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‘The Competition For Places Drives Each Of Us On’ – Sheahan

‘The Competition For Places Drives Each Of Us On’ – Sheahan

Try scorer Danny Sheahan and Alex Usanov celebrate after the Ireland Under-20s' recent victory over Wales at Virgin Media Park ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Ireland Under-20 hooker Danny Sheahan has an enviable strike rate already for his country. The Cork Constitution clubman has scored five tries in 10 appearances for Richie Murphy’s side, three of which have come in this year’s U-20 Six Nations.

He touched down twice during their 43-8 bonus point win over Wales at Virgin Media Park last time out, while a few weeks before that, he notched the fourth-minute opener as the Ireland U-20s launched their title defence in impressive fashion away to France.

Sheahan is one of five second-year players in the current Ireland U-20 squad, and he is back in the starting line-up for tonight’s key battle with England at Bath’s Recreation Ground (kick-off 7.15pm).

An away victory would keep hopes of a third consecutive U-20 Grand Slam for Ireland alive, and the Cork native, who turns 20 next month, was asked during the build-up what such a result would mean to him?

“It would be unbelievable but, look, we can’t play the game until Friday night,” he said. “Hopefully on Friday we can go out and put on the best performance we can as a team and hopefully that will get us over the line.

“It would be incredible to get the win over there, especially at the Rec, with a very energetic crowd. It would mean a lot to the team.”

Sheahan came on for the final two minutes of Ireland’s 36-24 U-20 Grand Slam-clinching success against England in Cork last March. He was also involved in last summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship campaign, although he did not play in the opening 34-all draw with England.

Mark Mapletoft’s charges have strung together three bonus point wins on the trot to start 2024 in encouraging fashion. If Ireland are to prevail and replace the table toppers at the summit, then only their best will do in Bath.

“Whenever you are playing a team as good as England, or France away, you are going to have to perform as best you can that day.

“That’s what we are going to try and do. 1-23, put it all out there, and hopefully that performance is good enough to win it,” insisted Sheahan.

The Ireland U-20s got the opportunity to train alongside their senior counterparts last week at the Aviva Stadium opening training session. As assistant coach Willie Faloon mentioned, both the players and coaches always get a huge amount of such gatherings.

“They’re obviously one of the best teams in the world,” acknowledged Sheahan, the former PBC Cork front rower. “It’s unbelievable to get the opportunity to train against them, especially in the Aviva with five or six thousand fans.

“That definitely stood to us. We picked up a load from it. I thought it was a great day out.”

Playing for the Ireland U-20s has been a family affair for the Sheahans, with cousins Danny and Jacob, who was part of the back row ranks, both involved in last year’s U-20 Grand Slam triumph.

Of course, both are nephews of former Munster and Ireland hooker Frankie Sheahan, a Triple Crown and Heineken Cup winner during his playing career. He is always willing to give advice to the next generation of Sheahans.

“Back when I was in 4th and 5th year or when I was playing Junior or Senior Cup, he’d give me tips on how to scrum and throw a ball just stuff like that. They’re the main stuff he has helped me with,” explained Danny.

There has been plenty of rotation with the hooker position during the current U-20 Six Nations. Sheahan started against France, before Old Wesley’s Stephen Smyth wore the number 2 jersey for Ireland’s first home game against Italy in Cork.

Ulster Academy hooker Henry Walker then staked his claim when Murphy’s youngsters hosted Wales last time out. This high level of competition for places has helped got the best out of the players in a pivotal position in the pack.

“It’s unbelievable, the two other lads are great players. The competition is going to every training and having that competition amongst ourselves. It drives each of us on so much every week because we all want to get better.

“We all give each other tips. We can work off each other a bit. Competition within a squad is needed, there’s other positions with it as well. I think it has helped me to learn off the lads.”

Sheahan has featured in all three rounds so far, with his run of three tries in three games making him the joint-top try scorer in the Championship. He was quick to give credit to his fellow forwards for leading him over the whitewash.

“Well, I’ve probably found myself at the back of the maul for most of them. It’s all the work of the lads up front,” he added.