Munster man Tadhg Beirne’s move home to Ireland already paying off

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

TADHG BEIRNE WILL be hoping tomorrow at Soldier Field goes better for him than Wednesday night at the United Centre did.

A group of players involved in ‘The Rugby Weekend’ in Chicago were invited on-court during a timeout in the Bulls’ NBA meeting with the Denver Nuggets, and Beirne represented Ireland.

Having been led to believe the appearance would involve a half-court shot, Beirne was surprised when the organisers outlined that it would actually entail spinning around a broomstick and then dizzily trying to find the basket with a ball.

Beirne goes close during the Chicago Bulls’ game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Beirne, sporting a red helmet, failed to sink his shot, much to the delight of his team-mates watching on.

“Five minutes before we come out and they were explaining the rules and I was thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’” says Beirne.

“I had nominated myself and then I came out with the helmet as well, and I’m going, ‘The lads are going to love this!’ And so I didn’t get my half-court shot, a bit of an embarrassment and the lads got a good kick out of it.”

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Beirne will certainly be more at home tomorrow against Italy, as he makes his first start for Ireland in the second row against Conor O’Shea’s side.

Having won his first two caps off the bench against Australia in June, making a particularly good impression in the third Test against the Wallabies, Beirne is excited to get his shot from the off tomorrow.

“This is probably the main reason I came back to Ireland,” says Beirne, who joined Munster from Scarlets during the summer.

“To be given the opportunity in the first game since I have come back is huge for me. All I can say is that I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s my first start, these opportunities don’t come around too often.

“It doesn’t matter who it is against or what the occasion is, it’s a start in a green jersey. It’s a big moment for me.”

Beirne was capped twice on the June tour of Australia. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Beirne’s parents and girlfriend are in Chicago for his maiden Test start, while some Philidelphia-based family friends will fly in too.

Tomorrow will be the latest in a growing list of proud days for the Beirne family, with 26-year-old Tadhg having racked up so many of milestones in the last couple of years.

Beirne feels his performances for Munster in the opening weeks of his time with the province “weren’t where I would have liked them to be,” but he is increasingly feeling at ease in Limerick.

He was initially commuting from his family home in Eadestown after returning to Ireland from Wales, but now settled into life with Munster off the pitch, he’s showing his true class.

“I was finding it kind of difficult to get into games the way I probably used to,” says Beirne. “It was just taking more time and I was probably getting frustrated with myself about not contributing what I usually would have contributed.

“But look, I feel like my performances have been improving more and more. I’m getting to know the players around me and what they are good at and everything like that. The better you know your team-mates, the better you play, for sure.

“I think my performances have definitely been going up and hopefully they keep going that way.”

Beirne was man of the match away to Exeter in the Heineken Champions Cup last month, earning three turnovers to underline his outstanding skill in that department of the game.

Beirne has impressed for Munster in Europe. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Indeed, such is Beirne’s effectiveness at the breakdown, Munster boss Johann van Graan has afforded him something of a free role in defence.

“I suppose you don’t want to just go and do anything that you want because you have got to stay within the system because if I step out of it, the whole system can fall to pieces,” says Beirne.

“But I do have a bit of a license to go after rucks a little bit more and that is just something that is given to me, but it’s all about picking my opportunities and knowing when it is a good decision to come out of that system. I still have to be smart.”

Of course, Test rugby under Joe Schmidt is a more demanding arena and Beirne will certainly have to stick more rigidly to the processes that the Ireland boss has laid out for his players. 

Beirne has been spending plenty of time on the analysis computers in camp in Chicago this week, similarly to his experiences in Australia in June, as he ensures he’s ready to hit the standards Schmidt will demand tomorrow against Italy.

“He is very much detailed orientated, and you can see that with the way everyone plays here,” says Beirne.

“You see it around the ruck, around everything that moves, it’s just all about detail. If you don’t know your detail, you can’t play within a system and you won’t be able to perform and you will stick out like a sore thumb.

“So it’s demanding, not just from Joe but from the players and, from a personal level, I’m demanding it from myself.”

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