‘I wasn’t lifting any weights’: Beirne refreshed in Limerick after exhausting year

Updated at 12.19

WHEN YOU GET distracted by where Tadhg Beirne currently stands and marvel at the player he has become, it is easy to forget just how far he has come in such a short space of time.

There may only be a few hundred kilometres between Eadestown and Limerick, but the journey he has travelled to get to this point has been a lot longer, the peaks and troughs on his career chart pronounced and well documented.

Beirne pictured at the Pro14 season launch in Glasgow. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Two seasons at Scarlets couldn’t have gone any better if he had scripted it, Beirne grasping the lifeline handed it to him by Wayne Pivac, who recognised his potential despite Leinster’s decision to disregard the Kildare native in favour of other second rows options.

There was a certain irony to Johnny Sexton joking on Monday evening, shortly after Beirne had been crowed the Pro14 players’ player of the season in Glasgow, that Leinster had poached him back from Munster on social media.

Leinster’s loss was Scarlets’ gain, and now Munster will hope to see the best of Beirne in a red jersey after his return home as the turnover-winning, dynamic ball-carrying and hard-working player he has developed into.

Being recognised by his peers for another outstanding season last term is a reflection of his soaring standing within the game, as was a nomination for the EPCR European player of the year.

“Just honoured,” he says. “That’s probably the word I’d used to describe it.”

And then came Ireland cap number one, closely followed by number two, during the summer tour of Australia, a further indication of just how much his stock has risen in the two years since he was told he had no future at Leinster.

“The tour to Australia was a great experience, something I’ll cherish forever. There had been so much talk about whether I’d get the call-up or not. To make my debut was an unbelievable feeling.”

Now, he’s back home living in Kildare as he settles into life at Munster ahead of the next chapter in a career which has hurtled along at great pace, but often encountered speed bumps along the way.

“In many ways life has changed for me, but in other ways I have come home as well,” Beirne explains.

“I’ve been living at home the last number of weeks which has been nice as well, to be back with family after being away from them for two years. In that respect it has been very enjoyable and I’ve been welcomed incredibly well by the Munster staff and my team-mates.

“It’s different in terms of culture as well — Welsh people do Welsh things and Irish people do Irish things so it’s just getting back into that.”

Beirne made his Ireland debut in Melbourne back in June. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Beirne has found his feet at the southern province quickly on the back of a much-needed, and well deserved, summer break following his exploits over the course of the season with Scarlets, as the Welsh region reached the Pro14 final and last four of the Champions Cup.

An ever-present in Pivac’s pack, Beirne played an exhausting 2,193 minutes between the two competitions, a remarkable workload which had started to take its toll by the final weeks of the campaign and then during Ireland’s trip Down Under.

“Towards the end of the season I was definitely feeling it a lot,” he admits. “Niggles all over the place really. I got to a stage where I was pretty much not lifting any weights and doing the very minimum during the week.

This season will be different, however. Beirne’s return will be managed along with the rest of the internationals and Munster fans are unlikely to see their new signing in action until October.

While the 26-year-old is understandably keen to pull on the jersey and make a big impression for his new club, he understands the importance of slowing working his way back and managing his body over the course of the season, particularly with a World Cup in just over 12 months coming into sharp focus.

“I’m eager to get out there and put on the Munster jersey and have crack with the boys and just enjoy it but you play rugby to play games and to play in big games but the bigger picture is obviously looking after the body and being able to play for the whole year, not just rushed back now and ending up not playing for a few months.

“So the smart decision is to pull me back for a few weeks and get me ready and when I do get my opportunity I’ll be gunning for it.

“Every player wants to play every game don’t they? It’s why you play the game but being managed is definitely going to do me well because the way my body felt at the end of the season, it was less training and just ‘get me ready for the game’ so I think going forward, being managed, my body is definitely going to thank Munster and Johann for looking after me.

The 26-year-old speaking to media in Glasgow yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Hopefully, in turn, I’ll be able to perform in the big games or the games I’m selected.”

There is certainly great excitement surrounding the arrival of Beirne at Munster, and rightly so.

His tenacious ability at the breakdown is well-known, with the hybrid flanker/second row again topping the charts for most turnovers in the Pro14 with 37, but to focus solely on that attribute would do the rest of his great a great injustice.

Beirne brings huge physicality and energy to proceedings while also carrying powerfully and adding real intelligence at the lineout, all of which saw him play a key role for Pivac’s Scarlets over the last two years.

“He is one guy who has really impressed me since he’s come in. The brilliant thing about him is that he can play rugby,” Johann van Graan said.

“We’ll start him off in the position that he’s used to, but in terms of where the Scarlets played him, we’ll move him around according to our needs and once he’s found his feet in the team, we’ll look to settle him down in one position.

“Let me just put it this way, I believe he’ll thrive at Munster.”

That’s Beirne’s plan anyway.

“My aim is to fit into the way Johann wants to do things and I look forward to doing that,” he continues. “We’ll have a plan in terms of every week, the way we want to play teams and whatever he wants me to do is how I’ll go out to try to play.”

Refreshed, and ready to go in the Munster red.

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