Sunday 20 January 2019

Mcgrath wings it for leinster

Clontarf rookie knows he must take any chance

Glasgow Warriors v Leinster, Scotstoun, Today (KO 5.15) Live Sky Sports 1

This is the story of a man who came in from nowhere.

The timing of Mick McGrath's run has been close to perfection. Then again, that is the stock-in-trade of a try-scoring wing. He has made the monumental leap from All-Ireland League winner to Leinster replacement wing out of sheer hard work.

The lightening force with which McGrath has made an impact is reflected in the fact that he is nowhere to be seen on the official Leinster website though he has been granted a short-term contract with which to prove he can move to the next level of the game.

The bearded Clontarf speedster will wear the number 23 jersey for Leinster against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun this evening and will have to sit and suffer in anticipation of being called from the pine for his Leinster debut.

But, we've been here before. It was only last season that Leinster left wing Darragh Fanning emerged out of the blue of St Mary's College and into the reckoning as a serious force in professional rugby.

Of course, he had been there when contracted to Connacht before being deemed surplus to requirements. He was later spotted in the AIL by then Leinster coach Joe Schmidt as a player with something different to offer the province. Matt O'Connor also liked what Schmidt had seen by playing Fanning fourteen times last season.

McGrath is coming direct from the amateur game and he knows, like Fanning, he will have to make the most of any time earned with Fanning starting ahead of him on the flank of Leinster's attack today.

The rollercoaster ride of lock Ben Marshall also makes for interesting reading. He made his Leinster debut not far off four years ago against Ulster, earning nine minutes for his trouble at Ravenhill.

The next season was a total write-off before he won favour from then coach Schmidt, playing out 80 minutes three times from five starts and seven appearances in 2012/2013.

It was set to be the beginning of something new and wonderful but it didn't quite work out. In Marshall's time, Nathan Hines has left. Brad Thorn has come and gone. Steven Sykes, Damian Browne too.

Leo Cullen has moved upstairs to be forwards coach. Quinn Roux has been farmed out to Connacht. The arrival of Australian international Kane Douglas could be weeks away. Devin Toner is working under the restrictions of the Player Welfare Programme.

That left a four-into-two scenario with Marshall getting the vote to work in tandem with Mike McCarthy to the exclusion of today's replacements Tom Denton and the versatile Kevin McLaughlin to make his fourth start for Leinster, his first since December 2012.

Glasgow and Leinster have each been able to select eight starters from the PRO12 final, the Scots being led by their South African number eight Josh Strauss.

"We're looking forward to hosting the defending champions in front of our own supporters," said coach Gregor Townsend. "It was a great achievement for the club to reach the PRO12 Final in May, but, ultimately, we were disappointed to lose, although it was a very close game up until the final quarter.

"We know we'll have to be at our very best to get a positive result. Our games with Leinster have always been very tight and competitive."

Glasgow: P Murchie; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, L Jones; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allen, F Brown, E Murray, L Nakarawa, J Gray, R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss (capt).

Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Macken, N Reid, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross, B Marshall, M McCarthy, D Ryan, S Jennings, S O'Brien (capt).

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