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Gordon D'Arcy Credits Michael Cheika With Changing The Drinking Culture At Leinster

Gordon D'Arcy Credits Michael Cheika With Changing The Drinking Culture At Leinster
By Mikey Traynor
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It is common knowledge that the 'sports science' aspect of rugby was not always considered as important as it is today, in fact, it didn't exist until the after shift of the professional era as old habits were slowly phased out.

For players who started their senior career in this time period, like Gordon D'Arcy, it would have been difficult to adapt to a new way of thinking having been exposed to the norms up until the shift but, for the former Leinster man in particular, the benefits were clear to see.

D'Arcy was tipped as a future superstar from his school days at Clongowes, and even had to turn down a trip to South Africa with Warren Gatland's Ireland squad in order to complete his Leaving Cert, but struggled to make the transition to senior rugby initially and saw questions asked of his mentality and lifestyle, despite the fact that he was essentially thrown in at the deep end and expected to swim.

After his omission from the 2003 Rugby World Cup squad, we saw him start to deliver on what many knew he was capable of as he became the star of the following Six Nations campaign, and earned a nomination for IRB Player Of The Year in 2004.


He had changed what had been holding him back, but it was through his own endeavor rather than a cultural shift at Leinster. That would come later, as D'Arcy claimed in his column for The Irish Times that the arrival of Michael Cheika saw the end of the ways of the past for all involved when he arrived in 2005.

These days young players like Larmour, who just turned 20, and Joey Carbery are leashed for a little longer. I agreed not to tour South Africa in 1998 (as it clashed with the Leaving Cert), but I literally dashed into the professional ranks because of raw ability but also because the ranks weren’t really professional.

I landed in the midst of an ancient drinking culture. When men were men and pre-seasons were hazy bonding sessions, when you hit the gym to bulk up. Not a rugby ball in spitting distance until the nights shortened.

Michael Cheika completely changed all that. Cheiks put some shape on us, slimming us into more mobile athletes to ensure we could cope with the modern game.

By then I was fully on board as a Pro. But the public reputation I chiselled out for myself took an age to erase. Sometimes my peers perhaps believed I lacked the necessary lifestyle to have a career that lasted into double-figure seasons.

The blue streaked hair, an eagerness to socialise and getting “Gordon D’Arcy” embroidered on my boots, understandably, lingered in their memory.

You don't win friends with embroidered boots on a rugby pitch.

The benefits of this cultural shift were clear to see, as Leinster finished 2nd in the Celtic League in 2006, before winning it in 2008 and then going on to win the Heineken Cup in 2009, completely changing how the province was regarded on the continent.

D'Arcy comprehensively erased that reputation he had once held as his partnership with Brian O'Driscoll in the heart of Leinster and Ireland's backline became the envy of the rugby world and set the base for some of the country's biggest results and achievements.


The focus of his latest column was to express the difficulty he finds in leading a 'normal' life after rugby, something the new generation of talent will perhaps not find as challenging due to the professionalism in the sport at formative levels, and you can read it in full over on IrishTimes.com.

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