Tadhg Beirne made an extraordinary sacrifice to seal Munster move
"I want to go home and find out if I'm good enough to play for my country."
Tadhg Beirne is a relieved man. "It's finally out," he says of his impending move from Guinness PRO12 champions Scarlets to Munster, a team he helped defeat in last May's final at the Aviva Stadium.
For a man that did not have a club as late as May 2016, the Kildare native recently found himself as a man in demand. A run of games, and form, saw him linked with a Munster switch as early as February 2017. By the time Saturday, May 27 rolled around, it became imperative that the IRFU get him back.
Beirne made only four senior appearances at home province Leinster before he was informed, by head coach Leo Cullen, that he would not be kept on. The 25-year-old was on The Hard Yards rugby podcast a day after his two-season deal at Munster [from June 2018] was announced. He comments:
"[The Scarlets move] was down to a little bit of luck, to be honest. I didn't have an agent in my last year with Leinster. I had signed for six months and then signed another six months at Christmas. I was half expecting, slash, hoping I'd be kept on there.
"I met my [new] agent after one of the games, Abe Kerr. I was standing outside the changing room, waiting for one of the boys, when he came up and spoke with me. He messaged me on Facebook a couple of weeks later and it was around the same time that Leo told me that I'd need to start looking elsewhere. He flew over, met me in Dublin, and we managed to sort something out, last minute, after I got some footage together."
Before Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac took a punt on the relatively untested Irishman, it was looking bleak. He had hoped to move to either Munster, Ulster or Connacht but remarks, "No-one wanted me so I didn't have a choice'. He adds:
"It was pretty tight... I love the game and I love the lifestyle. In my head I was saying, 'I'm not ready to work 9 to 5 and go out into the real world. I love what I do too much. I want to play'."
"So I said I'd come over here, play and give it one crack."
Beirne played 24 times for the Welsh region last season and became an integral part of a time that found form after Christmas and steam-rolled past everyone in the title run-in. Ospreys, Leinster and Munster were all flattened in the final weeks of the season with Beirne getting man-of-the-match in the semi win over Leinster and barging over for a try as Munster were well beaten in the final.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen but there we are," he says of his whirlwind 12 months.
Within six weeks of that final win, even before the PRO12 became the PRO14, Beirne was being linked with a move to Munster. It took three more months for the reports to become reality but there was an element of sacrifice involved.
Beirne revealed that he could have earned a higher annual salary at Scarlets than he will at Munster but he was determined to make a name for himself on these shores. Beirne says:
"I want to go home and find out if I'm good enough to play for my country. I think, ultimately, that's what every player wants to achieve in their career... When Munster approached at the end of the summer, I had quite a big decision to make.
"I obviously spoke to Scarlets. They put a serious offer in front of me. They completely outbid Munster. It was a big decision for me but, ultimately, international ambitions are what I want to chase."
Considering that he had been painfully close to retiring from professional rugby at 24, he deserves credit for following his rugby ambitions of personal finances.
Leinster were never in the conversation, from the perspective of Beirne or his old province. Now that the paperwork has been signed he is looking forward to joining 'a good club with such a great history'.
There was another influencing factor in Beirne's decision to join Munster and it came via an unknown Irish mobile number. Beirne says:
"Joe Schmidt gave me a phone call recently enough and he said he had pushed for it [the move] because I'm being watched and I'm on the radar. That's all I can ask for."
He adds, "I wasn't expecting the call. It came up [on my screen] as an Irish number and I answered the phone. It was Joe. I was a bit shell-shocked but he had previously said he'd try calling me on my Irish number, but I hadn't turned that phone on in months."
Beirne is not expecting to come straight into the Ireland senior squad this season but all he wants, from next season on, is that chance.
He is well aware that nothing comes easy. He thrives that way.