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5 Players From The 2008 Ireland U20s With Different Journeys In Life

5 Players From The 2008 Ireland U20s With Different Journeys In Life
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2023 marks the 15th anniversary of the 2008 Ireland U20s side.

It was a less than vintage year, and stark in comparison to the exploits of the 2007 side. They finished fourth in the U20s Six Nations and failed to make it out of their group in that year's IRB Junior World Championship, with losses to Argentina and New Zealand.

Their spoils that year were two wins over Italy, two over Scotland, and they got the better of Tonga that summer.

We have taken a look back at five of the players from the squad who all had different levels of success in the game.

Their journeys highlight the fickleness of life, and the unique paths that young sportsmen are lead on.

Niall Morris

First up is Niall Morris, the fullback of the team.

The former Blackrock College man played out a career in professional rugby that featured a series of peaks and troughs.


He firstly lived out the dream of many a South Dublin boy when he made his Leinster debut in 2009, shortly after his Ireland U20s career.

However, game time would be hard to come by as he remained on a development contract, with the likes of Shane Horgan, Isa Nacewa, and Luke Fitzgerald knocking about.

He took the decision to leave for Leicester Tigers in 2011, and like his Leinster teammates Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings, Morris thrived immediately across the Irish sea at Welford Road, scoring two tries on his debut.


In 2013 he reached the pinnacle of the English domestic game, winning the Premiership and scoring a try in the final - the one where Dylan Hartley's red card saw him miss the Lions Tour - at Twickenham against Northampton.

22 December 2008; Irish rugby : Niall Morris, Leinster A. Leinster A v Ireland U20, Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo by Sportsfile

His venture to England initially helped his international chances. He first represented Emerging Ireland in the 2013 Tbilisi Cup, before being named in Joe Schmidt's first ever Ireland squad. In that group of 42, only two were plying their trade outside of Ireland, himself and Racing's Johnny Sexton.

He never featured for the senior Ireland side, an unfulfilled goal that irks him, and his career was ended after a horrific ankle break in the Premiership semi-final in 2015.

After 15 months out of the game, he was offered a life-line i.e. a short-term contract at Leinster. After battling through a couple of preseason games, a specialist advised him to retire.


He now enjoys a successful career in finance.

Martin Dufficy

Dufficy held off the challenge of Ian Madigan - one of the rising stars of Irish rugby at the time - in the battle for the U20s outhalf slot.

Prior to his stint in underage Ireland colours, he was part of the 2005 Leinster Schools Senior Cup winning Belvedere side, alongside the likes of Cian Healy and Ian Keatley, who featured in the Grand Slam winning 2007 U20s side, and would go onto have fine international careers.


Niall Morris featured on the losing side in that final.

08 March 2008; Irish rugby : Martin Dufficy, Ireland. Ireland U20 v Wales U20, U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship, Dubarry Park, Athlone. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

A career as a professional rugby player looked on the cards for Dufficy in 2008, but as his Belvedere coach Stephen Gibbons pointed out, sometimes you just don't get the breaks you need.

“Cian’s [Healy] friend Martin Dufficy was a lovely lad who played for Ireland Under-20s. He was very talented and a great kicker of the ball, who regrettably didn't get the breaks and go further with the game. Believing in yourself is the first step, but at that level you have to be lucky as well. That’s one thing Cian can be glad of."

Besides representing Clontarf in the AIL, Dufficy has held roles such as a property manager, and manager of Krystle nightclub, a favourite haunt for Dublin rugby players.

Eoin O'Malley

Another man who was part of that 2005 Belvedere side, and arguably the most promising talent in the 2008 U20s side.

O'Malley, or 'Chubbo' as he was known as, was seen by many as a potential successor at 13 to Brian O'Driscoll. Lofty expectations, but these views were not without merit.


He shone at centre away to Clermont in the 2010 Heineken Cup, in one of his 54 Leinster caps, and also picked up European and domestic medals with his province, and was part of the 2012 Six Nations squad.

Like Morris, his career was cut short by a 'freak' but devastating injury, which was made even crueller by the fact that BOD's retirement was on the horizon.

In an interview with the Irish Times, O'Malley described the tackle that cut short his career:

"Basically I got tackled and someone's knee caught me the wrong way. That was it. If he had caught me in a different way it probably would've been a bruise. A freak accident. I've got hit worse and come away without a scratch."

22 February 2008; Irish rugby : Eoin O'Malley, Ireland. U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland U20 v Scotland U20, Dubarry Park, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Photo by Sportsfile

O'Malley did come back after 10 months out, but the Dubliner was never comfortable after his return.

"I struggled a lot through that pre-season with Leinster," O'Malley said of the 2012/13 pre season. "I was in a lot of discomfort. After the Gloucester game I went over to see the surgeon. His advice was that I should retire.

“At that stage I was starting to make peace with the possibility that it might be all over. I had done everything that was in my power. It just wasn’t enough. So while it didn’t take me by surprise, it was still hard. Not being able to go out on your own terms is tough to process.”

As of 2019, he was working with Loyola Group, running pubs such as the Leopardstown Inn and The Bath Pub.

Kris Greene

The scrumhalf of the team, Greene showed fine drive and spirit by coming through at Tallaght RFC - deep in football country - and representing Leinster U18s and Ireland U18s, before making the step up to U20s.

His career path continued to fascinate beyond 2008. After playing in the RFU Championship for London Welsh and Richmond, an article in the Sutton & Croydon Guardian reported that he had retired from rugby with the aim of making the 2012 Olympics as a weightlifter.

"Irishman Greene is set to be fast-tracked into the sport having been tapped up by talent spotters while training in the gym at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where he is a student," wrote journalist Stuart Amos in 2010.

His Olympic dream didn't take off and instead he uprooted to Dubai to set up The Physical Training Company, whom he still works with today.

21 January 2008; Kris Greene, Ireland Rugby U20 Squad. Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Photo by Sportsfile

While in the UAE, he and two other Irishmen - Sean Carey and Glenn Moore - were part of their national squad.

Carey's words, from an Irish Times interview in 2017, highlight exactly why so many have emigrated to the sand and concrete of the Middle East.

“As for me and the other Irish players on the squad, we don’t see ourselves leaving the UAE any time soon," said Carey. "We have settled here over the last four to five years, and really enjoy the lifestyle. It’s a bonus that we can play the game we love at international level, and get to travel around Asia representing our adopted nation."

Dave Kearney

And lastly, the most successful member - from a rugby perspective - of the 2008 Ireland U20s team.

Kearney was a player who made the absolute most from his talents. Never the quickest or strongest athlete, but one of the smartest and hardest working.

A man who clearly had a great skill of taking advice and teachings on board and applying them into his game.

Because of this he thrived under Ireland's most successful coach Joe Schmidt, and was still cleaning up in the URC last season day, at the age of 33.

His trophy cabinet includes three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup, six Pro14 titles and a place on their 2021 Dream Team, and a Six Nations title from 2014.

Now 34-year-of-age, Kearney announced in May that he would be leaving Leinster after 14 year with the first team. The US is his expected destination.

“It’s been nearly 14 years to the day since I first had the privilege of wearing the Leinster Rugby jersey for the first time. As I reflect on my career, the overriding feeling I get is that of gratitude,” said Kearney in a statement released by Leinster.

“Walking through the doors of Leinster Rugby to join the academy in 2008, I never could have dreamt I’d still be here almost 15 years on. To have had such a long career playing for the team I grew up supporting, as well as representing my country has been a dream come true."

27 February 2009; Dave Kearney, Ireland U20, is tackled by James Gaskell, left, and Calum Clarke, England U20. U20 Six Nations Championship, Ireland U20 v England U20, Dubarry Park, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

SEE ALSO: Richie Murphy Makes Bold Changes To His Unbeaten Ireland U20s Team

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