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Barron Determined To Bring Club Form Onto International Stage

Barron Determined To Bring Club Form Onto International Stage

Following an ‘up and down’ Six Nations campaign in the green jersey, Garryowen’s Diarmuid Barron is ready to establish himself as Ireland’s first-choice hooker at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in France.

With injuries to Eoghan Clarke (hip) and Ronan Kelleher (shoulder) leaving the side light on experience in the hooker position, Diarmuid Barron is expected to play a crucial role when he starts against tournament hosts France in tonight’s Pool C opener in Perpignan (kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish time).

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It was a frustrating Under-20 Six Nations Championship at times for both Barron and Ireland but given the challenges that lie ahead, it has long been placed on the back burner. Reflecting on the spring campaign, he said: “(I) didn’t play much in the opening rounds, then I was sick the week of the Scotland game. They might have gone with Eoghan on the bench, or Ronan to start, anyway.

“But it didn’t really give me my best opportunity to put my foot forward. Then in the England game, Eoghan actually picked up a knock in the warm-up and I ended up starting. I was pretty happy with how I went there. It was a bit of a mixed bag alright. There’s a lot of positives to come out of it as well. As a team really it was a mixed bag over the Six Nations (finishing with two wins).”

Barron kept himself occupied in the weeks that immediately followed as, after a difficult 2016/17 in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League, Garryowen had a season to remember as they made the top flight semi-finals on the back of winning the Munster Senior Cup.

The league title run-in afforded Barron an ideal platform to test his credentials, as the Limerick club faced Mike Ruddock’s Lansdowne in the last-four at the Aviva Stadium. Their memorable league journey ended in a 36-19 defeat to the eventual champions, but the experience has done wonders for the confidence levels of the young front rower.

“I was lucky enough to come on and pick up a few tries. Against Clontarf, (I) ended up starting the next week and went from there. It was a big difference in Garryowen this year from where we were last year in regards to just about staying up, and this year going to a semi-final.

“Obviously you’d take confidence from that. Beaten by a really good Lansdowne side as well. I don’t think anybody could take that away from them, that they deserved to win the AIL this year. It was good,” he added.

While Barron was one of the youngest members of a Garryowen squad that also featured recent Munster recruit Neil Cronin, he is likely to burden greater responsibility for the Ireland Under-20s in France over the coming weeks.

After receiving a late call-up for last year’s U-20 tournament in Georgia, Barron made his Ireland U-20s debut in a pool opener against Italy where a fractured thumb unfortunately brought his Championship to an abrupt end.

Along with his previous knowledge of this competition, the Cashel youngster can also draw on his stint as captain of Rockwell College in the Munster Schools Senior Cup. It was during his time in Rockwell that he was first coached by Denis Leamy, who was also involved with the Garryowen forwards in recent seasons.

Leamy’s former Munster and Ireland team-mate, Paul O’Connell, is a key member of the current Ireland Under-20 coaching staff, and Barron sees a number of similarities in the way they both approach the game.

“They both obviously came from the Munster team that was in a way kind of nuts, in regards to how physical that team was. They obviously have a mindset of ‘being dominant in matches wins games’. They both have a huge discipline focus in regards to trying to limit penalties,” he explained.

“Then lineout work, obviously Paulie would be known for his lineout work and stuff, but Denis is very good that way as well. They’d both be similar enough, coming out of the same era. Similar ideas.”