Cork rugby’s hottest prospect can kick on with Munster when sport returns
ACADEMY prospect Jack Crowley believes that building on Munster’s ‘historic identity’ can act as the template for future success in the province.
Since the summer of 2018 – when he was about to embark on his final year at Bandon Grammar – Crowley has proven to be a regular face around the High Performance Centre at the University of Limerick.
This has helped him to understand what Munster rugby is all about and what he needs to do in order to push on to the next level.
“For me, it has been a boyhood dream to play with Munster. Sometimes you have to take yourself out of the picture to recognise what you’ve done or where you are.
“Since I was U19s, I was in around the HPC in Munster,” Crowley explained.
“While you’re training away, you kind of get lost. You forget where you are and that you’re actually training in a place where Heineken Cups have been won.
“Going from U19s to sub Academy was pretty special. You’re more involved in the HPC and you’re in and around there. You’re seeing what the professionals are doing and how they’re acting.
“It’s just drives you a small bit more to see that’s what you want to be.
“When you see what their life is like. The most important thing is that Munster has its own identity. We’ll keep on building that.”
Before the Coronavirus took its grip on these shores, Crowley was enjoying a whirlwind 2020.
In addition to his splendid form with Cork Constitution in the All-Ireland League – which garnered him a Rising Star award – the Innishannon man starred for the Ireland U20s in their unbeaten start to the Six Nations Championship.
Victories over Scotland, Wales and England ensured a Triple Crown was already in the bag prior to the competition being halted indefinitely.
This robbed Crowley of precious game time and the U20 World Cup in Italy has also been cancelled for the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While it isn’t an ideal scenario for any player, he is hopeful his extended absence from competitive action won’t affect his development with Munster.
“Games give opportunity and playing minutes in a game is everything for experience. Especially in my position as a 10. It’s a challenge, it’s almost survival of the fittest.
“It’s a marathon this Coronavirus by the sounds of how long it can go on for. I’d like to see myself in the same position I would be after the World Cup as I will be once this Coronavirus is done.
“Myself and everyone else I’m sure is doing the same work to prepare themselves as best as possible when this Coronavirus is hopefully controlled or contained and we can go back to playing.
“Just trying to get yourself to that position and give yourself the opportunity to train as best as you can when you come back.”
Though not previously noted as an oval ball stronghold, the past few years has seen an explosion of players emerging from West Cork.
Crowley is the latest off this particular production line, following in the footsteps of Bandon GS alums Darren Sweetnam and Gavin Coombes.
John Hodnett and Josh Wycherley (younger brother of Fineen) were others from the area to feature for last year’s Grand Slam-winning Ireland U20s and Crowley takes great inspiration from the progress they have made.
“You see fellas like that and you’re looking at the top of Munster like Mount Everest or something.
“You think it’s never really achievable. Slowly but surely you take a few steps forward and you’re seeing fellas like Fineen and Josh Wycherley and Darren Sweetnam.
“Fellas like that who have done it and have reached near the top. It helps you to keep going.
“Day in, day out. Knowing that it is possible to get there. Eventually just by working each day, it is achievable.”
Though uncertainty remains over when Crowley will be back on the field, he is excited for the return of Super Rugby in New Zealand.
With the situation not as grave in the northern hemisphere nation, the green light was recently given for behind-closed-doors games on June 13.
“I can’t wait for it to come back. Quite excited to see a bit of live rugby again. As I’m sure everyone is to see a bit of live sport, before we start cracking up!
“I’m kind of running out of things to watch, so I’ll only be delighted to see some live rugby,” Crowley added.