YOUNG Jack Crowley found that one door may close, but another opens up after being crowned the Rising Star in energia All-Ireland League Division 1A.
The 20-years-old first-year UCC commerce student was a contender for the try-of-the-season gong, but missed out to Shannon’s Kelvin Brown on a public vote, 568 to 528 for Nenagh’s Conor O’Brien.
But, the disappointment was quickly replaced after Ireland head coach Andy Farrell called out his name for the Rising Star award.
“I was sitting down at home in Innishannon with my parents and two brothers. We decided to throw it on and see what was happening, particularly the try-of-the-year segment.
“I knew I was in the running for that one, but I had no idea about the Rising Star award. It was a nice feeling in the circumstances,” Crowley said.
An unfortunate leg break by regular out-half Aidan Moynihan early in the campaign offered Crowley the chance and he accepted it with both hands.
“I was coming straight out of school and I wanted to make a mark as quickly as I could.
“I tried pushing for the senior team even though I was eligible for the U20s, as well, and I reckoned that was the way to go in terms of my development.
“I needed that experience and exposure to senior rugby and learn as much as I could.
“I realised it was a very big deal to get into the Con seniors, but I decided I’d push for it and see what happened.
“The main thing was to try and learn as much as I could.
“My first senior game was away to Terenure in Dublin on one of the wettest days of the year and it was a good introduction to that level of rugby.”
Con won 13-10 with Sean French planting a monster late penalty after Crowley had also kicked a penalty, his first points in the league.
“It was a valuable lesson in how to win close games and to close out games, too.
“Those kind of games help you build your knowledge of the game. Another game which helped greatly was the derby against UCC at the Mardyke on a Friday night.
“You get to find out what the expectations are in that type of game.
“The biggest learning thing for me as a 10 was managing the team in big games, dealing with momentum and understanding what’s needed in certain situations.
“It could be like a kick to the corner, for instance, just to change the direction of a game which might not be going anywhere at the time.
“Recognising the importance of field position was one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.”
Having a player of Duncan Williams’s experience at scrum-half was a major benefit.
“He is one of a number of AIL veterans who’ve really helped me, just like Niall Kenneally and Brian Hayes.
“It’s unbelievable to have a player of Duncan’s ability and experience alongside you, especially in the heat of pressure moments.
“And still I’m the 10 in the team so I’ve got to try and dictate as much of the game as I can and not solely rely on Duncan to make all the decisions.
“I settled in well enough after the initial few games and I looked at it as a great opportunity to make a mark, especially with the Ireland U20s coming on the scene, too,” Crowley concluded.
Now, it’s waiting time for exam results and a push for the Munster Academy.