Reds deliver Daly dose in 27-year Super Rugby first

Murray Wenzel |

Cormac Daly will be the first Irish player since 1997 to start for the Queensland Reds.
Cormac Daly will be the first Irish player since 1997 to start for the Queensland Reds.

It’s been 27 years since an Irishman started for the Queensland Reds.

The significance isn’t lost on Cormac Daly as he prepares to follow in former Munster forward Peter Clohessy’s footsteps on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium against the Highlanders.

Especially because the 25-year-old lock is still pinching himself to be playing professional rugby at all.

“I can’t take anything for granted now so (I’m) just enjoying every moment, taking it all in and appreciating where I am,” he told AAP on Thursday.

“It’s something like 90 per cent homegrown talent here at the Reds; it’s special how they do represent their state well, and to join a team like that is special, because it means they see something in you.

“And I do get on with the lads; they’re good craic (fun), have a good sense of humour and are a bit different to the NSW boys.

“I’m a country boy and they’re a bit closer to Irish than the boys back in Sydney.”

Daly
The Reds’ Irish addition Cormac Daly celebrates a victory against the Chiefs earlier this season. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

The Kildare product grew up playing rugby with Hawthorn’s Irish AFL star Conor Nash and was an under-20 national representative, signed to play for New York in the 2020 Major League season.

COVID-19 put a stop to that so Daly, a keen hurling and Gaelic football prospect as a junior, kept toiling for a top-flight chance in Ireland before deciding on a move to Sydney.

He was working in an office as a telecommunications project manager, but his reputation preceded him and former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles, coach at Randwick, won the race for his signature.

Daly played big minutes in a premiership-winning Shute Shield season, and new Reds boss Les Kiss, who coached him as a junior in Ireland, was watching.

A gut-busting effort in a trial game for the Reds against the Western Force – Daly played more minutes than anyone in the afternoon heat in Ballymore – consolidated his standing.

Effective so far off the bench, Seru Uru’s thumb injury opened the door for Daly to start and he will play a key role as the Reds aim to snap a three-game Super Rugby Pacific losing streak.

The Reds are also without centre Josh Flook (shoulder), halfback and captain Tate McDermott (suspension) and standout flanker Fraser McReight (suspension).

A 3-1 start had the Reds eyeing top spot before their trio of losses brought them back to the pack.

The Highlanders (2-5) have lost their past four, including a 47-31 loss to Melbourne Rebels in their last outing.

“I’ll just put my head down and go at it,” Daly said of the task.

“It’s a massive game for us, but you don’t become a great team overnight and you don’t become a bad team overnight.”

AAP