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Dooley eager to throw the shackles off

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Leinster’s Peter Dooley on the charge against Connacht at the RDS Arena back in early January. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster’s Peter Dooley on the charge against Connacht at the RDS Arena back in early January. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Leinster’s Peter Dooley on the charge against Connacht at the RDS Arena back in early January. Photo: Sportsfile

Maybe, it was the presence of an Irish icon ahead of Peter Dooley in the queue that led to the grind getting to him.

Maybe, it wasn't even Cian Healy standing there, an immovable object between the Birr man and his ambition to be number one for Leinster and Ireland.

Sometimes it takes the right advice from someone outside the bubble, someone who knows you better than anyone inside it.

"I just think that I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. They joy went out of it for me for a while," said Dooley.

"I had this conversation with my dad and I just went back to what I love doing, carrying the ball, running around and just playing rugby.

"When I was younger that's why I enjoyed it so much. I threw the shackles off a little bit."

TRAPPED

Dooley knows full well you can take the player out of number eight, but not the number eight out of the player.

That thirst to have the ball in his paws went unquenched for too long, leaving him trapped in that limited role relying on work ethic and the foundation blocks of the set-piece.

All the time, the ball player was in there dying to get out. The expanded first-team role this season has fed his confidence to emerge fom the doldrums.

"I went into the front-row when I was 16 or 17. I always felt like I was a good ball-carrier," he stated.

"When I went in at prop, I went into my shell a little to learn scrummaging and the carrying took a back seat.

"Playing with the lads, if you carry well, they will let you into the position to carry more often.

"Last year, I was happy to be an inside or an outside latch, do more of the donkey work. Now I want to carry ball, make yards. That's the fun of the game to run over people."

Dooley has not been content to play in the shadows of the PRO14. There has been Champions Cup impact against Benetton and Lyon.

"I think I went particularly well over the Christmas in the interprovincial and then the last few weeks have been good.

"Before matches, I try and remind myself why I went well the previous week.

"It's been about enjoying it and letting that pressure valve off."

Hey presto, the bounce in his step was felt by Ospreys best last Friday night when Dooley won the first Man of the Match award at The Gnoll.

"It's nice to get the recognition," said the 25-year-old.

"Shane Williams picked it someone told me, so that was nice. For a winger to pick a front-rower that says something."

It had been coming in his sixth season for Leinster, already making more starts (10) than in his previous best season of seven in 2016/2017.

In fact, Dooley had been drifting further away from his goals as the starts dwindled to two in 2017/2018 and four last season.

There is a lot to be said for playing, even more for starting because big men need time to make big strides.

"I have had a good bit of exposure and I'm delighted. A run of games makes such a difference," he enthused.

"I found that when I was younger, playing and playing got you that match fitness and it makes such a difference when you are match sharp.

"To stay trucking now is the thing."