Towering Irish lock Cormac Daly taking Reds opportunity "with both hands"

Mon, Feb 5, 2024, 5:30 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey

He’s a long way from his native Kildare but Irish lock Cormac Daly is fast finding a home with the Queensland Reds.

Plucked from Sydney’s Shute Shield off the back of a starring role in Randwick’s 2023 premiership run, Daly has rocketed into Super Rugby contention under his former Irish U20s coach, Les Kiss.

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It’s an unexpected but welcome opportunity – one’s he’s taking with both hands.

“I just came down to put the head down at Randwick, I never thought something like this would happen,” Daly said of his move to Australia.

“My ma and da are both Irish, they met each other in Australia down in Sydney so I always wanted to come over. Don’t know what it was, maybe a bit of attachment to the place, so I came over and haven’t looked back, been over a year.

“Obviously I knew Les before I came out here and I think it was just I had a decent enough season in Shute Shield and Reds came looking. It’s just a great opportunity and I couldn’t turn it down.

“He (Les Kiss) is just a genuine person, he really cares about everyone. That’s one thing even speaking with him when I came up here, you could see the vison he had, and it’d be silly to turn a chance to work with a coach like that down.”

There’s no shortage of competition in the lock department with Ryan Smith, Angus Blyth and Seru Uru among Queensland’s established second rowers but Daly is already making an impression, if not a tan.

Handed a starting role in Saturday’s trial, Daly repaid selectors' faith with 80 industrious minutes while 12 years of Gaelic football and hurling as a youngster came to the fore with the Irishman’s footwork ill-suited to a 198cm frame.

“I wouldn’t look too much into it, my job’s just to keep going and keep trucking,” Daly said.

“Just put the head down – that’s the Irish attitude - put the head down and get the job done.

“The Force were very good and we probably need to build on some stuff. First hit out was always going to have some mistakes. When you get to this level, things get a little more difficult.”

It’ll only get tougher with the Reds heading to Roma this weekend for their second Super Rugby trial and Round 1 just around the corner - both against arch-rivals NSW Waratahs.

But for now, Daly’s just enjoying the ride. After all, few Irishmen through history have cracked a Queensland Super Rugby squad.

“I think Peter Clohessey was the last to play (in 1997). Not many people back home get the chance to play Super Rugby,” Daly said.

“I think John Ryan was down last year (at the Chiefs) as well but I’ve friends back home in the system and they’re seeing me play in 33 degrees when back there it’s like minus 3.

"It’s something you can’t take for granted, so I’m enjoying my time here and tying to take it with both hands.

"I've been mixing around with everyone, I get on Smithy (Ryan Smith), we’re very similar and he’s good fun and I’ve hung out with Peni (Ravai), he’s an absolute top bloke.

"I find the Fijian boys similar to Irish people, they’re the same kind of craic and they stick together.

“The lads are saying it gets hot out there (in Roma) and I’m thinking it’s hot here already but looking forward to heading out to regional Queensland.

"I haven’t been outside of Brisbane much since I’ve been up so it’ll be nice to meet some of the people out there.”