Leinster coach Leo Cullen has praised 20-year-old fly-half Joey Carberry as a ‘confident’ yet ‘grounded’ player following Carberry’s two-try performance in the Blues’ season opener against Treviso on Friday night.
Two first half tries from Carberry and a second half score from substitute hooker James Tracy set up a 20-8 win for Leinster at the RDS, but much of the post-match focus centred around the dazzling display of Leinster’s latest fly-half talent and not the Blues’ forgettable performance.
“He settled into the game really well,” Cullen told reporters in Dublin.
“He scored a try, scored obviously a really good individual try after that then, what was it about 25, 26 minutes? He did well for his first start. I’m delighted for him.”
Carberry’s breakout performance in Donnybrook has been coming for some time, according to Cullen, who attributes his commanding display to the player’s work ethic and performances in the AIL last season.
Carberry was the standout performer for a Clontarf side that won last season’s Ulster Bank League, as the out-half scored 13 points to lead Andy Wood’s side to a three-point win over Cork Constitution in the final at the Aviva Stadium in May.
Wood conceded at the end of last season that it would be difficult for Clontarf to hold on to Carberry for much longer, given the strength of his performances over the season, but it’s the player’s work ethic and competitiveness that has really impressed Cullen since he’s entered the ranks at Leinster.
“He’s very grounded, Joey, and the competition will keep driving him hopefully,” added Cullen.
“He’s very confident. A lot of credit goes to what he’s done with Clontarf particularly in the AIL last year. He helped Clontarf win the AIL last year so for young 9s and 10s, it’s about trying to get that level of game time, and I think that Joey is obviously someone that really benefited from that.
“He’s just one of those kids that loves training and improving. He works really hard on all the aspects of his game, and as I said, with [Leinster Technical Analyst] Emmet Farrell the culture that he has with those guys, all the extras that they do kicking and skill wise, it’s starting to pay off.”
Cullen said that the competition for Leinster’s starting 10 jersey has been really healthy over the pre-season and that Carberry, Ross Byrne and Cathal Marsh have all helped push each other as the province looks for a temporary replacement to the injured Johnny Sexton.
With Sexton reportedly still a month away from recovering from a shoulder injury that ruled him out of Ireland’s tour of South Africa over the summer, and with former Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan now playing with Bordeuax in France, a spot has opened up within the Leinster ranks for a talented playmaker to emerge and Carberry certainly looks like the player to fill it.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena