There’s no substitute for playing, says academy starlet Kilcoyne

To those who argue that game time is the primary requirement for the country’s up-and-coming props, meet your poster boy.

Dave Kilcoyne will make the step up to the Munster senior squad next year, having served a tough apprenticeship. Two years in sub-academy proving he was worth a punt at all, another two years in the academy proper proving he was worth a full-time contract.

The Limerick-born loose-head has had a fine season, capped with a British and Irish Cup medal, and he puts much of it down to having the freedom to play for both Munster A and in the Ulster Bank League with UL Bohemians.

“I was lucky this year, I started all the A games and most of Bohs’ All-Ireland League games,” says the 23-year-old. “Nothing else you do will be as beneficial to you as that 80 minutes. I try to learn something from every prop I come up against.”

For all the progress he’s made, Kilcoyne also sees the wood from the trees regarding the path he took to get there, and how he was handled on the way.

Named on the bench a handful of times in recent years, he came into the fray against Connacht and won his first start against the Scarlets in this season’s RaboDirect Pro 12.

“People don’t realise that you could be waiting two or three years for your chance,” he says. “I was nervous before the Scarlets game, but confident too after a few years’ training with the seniors, whereas if I’d had the chance a year or two ago I wouldn’t have had that confidence.

“You do the hard graft in the academy and sub-academy, and sometimes you’re not getting the plaudits you think you deserve. You’re seeing people push ahead of you who you don’t necessarily think should be ahead of you. It creates a mental toughness and makes you a stronger player, which shines through later in your career.”

Kilcoyne hopes to be part of a new Munster era under Rob Penney in the coming years, and he reckons the province is right back up there in terms of player development.

“People think the Leinster set-up is ahead, but I’ve played against them three years in a row at A level and haven’t lost to them once.

“Look at the senior set-up and the amount of lads coming through. There’s a real nucleus building in Munster, we’d all comment on it.

“I live in a house with Conor Murray, Mike Sherry, Paddy Butler and Declan Cusack. Four of the five of us were involved against Scarlets. That’s maybe a sign of things to come.”


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