“I sometimes felt like I was playing rugby well but I wasn’t selected.”

Ireland’s fledgling tour came out of the blue even for players who are due to travel to South Africa on Sunday.

There was no early insider knowledge or information. The players knew everything that was reported in the media. So for the likes of Shane Daly, the 25-year-old Monster guy, it wasn’t clear if he was in the frame to be on the flight.

It turns out he is one of four former Ireland internationals in Ireland’s final emerging squad. Daly will definitely be a standout figure in an inexperienced group, and someone he says he’s excited to join.

“We received an email before the team was announced, on the same day. It wasn’t until I saw the group and the tour planning, and I was super excited,” he explains.

“It’s a serious group of players and people holding back. I hope to get as much play time as possible.”

Daly started the first game of the URC season for Monster as he lost to Cardiff, but he will miss Sunday’s visit to the Dragons and at least two more rounds. With plenty of competition in the three Monster defense, he could have made a big statement with a solid start to the season.

So it’s easy to wonder if Dalí’s career would have been better served by staying in Münster. But for a Cork man, the opportunity to be part of an Irish team is invaluable.

Daly against Ireland against Japan in 2021.

Source: Gary Carr / INPHO

“The chance to play in an Irish structure against the Ireland coaches is something that doesn’t come often. You can’t repeat that.

“Every county plays in its own way and the Irish coaches cannot tell unless you are wearing an Irish jersey. It is a huge opportunity and if you take it, it puts you in a great place.”

Daly hopes that whatever impression he makes in South Africa, it leaves him in a better position to add to his two major matches, both of which came in the 2020/21 season.

He made his debut against Georgia in November 2020 and was happy to realize how much his achievement means to so many other people. His phone has been on the go all week with messages from good friends and a lot of people he hasn’t heard from in years.

“Extended family, friends of my family, you realize how many people follow you and want you to do well. He’s been incredibly moving in the sense that so many people support me and not just me there. I felt like I was in him for a much bigger cause.”

Although he had to wait until the summer of 2021 for his second international match against Japan, Daly was part of Ireland’s wider squad for that year’s Six Nations Championship. He was impressed by Andy Farrell’s leadership behind the scenes at a time when it wasn’t entirely clear from the outside that Ireland was heading in the right direction.

“It was so calming and relaxing. I had heard things about how he was so stressed before but under Andy Farrell the experience I had was about how relaxed he was and how he treated the guys. If you weren’t playing, he was very honest with you.

Shane Daly and Soso Matiashvili

Daly made his Ireland debut against Georgia.

Source: Ryan Byrne / INPHO

“You never felt out of place or you weren’t part of the group, that’s how he manages the players.

“And then the way we were playing on the field – it was about staying alive all the time, we had all the options at all times. There were teething issues but now you see how effective they are against the best teams.”

While Daly wants to seize his chance with Emerging Ireland over the next two weeks, he also knows he needs to take part in Monster’s biggest game of the season if he is to add to his trial tally with Ireland.

He was knocked out of the big Irish competition last season as he had a frustrating time with Monster, often losing his side at the frontline as Johan van Graan opted for a 6/2 split on the bench.

“There were times when I felt like I played rugby well the week before or the weeks before that, but I’m going to miss the teams. It could be that 6/2 seat or whatever the previous coaches felt was best for the team. That’s something you have to take on the chin. .

“Obviously there were times I didn’t do my best but you can’t get frustrated in those scenarios – that’s on you. But there were times when I felt like I was playing a good game of rugby but no choice was made. That kind of knocks your confidence.”

So Daly is so excited about the new era at Monster under Graham Rowntree and with attacking coach Mike Prendergast he has made a huge impact in shifting the mindset around the way the game is played.

Daly enjoys how Prendergast encourages players to express themselves and make decisions rather than always telling them exactly what to do in every situation. He says Prendergast is a quiet presence and has an impressive attention to detail.

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“Rugby, it’s going to be the flexibility that the players have now, the ability to have your say on the court now,” Daley says of what excites him most.

Shane Daly

Daly did not win the Champions Cup last season.

Source: Bryan Keane / INPHO

“Especially from a three-background perspective, being able to get into the game when I feel like it’s the right thing to do rather than just waiting for the ball to come in and staying in order and formation all the time. Having that freedom and empowerment as a player has been huge for me, being able to make decisions once again.

“I grew up playing as a center and I have the skills to decide and pass which is something I can do as much as I want right now. This really enables me and I am really looking forward to showing that side of my game. Previously, that was something I probably didn’t have a lot of license to do” .

Daly feels he always succeeds under coaches with that kind of liberating spirit, whether it’s Paul Barr in his student days at PBC or Nigel Carolan with Ireland’s U-20s.

Looks like this could be a season where we see the real Dalí.

“In the last year, I’ve probably been seen more as a strike runner and a kick chaser,” he says. “I was happy to do it because I was playing when I was doing well, but that’s not what I’ve been doing since growing up or where I felt like it was the best exploit.

“There was this frustration coming off the field, the feeling that I could do so much more. It’s about showing that now and having the confidence to do it.”

“I need to bring myself forward and do these things again.”

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