four weeks, but I’ll certainly take a few aspects of this training into my province.”
Healy naturally also wants to add to his international experience and is determined “not to be stuck in that one cap club”.
“It’s something I’ve been working on since day one and Joe has been in constant contact with me all through the season, and what he’s looking for from me is consistency. And again I have to say I’ve learned so much from the likes of Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls in the last three Tests.
"They have shown unbelievable consistency and unbelievable hunger, and their work-rate is just something that I just didn’t understand before clearly. So there’s some things that I’ll take forward and try and work on myself, and hopefully it leads to a couple of more caps.”
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