FROM UNDERAGE SUCCESS to academy deal to development contract to fringe squad member to Pro12 regular; the professional pathway in Irish rugby is well worn at this stage.
Darren O’Shea is striving for promotion with Worcester. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
There is the odd outlier of course, the youngster who is catapulted directly into first-team action or even international contention before their ‘time,’ but the majority of young Irish players are forced to sit patiently in the backlog.
Some fade away, while others are eventually rewarded for their long wait. Darren O’Shea has opted for another route altogether.
A year into his time with Munster’s academy the Crosshaven man decided he could succeed by looking elsewhere, and is now part of Worcester Warriors’ drive for promotion back into the English Premiership.
The Dean Ryan-directed outfit are just three points behind Championship leaders Bristol after their 10-try 69-8 win on the road against the Cornish Pirates yesterday, a game that O’Shea started in the second row.
The final day of the regular season next weekend sees O’Shea’s Worcester host Bristol in a top-of-the-table clash, but the likelihood is that the pair will have to face each other again in the promotion play-off final.
“We’re all buzzing for the run in to the play-offs and we’re trying to add to our game each week,” says O’Shea.
The lock’s rugby journey started with a talented Crosshaven RFC underage group coached by Mossy Barry and featuring the likes of current Dolphin men Cian McGovern, James Rochford and Killian O’Keeffe.
O’Shea wins the ball over Paul O’Connell in 2014. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
O’Shea played his underage rugby with his hometown club all the way up to U19 level, and was capped by Munster Youths, before a brief switch to Cork Constitution and then on to taste senior rugby with Dolphin.
The 6ft 9ins specimen was part of the Munster sub-academy while he was still at school, though back disc and knee injuries meant he had to serve three years at that level before Peter Malone signed him on full academy terms in 2013.
A year later, O’Shea had signed for Worcester.
“Basically all I wanted was a bit of game time and the six British and Irish Cup games a year was what I wanted more of, at a higher level. So I decided if I wanted to take the next step I needed to look abroad.
O’Shea linked up with agent Niall Woods, a former Ireland international, whereafter the opportunity at Worcester came up and the lock was presented with a deal that greatly appealed.
“I flew over and met with Dean Ryan and the other coaches,” says O’Shea. “They sat me down and were chatting about the vision for the future and about the change the team was going to have.