‘I love it down here’ – Carbery happily settled in Munster ahead of RDS trip

THE DAY JOEY Carbery announced that he was leaving Leinster for Munster will stick in the memory for some time, especially for those who spoke to him that afternoon in May of last year at Carton House.

Dressed in Ireland training gear, it being a pre-Australia tour camp, the youngster came across as emotional and unsure about whether he had made the right decision.

Leaving his native Leinster, the province he had long dreamed of playing for, was an understandably difficult thing to do.

Carbery is now totally at home in Munster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

To move to Leinster’s great inter-provincial rivals, Munster, was something Carbery had never imagined until the IRFU presented him with the possibility. 

But fast forward a year and Carbery is perfectly at home with Munster, having settled into life in Limerick happily and shown his quality at out-half for Johann van Graan’s team.

While the initial sense in some quarters was that Carbery might return to Leinster some day, he has already extended his contract for another two years. 

The 23-year-old is set to return from a long-term hamstring injury on Saturday as Munster take on Leinster at the RDS in the Guinness Pro14 semi-finals.

In this same fixture last year, Carbery was wearing Leinster’s 15 shirt. Now he’s very much Munster’s main man at 10.

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“I suppose it was so fresh and raw when I announced it that I was pretty unsure of what was going to happen,” says Athy man Carbery of his very first feelings around the transfer.

“But the way the lads have taken me in and looked after me, I’ve loved it from the word go down here. 

“It’s definitely been as good as I could have expected it. I’m settled here. My parents live about an hour away, so it’s not bad at all for me. I don’t have to get on a plane to go home,  I can always call home for an evening for dinner if mum’s cooking.”

Carbery says both he and Munster were both keen to get his contract extended at an early stage and his decision was “very easy.”

“From a personal side, for Munster to want me for another three years is pretty cool, especially after one year for them to have the courage in me to keep me on.

“I love it down here and I’m really excited. The potential for this team is endless really. We’re working hard to get a taste for silverware; I know how much it would spur us on to learn more and improve more.”

Carbery is set for his return from injury on Saturday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Carbery has been able to show his class over the course of 13 starts for Munster this season, shining away to Gloucester in the Heineken Champions Cup in particular and generally improving with each game.

There have been setbacks too, most notably a poor place-kicking performance away to Castres in Europe, but Carbery has clearly learned from each of them.

Indeed, he hasn’t missed a single place kick for Munster since that Castres fixture, with his run of successful shots at goal standing at 21.

Carbery hasn’t had much opportunity to extend that sequence in recent months, however, having played just 35 minutes for Munster since 19 January due to hamstring issues.

Carbery first hurt his hamstring back in December, ruling him out of the home tie against Castres, but he recovered and featured for Munster over the festive period before being involved in the early stages of the Six Nations with Ireland.

However, Carbery damaged his hamstring against Scotland and was out of action until Munster’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh at the end of March, when he was forced off in the first half with a fresh injury to the same hamstring.

“It’s obviously been a frustrating couple of months,” says Carbery. “Hammies are quite niggly and so there were stages when I was going good, then going bad and it was hard to call.

“I made a pact with the physios that I wouldn’t play until I was 100%, so I’ve been training the last couple of weeks and it feels pretty good.”

Watching Munster lose their Champions Cup semi-final to Saracens and then struggle in their Pro14 quarter-final against Benetton has been tough for Carbery.

“You’ve worked with the lads all year, the times you want to be out there are the best times and it’s hard to sit and watch on the sidelines knowing that you’re so close, and then you know yourself that you could go out and hurt it again.

“But, look, I had to get [the injury] right. I’m feeling in a good place now.”

Carbery has had injury frustrations in recent times. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The injury spell has left Carbery hungrier than ever and he’s hopeful of being back in Munster’s 10 shirt for Saturday’s clash with Leinster, a game he admits will be strange.

Of course, Carbery has already played against Leinster – helping Munster to a win in Thomond Park, when he came in for some special attention from opposite number Johnny Sexton. 

Carbery smiles and brushes off a question about his Ireland team-mate, but he says he’s very excited to go back to the RDS.

“Having played for Leinster, it is funny playing against them,” says the Munster playmaker.

“Some of them would be really good mates of mine but at the end of the day I’ve got to go out and do my job and I’m doing it for the side I want to be doing it for.

“It’s hugely exciting, playing in the semi-final of the Pro14 is huge. It doesn’t come around every day, so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully we get a good performance.”

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