herald

Tuesday 22 August 2017

twins have a single focus

The Byrne brothers from Ballickmoyler. You may not know the blink-of-an-eye village on the way from Carlow town to Stradbally.

You may know the twins, the possible future of two-thirds of Leinster's front row as long as the slings and arrows of misfortune and injury are kept at bay.

That is a mighty 'as long as' in this time of savage brutality where the gladiators and the hits get more monstrous and the careers of so many are shortened when bodies give way to relentless impact.

The 21-year-old twins, Bryan the hooker and Edward the loose-head, began their rugby experience at County Carlow rugby club.

From there, they started their all-round education at Clongowes Wood College, a move that felt right from that first day in Clane.

"It was massive," said Edward.

"The standard in coaching was unbelievable. We had Noel McNamara the Ireland U18 Schools coach right from first year. We went from training once-a-week in Carlow to five times in Clongowes.

"It was a massive step-up in terms of the amount of rugby we were playing and how much we were learning," he said.

"There was also the influence from Noel Murray, Pat Kenny and Brett Igoe, all very knowledgeable about the game".

Edward omitted to mention the importance and the impact of winning. He stood on the brink of history in 2012.

He had already won two Leinster Schools Senior Cup medals in 2010 and 2011.

"It is difficult to compare which meant more. I was taken by the whole occasion the first year; older, wiser for the second.

"I suppose the difference was Bryan and my older brother Tom were there in 2011, which was really enjoyable."

He was the captain when Clongowes were hunting an unprecedented hat-trick for the school and he was the only one to start all three finals.

HEARTBREAKING

It didn't quite work out the way he had envisaged. His last experience would be a heartbreaking one against Dan Leavy's St Michael's.

"Yeah, it was not easy to take that one. It had been a dream of mine from when I first went into Clongowes that I would captain the school to a Senior Cup".

He took a lot away with him from his old school.

"We always had that mindset to be ruthless and we didn't enjoy anything until the final whistle," he said.

"We were constantly practicing different parts of the game. I got so much of that work done there.

"When it came to joining the Leinster Academy, it was a case of making consistent progress, building on the foundations that were already there."

Edward returned to his alma-mater on Monday as part of the Clongowes promotion of their 'Bicentenary Rugby Festival' to be played out over Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of this month, a competition between 20 of the best senior schools teams from Ireland, England and Wales.

When Edward was at Clongowes, he played in a similar competition to celebrate Blackrock's 150th year.

"It is the first time they have ever done anything like this. It is going to be a great two days. It is such a good set-up.

"The competition at Clongowes is going to be incredible. I am really looking forward to it because it obviously holds personal significance for me".

"Blackrock did something similar in 2010 to celebrate 150 years. We were there to win, not to make friends. We actually got to the final where we lost out 3-0 to Methody".

Speaking of defeats, can he compare the defeat to St Michael's in 2012 against that to Munster in the PRO12 League last Saturday?

"I always hate losing. I would be very competitive," he said.

"Any loss is very tough to take. But, the one for Clongowes, you're younger and it was everything for us. That was the end. You had to live with what happened".

There is a common sense approach to the business of rugby, something along the lines of it is only terminal if you don't learn from it.

"We let ourselves down against Munster last Saturday. But, we have Zebre this weekend and we get another shot at Munster later in the season.

"It wasn't a Cup final. Nothing has ended. We just have to be better the next time".

Anyway, the healing process has to happen very quickly in the professional environment.

""We have another chance to make a difference," he added, finding it hard to talk about himself without including Bryan too.

"We always try to give everything we do 100%. It is a goal of ours to play for Leinster and keep building to get to a place where we'll never be happy until we're finished and, then, look at what we've done in the game".

It works both ways. These men come as a package because they are good enough to.

They don't put much store in what they have done. It is about what they are doing and will do.

BONUS POINT

The front rowers played professionally together for the first time against Cardiff, Bryan's quick feet and soft hands sending Luke McGrath through for the bonus-point try.

They lost for the first time against Munster. The milestones are not as important to them as the winning and losing.

"The Munster match was all blown away by the loss," said Bryan.

"We have been through the review. There weren't too many positives to be taken from it.

"We were looking at the details we need to improve on. It is nice to be able to focus on this week."

The next step in the careers of the twins is to start together for Leinster.

"Individually, we both have goals to start and it would be nice to do it collectively," admitted Bryan.

There is an obvious bond between two other Clongowes brothers, Rob and Dave Kearney, on the pitch like the way Rob stayed at Dave's side when he was treated for his knee injury last season.

The glue that binds identical twins can be even stronger. The need to police the skullduggery of the illegal work of opposition forwards is an eight-man mission.

"You always look out for everyone on your team. But, I suppose, if it was Ed I would be in there a yard quicker".

The next target for the Academy twins is their first full professional contract at Leinster.

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