Diligent Downey finally reaps reward with first Ireland cap against Canada in Toronto
The 32-year-old centre will earn his first Ireland cap after a lifetime in the shad
“I was a bit hit and miss, didn’t have the form I wanted consistently all season. I suppose in the Premiership you play every week and can keep form. I suppose it can be a bit stop start in the Rabo, maybe it didn’t suit me as much.”
November came and went, Marshall was promoted and retained for the Six Nations when D’Arcy pulled up lame. “Look, when Luke came in he did a great job. They were looking for a younger lad, and I understand that.”
There was a time when he was that younger lad. Only problem was Shane Horgan, D’Arcy and David Quinlan were around as well, locking up the inside centre slots in Dublin 4.
Essentially Quinlan edged him out of Leinster, Mark McHugh doing something similar after two respectable seasons with Connacht, while Munster discarded him in the 2006 pre-season, forcing him to start considering another professional.
He clung on in by his fingertips, playing a season with Calvisano in Lombardy, before Quinlan re-entered his life.
Forced to retire in 2007, after repeated concussions, Northampton coach Jim Mallinder wondered if there was any more decent-sized Irish inside centres that could do a thankless job.
Quinlan suggested someone even bigger.
“Yeah, we’ve a love-hate relationship. Quinny’s a great lad. He did a lot for me. He spoke to Northampton on my behalf.
“For a ’Rock lad to look after a Belvo lad, it’s rare!”
So, his career took off but England remains a notoriously difficult place to get Irish recognition.
“Things happen for a reason. When I was in England I was out of bounds for a while but I was playing every week.”
That’s what made him. A Munster visit to Franklin’s Garden in October 2009 sticks in the mind.
“I made a big hit on Jean de Villiers and it went well so people are talking about you again.
“Out of sight you’re out of mind, but I was happy out doing what I was doing. Sure, I wasn’t even thinking about it but then you play an Irish team and you are suddenly back in the shop window. I was only 27 then.”
But still, Kidney refused to open his purse.
“I could’ve stayed in England but I always wanted to go home at some stage and prove myself. I left under a bit of a cloud. I wanted to play for my country, I didn’t want there to be any regrets.
“I didn’t want to take the easy option in England. So I came back and gave it a shot.”
Nervous about winning your first cap?
“Nah, sure I’ve played in plenty of big games so this is just another one.
“Maybe if I was 21, like, I’m sure Robbie Henshaw was quite nervous last week, and just wanted to get his hands on the ball.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just go out and put my .”