Belfast Telegraph

Dan delighted to give Leavy family double reason to celebrate

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

For Dan Leavy, Sunday was a family affair as he dedicated his man-of-the-match performance to his grandmother, who celebrated her 96th birthday by tuning in to his heroics at the Aviva Stadium.

Joan Leavy can be proud of her grandson who is the form openside flanker in the world right now after backing up his superb performance for Ireland against England with an outrageously good effort against Saracens in Leinster colours.

These battles take their toll and members of his family must wince when they see the state of his face after games.

On Sunday, he added an enormous golf ball-sized lump to a right eye that had been sporting a fairly nasty-looking cut throughout the Six Nations.

It's a sign that he's doing things right, however; an openside's job is to put his head where it hurts and the 23-year-old has no hesitation on that score.

He finished the Champions Cup quarter-final win over Saracens with a total of 13 tackles, carried 15 times for 79m, scored a try, made four clean breaks, beat four defenders and threw two off-loads.

Brian O'Driscoll picked him as the man of the match and there was really no arguing the case.

While he was given a family pass for missing the birthday celebrations in Mullingar, he got to win with his very own band of brothers in front of 51,000 people.

After a Grand Slam success, the good times keep rolling.

"We're back home now with our clubs, Leinster is like a family," he said.

"Obviously it's a huge honour and it's brilliant, and it's such an honour to play for your country, but Leinster is your home for 90% of the year.

"You're with your best mates, so it's special and something we've touched on. It's all well and good winning a lot in the league and stuff, but it's do or die when it comes to the end of the season, and it's time to step up."

Stepping up is what Leavy has been all about in recent months and when Leinster needed a spark after defending for long spells during the first half, it was their openside who worked a neat one-two with his partner in crime James Ryan to engineer the try that broke Saracens.

The win returns them to the semi-final stage where they face a Scarlets side who knocked them out of the Guinness PRO14 in the last-four last season.

A couple of weeks earlier, Leavy was on the field as the Blues came up short against Clermont in Lyon.

He believes they've learned from those losses.

"We're in a good spot. We haven't won anything yet. I think that's one thing we need to learn from last year," he said.

"You can play the best rugby, you can play incredible rugby all year but when it actually comes down to it, it's days like Sunday when you have to put in performances.

"There's a lot we can learn, things we can brush up on, but we took another big step forward so that was brilliant."

Before his focus turns to the Aviva Stadium clash, he'll be winging his way to the midlands to visit his biggest fan.

"I meant to say it earlier on, it's my granny's 96th birthday, Joan Leavy, so give her a shout out," he added.

"I'd like to say happy birthday to her. She'd love to see her name in the papers."

Belfast Telegraph

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