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Munster’s Ruadhán Quinn moving quickly in passing several rugby milestones

Powerful backrow forward set to play a big role for Ireland in U20 Six Nations

Ruadhán Quinn’s sporting life defies the conventional pathway of the teenage rugby player, one that for others would normally evolve at a gentler, more graduated pace.

Since winning a Munster Schools Senior Cup with Crescent College Comprehensive last March, he has accelerated past several milestones. While still 18 years old he became the youngest Munster player in the professional era when coming on as a replacement in a United Rugby Championship match against Zebre last October.

That followed a try-scoring debut in a preseason friendly against Gloucester. He enjoyed a 12-minute cameo against Leinster five days after his 19th birthday and at the weekend another seven against Treviso. Next Friday night in Colwyn Bay he will be a valued member of the Ireland Under-20 team looking to emulate last season’s all-conquering Grand Slam winners.

Quinn is a lavishly gifted rugby player but what emerges in conversation is that he is thoughtful and intuitive in his observations, attributes that will stand him in good stead when added to his physical qualities.


Born in Goatstown, Dublin, the family moved to Killaloe when he was three. Apart from a brief dalliance with hurling and soccer, rugby became his sporting passion, played out in the colours of the Ballina-Killaloe club, where he followed in some illustrious footsteps.

“Initially there was Keith Wood and Anthony Foley, the huge impact they have had on the club and the community and currently you have Maeve Óg O’Leary, who plays for Munster and Ireland. There is a brilliant relationship between the men’s and women’s clubs.”

He joined Young Munster initially having outgrown the local club who don’t cater for boys once they reach their teenage years, but when he went to school in Crescent he made the short journey to Rosbrien in the company of friends, switching club affiliation to Old Crescent.

Quinn’s rapid transition to senior representative rugby is slightly at odds with earlier development. He explained: “I was quite late into the underage system. A lot of lads had been there since 14 or 15. It was only the summer of 2021 that I [became] involved. It wouldn’t be that common to kick on, but some people develop at different stages.”

Ian Costello rang to tell him he had a place in the Munster academy and 10 days after finishing his Leaving Cert he reported for training. “It was not much of a summer off, but it was brilliant. I was in, week one with a few new lads and injured lads so we could get up to speed. A preseason at senior level compared to what I was used to, the fitness had to come up.

“I did find the preseason tough, the sessions are very long and intense. We had a new coaching ticket so they [wanted] to set out their stalls for the future, wanted to impress as well as the players. It was full on and a huge learning curve. The player that I was coming into the summer and the one that finished it were two different players.”

Two minutes into a preseason friendly against Gloucester, Jack O’Sullivan was forced off with concussion and Quinn, who had yet to play a club match in senior rugby, made his Munster debut, one that he capped with a try.

He described the experience as “unbelievable” and was delighted to be able to share it with his father Eugene, mother Valerie, and four brothers – he is the second oldest of five boys – Eoin, Cormac, Muiris and Danann.

Quinn followed his competitive debut against Zebre with a 12-minute cameo against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. “That was a different level altogether most surreal. You are playing against internationals, the best players in the country. It was an incredible day.

“Since then, I have been focusing mainly on the (Irish) 20s. Whenever the full internationals come back it doesn’t matter how good you are if you are an academy player, you are not going to be in it [referring to a Munster matchday squad].”

He was happy to give the Irish 20s his full attention but noticed a conundrum, a legacy of the pandemic, whereby in times past some of the squad would have played on Irish Schools and Under-19s teams. There isn’t that familiarity with the current crop; gelling on and off the pitch requires a prescribed process.

Quinn explained: “At the first camp we were quite divided I felt. The Munster lads stuck together, the Leinster lads stuck together; over time as we meshed more as a squad, the performances also improved because you get used to each other’s strengths, each other’s weaknesses, things like that.

“There were people brought in to facilitate team bonding. Initially I thought it was a bit awkward. They put you in random groups and you had to sing a song together.” Let the record show that his group sang Walking in the Air. The camp took place at Christmas. It won’t be available on Spotify.

He continued: “It works. You get over the awkwardness. When you stand in front of 30 people and sing a song, you can comfortably talk to them when you’re sitting at a table. The more you are together the more those walls break down.

“It really does show on a pitch. If the guy outside you and inside you in that line is someone that you really get on with, someone that you trust, that’s when you can really play for them.”

In preparing for the Six Nations they lost to Italy, beat Munster and Leinster Development XVs, the performance graph rising with each match. Quinn offered a snapshot of his ability in the game at Donnybrook, taking Sam Prendergast’s defence splitting pass and making short work of the final defender to score a try. That power is evident on both sides of the ball.

Unusually, Ireland have a big side, particularly in the back five in the pack. James McNabney, Diarmuid Mangan and Conor O’Tighearnaigh return from last year’s Six Nations champions. Quinn said: “It’s brilliant to have them back again. They have experienced it they have a Grand Slam medal in the back pocket. That’s the dream.

“For me it is going out the first time, singing the anthem as well, just pride. The home matches [in Musgrave Park against France and England] I am looking forward to; someone told me that we will be the first year to sing the two anthems at 20s level at home games. That’s a little bit of history.

“It is a childhood dream. I can’t wait for the first game. Every game is a cup final, there is no tomorrow.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer