Still meeting the highest standards
Fifteen years playing for his province, the centre remains hungry for success, writes GERRY THORNLEY
The Wexford boy, educated in Clongowes in Kildare and a Lansdowne club man, a true son of the province, has already become Leinster’s most capped player of all time and tomorrow Gordon D’Arcy eclipses Shane Horgan again for the most Heineken Cup appearances. A legend in his own playing career, albeit about the most modest legend you’d ever meet.
This is his 15th season, and he ain’t finished yet. When he was 28, he reckoned if he made it to 31 that would be a bonus. He’ll be 33 on his next birthday and the desire to keep going is undimmed, although it has not been what he calls a continuous upward slant.
There were the carefree younger days, the more conservative, mid-career supposed peak years and the latter years, when he’s been intent on enjoying every moment he can.
“In all of that you might hit indifferent form and you might hate rugby for six months and think ‘I’m going to play for another year and then give up’. But then you come back and have a pre-season and it all starts again. Or you meet a new coach or a player.”
Liam Toland was an early guiding light, Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt have both been very good for him, and Brad Thorn clearly left an indelible mark. “Thorny is a bit of a phenomenon within the modern game. You see his level of professionalism at 37 and you give yourself a little kick in the arse. ‘I could be better at this, I could be better at the job I thought I was good at.’”
D’Arcy says he has probably become more and more a Leinster man as the years have gone on. With his native county steeped in hurling and football, he’d meet friends from arch rivals Kilkenny and all they see is a Leinster player. “It opens your eyes a little bit so in a lot of respects it does make you very proud.”
He’s come a long way since the 18-year-old who first pitched up at a Leinster pre-season training camp in Loughborough in the late summer of 1998, but D’Arcy maintains with some justification: “I’m essentially the same person. I still try and smile a lot, I still love rugby and I’m still very passionate for the game.
“Obviously I’m a little bit wiser, a little bit sharper, a little bit smarter, but I still have the same feeling for the game. I still love training. I still love the kind of craic you have with the lads. . . ”