How A Switch From Back To Front Forged Ireland's U20s Man Of The Match

How A Switch From Back To Front Forged Ireland's U20s Man Of The Match

The resounding roar that greeted Dylan Tierney-Martin as he left the field at Irish Independent Park last Friday night couldn't have been any more telling; an exceptional showing after an extraordinary result duly recognised.

It came after a Man of the Match performance against a heavily favoured England side. A 35-27 victory followed for Noel McNamara's side with Tierney-Martin shining. What is all the more impressive is that the Connacht youngster was operating in an unfamiliar role having only completed the transition from back-row to the front-row last year.

"I was a seven the whole way through until the start of last year and they told me I was too short," he explained at the Ireland U20s team announcement at PWC. "They didn’t tell me I was too fat but I think that was a little bit of it as well!"

The move greatly aided his international ambitions too, a call-up to the Ireland U19s last year soon followed: "It was a really nice time for me and my family because a couple of years ago I missed out on Irish U18s as a number seven and that was hard."

In many ways, it is a transition that makes sense. While hooker is a specialised position, ball-carrying strength, physicality and presence at the breakdown are shared assets in both roles. CJ Stander famously refused to move from number 8 to hooker as a youngster but Tierney-Martin was determined to make the most of this opportunity.

I thought about not doing it but at the end of the day, as long as you have a jersey on your back, apart from set-pieces you are a rugby player. That's how I saw it and that is how my Dad saw it. We agreed on that point. You can still be a back-row in open play. What is stopping you doing that?

You can still be a back-row in open play. That's how I feel I will build my game, Rory Best is obviously huge in the breakdown. That's how I see myself, being a groundhog hooker.


This is a philosophy obvious in his gameplay. For his first try last week, the Connacht academy prospect burrowed over from close range. The second came after a pin-perfect line-out throw and break off a driving maul.

It helps to have expert advice too. Whether it with his club or province, Tierney-Martin has renowned pros willing to offer a helping hand. The Corinthians RFC man is coached by JP Cooney in the AIL and working with both Connacht hookers Dave Heffernan and Johne Murphy at the Sportsground.

As rugby continues to evolve, the demands on players are ever-increasing. One job specialists are of a bygone era.

It's a change reflected across the globe; Props who can carry and offload, scrum-halves who can defend, players proficient in the loose and the tight.

The one-trick pony is out. This is a game for the versatile stallion.

Transitions such as this demonstrate the importance of proper academy and U20 guidance. Success is not the only metric of success and this is something head coach Noel McNamara acknowledged when he announced the squad: "For me, it’s two-fold. We want to find a sweet spot. We obviously want to be competitive, we want to win as many games as we can. Equally, we are a pathway team, we want to develop players."

Across rugby, players have changed position for the betterment of their career. It was at a similar age that Andrew Porter transitioned from loosehead to tighthead.

Shrewd intervention and guidance for long-term success, it's what the Ireland U20s are all about.

SEE ALSO: Farrell's Revealing Ref Conversation And How England Took Away Ireland's Crucial Weapon

Maurice Brosnan

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