AT 20 YEARS of age, you would expect a young back to feel some kind of trepidation in the week he is set to realise a life-long dream and pull on a starting jersey for Munster for the first time.
Perhaps Kerrymen don’t do nerves.
After grounding two of Munster’s four tries in last night’s 29-3 bonus point win over Zebre, JJ Hanrahan made his way to receive the man of the match award and face the TV cameras.
“Emm, a little nervous I suppose on the way over in the car. But not too much because you get all the homework done early in week, you know?” A delighted Hanrahan replied to TG4.
“You’re more nervous when the team’s announced rather than the game, I was more excited and ready to get on the field.
“I’ve been around the squad a year now and settled in really well. Nerves are not really there. It’s more excitement for me, personally.”
One of the stars of Ireland’s under 20 side of recent years, Hanrahan appears comfortable in any position in the back-line. He is a running out-half by trade, but his strength and acceleration make him an asset in the centre too, and that is where Rob Penney gave him his first full Munster cap after coming off the bench twice this season.
His easy confidence on screen mirror his to-the-manor-born debut performance. It was Hanrahan who lit up a stuttering game which was locked at 3-3 at half time.
The young 12 wasn’t afraid to call for more ball
“We were trying to build phases, but it was scrappy. Like, we weren’t getting our scrum ball to set our back line off to get into our methods. We weren’t getting the ball we needed to fire.
The half time message from Rob Penney, who has spent the week railing against dissenting voices which say Munster can only win ‘the old way’, was simple according to Hanrahan:
“I suppose, ‘stop going off your feet at the ruck time’ was one of them. But he said just keep believe in what we’re doing, get the phases and once we start building phases, we’ll bream them down.
“We’re big believers that if we just keep to our guns, keep getting width and we’ll break them down. It worked in the second half so we’re very happy.”
Hanrahan grounded his first score at senior level just five minutes after the restart. After he was part of the move that worked the ball from right to left Donncha O’Callaghan barged his way up the left flank to set a base in the 22.
Once the red shirts sent the ball ball back across field on a flume, the Currow kid needed just a glimpse of a gap to sprint and dodge his way to the try-line from 15 metres out.
“The second half came, Hanrahan added, “and we just had to knuckle down a bit I suppose. And we just said we needed a bit of phases in the second half. We didn’t have that in the first half, which was disappointing, but it came in the end. I was happy it came.”
It came on the same flank for Felix Jones, who produced a brilliant step and go to find a route under the posts and Luke O’Dea would dive into the right-hand corner to seal the bonus point after 75 minutes.
This, however, was Hanrahan’s night. His second try (pictured above) had a little more luck about it, but he took it without a second thought. Ian Keatley’s 66th minute chip-through bounced kindly for his centre and he pounced.
Nerves? Pah! JJ was born for this.