‘I don’t think comfortable is a mindset anyone can have here’ – Ross Molony taking his game to next level

Sportspeople crave the protection of a bubble, but what happens when it bursts?

omplacency can become the enemy of commitment; before the great pretenders of Dublin football emerged on their historic run of success, they had been cocooned in their own bubble – but it was harmful.

Too many were immune to the selfless work required for an individual to propel a squad, too much “showboating” as the great David Hickey told us the night after they turned the page in 2011.

The realisation that it wasn’t merely putting on a blue jersey that made you entitled to be a Dublin footballer but what you produced while wearing one.

Leinster suffered this stigma in their under-achieving years, too, before a similarly radical culture shift cast aside any peacock pretentions; for Dublin in 2011, read Leinster in 2009.

There have been blips since then, but the culture remains intact. Ross Molony emerged during one of those dips, Leo Cullen’s first year in charge.

He was one of the greenhorns pitched in against Bath, the side’s solitary win of a dismal European campaign, having debuted a year earlier in a rare trophy-less campaign as the unhappy Matt O’Connor reign played out.

There were times he contemplated leaving, perhaps too even occasions when he struggled to acquire the understanding of what his role was as the club sought to re-establish its former eminence.

But there would be no slipping of standards as had happened in the days when his current boss, then a player, had left a much different Leinster in 2005.

“I think you get found out pretty quickly if that’s your attitude in Leinster,” he says, probed as to whether there may have been any sense of weakness amongst the next generation of talent struggling to break through.

“The quality we have here, and you can see the young players coming up like Joe McCarthy bursting on to the scene this year, I don’t think comfortable is a mind-set anyone can have here. Because there is always someone pushing you out the door.”

Now he is a senior leader and an integral part of the Leinster fabric, not merely content to wear it but fill it with performances of substance. It would seem unlikely that he will not earn in New Zealand the summer cap denied him in 2021.

“I do, yeah,” he stresses when asked about his hunger for that ambition.

“At the moment, my mind-set is that there are two trophies to win with Leinster. Summer is obviously one of my goals, but it is not to the front of my mind at the moment.

“I’ve said I am putting everything I can into this team and into my performances with this team. If that goes well, hopefully, that ends up happening at the end of the season.”

Molony’s heightened status within Leinster can be explained in one way by his history in this competition, from being plunged into uncertainty in that fraught first year under Cullen to the coach’s unwavering faith in selecting him against Bath in 2022.

Now 27, a familiar logjam of expertise may have stifled his progress, but as he remained behind to plot Leicester’s downfall, the absence of former team-mates requisitioned for off-peak duty in South Africa, resonated with him deeply.

“I’m just loving my rugby at the moment,” says Molony, one of only two players not to pick up a cap on last year’s brief summer stint under Andy Farrell.

“I got that exposure in the summer, arguably late in the career, let’s call it that. I went into a different environment, an international set-up.

“It’s kind of like nearly a bit of a kick, a motivational thing, that this is the level that I want to get to. And I feel like I can get to it.

“There are a lot of individual skill-sets in terms of line-out calling, kick-off receipts, catch and pass stuff, lots of stuff in there.

“I had to constantly work on this. This is my game and this is what will get me selected for those games. So that was probably it around the skill-set.

“Not that I wouldn’t have done all that before, but it was definitely a little bit of a kick that I needed. As I know, I’ve got a run of games together and then keep working on top of the small bits I’ve picked up along the way. I can realise what it takes.”

The former schools star admits there wasn’t a light-bulb moment. It was more about being switched on at all times.

“There was definitely a realisation that this is a short career and I have to put everything I possibly can into it,” he avers. “Because when I’m sitting down and looking back at my career post-rugby at whatever age, I want to be happy that I gave everything I could have to get to the next level.”

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