BY KIERAN McCARTHY
FINEEN Wycherley is determined to make a name for himself next season and build on his outstanding 2016/17 campaign.
The Coomhola, Bantry teenager (19) surpassed his own expectations last season when he made his Munster senior debut and impressed for the Ireland U20s in the Six Nations and the world championships â but he's already working hard to take the next step.
âLast year was an unbelievable season for me. I went way further than some of the goals I had set for myself,' Wycherley explained as he picked up his Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month February Award lately, in recognition of his early-year exploits.
âI had a goal that I wanted to make my senior debut last season with Munster, and I did, and making the Irish U20s â and my debut away against Scotland in the Six Nations â was top of the list because I hadn't played U18s or U19s, and I achieved that too.Â
Â âIt was a massive season, ya, massive season.'
Back pre-season training with Munster this week, Wycherley is already planning on how to top the headline moments from the last campaign.
âI'd love to be there or thereabouts with Munster this year. I want to start making a name for myself. I know I'm still young, I'll only be 20 in December, but I want to train with the seniors regularly and see where I go from there,' he said.
âI want to be in the reckoning when fellas are away on international duty, I want to be in the squad, to give the coaches a decision to make.'
Wycherley is now in year two of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, as is Skibbereen RFC product Gavin Coombes, and this duo lines out for Young Munster (and they also helped Munster win the B&I Cup last season, too) while another Skibb teenager, Liam Coombes (Gavin's cousin) is in year one of the academy, and David McCarthy (Union Hall) is in the sub academy. All four are helping increase the profile of West Cork rugby, all four played for Ireland in the recent U20 Rugby World Championships and are showing others that a rugby pathway exists from West Cork and is attainable.
âThe academy is brilliant,' explained Wycherley who made his senior debut off the bench for Munster against Cardiff in March.
âDay in day out, week in week out, you're learning all the time. You're in the gym learning or you're on the training pitch playing with and learning from some of the best players in the country and maybe the world; you have the likes of Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony, so that's huge.
âWhen you train with these fellas week in week out you learn a lot.Â
âThey are very approachable which is great, they have no bother explaining something to you or answering a question.'
The academy experience, he hopes, will give him the chance to earn a senior contract with Munster.
âThat's the end goal, I'd love to play professional rugby,' he said.
âMunster is very special to me, I've been with them the whole way up, it would be great to get a professional contact with them.
âYou'd like to think that when you are in the second and third year of the academy that you can train regularly with the seniors and add something to their training sessions to get yourself a development contract or a senior contract in the next year or two.'
Rewind back to the very start of his rugby days, and Wycherley was on the right footing from the beginning, listening to his father Florence (from Holyhill outside Skibbereen and who played junior rugby with Skibb) and then Eugene McCarthy, the well-known coach with Bantry Bay RFC.
âEugene's been a huge help to me all the way up, he's been with me every step of the way,' Wycherley explained.
âEvery club needs a coach like Eugene, people who are committed to the club, they work around the clock to keep the club going, making sure the underage is ticking along and helping out with all the teams.
âEugene works around the clock with all ages, with the girls and the boys, any question he'll answer, he's a great coach.'
Benefitting from such a strong start to his rugby days it's no surprise to see 6' 5â tall, 15 stone Wycherley make his presence felt.