Exclusive Interview: Rugby FanCast Chats to Declan Danaher
After a career spanning 275 club appearances, 23 tries, 15 years and a collection of silverware, it was finally time for “Mr London Irish”, also known as Declan Danaher, to hang up his rugby boots and rest his battered body for the last time. With this historic occasion, RugbyFanCast couldn’t think of anyone better to speak to this week.
Not quite hanging up his title, however, Danaher, who joined the club in 1999, is now starting on a new journey; one which will see him nurture and grow the next generation of talent for the club. The combination of his loyalty, determination and drive surely means that London Irish may have found their answer to keeping hold of this golden Academy talent? But first, it’s time to sit back, get comfy and head down memory lane with the man himself…
“I suppose it is a little weird, the announcement on Friday made it more official; a bit more of that sense of reality.”
“I knew that this day was coming. Obviously you wish that it would never come; as a player you wish you could be at your peak, 25, 26 for the rest of your life. But it has obviously come.”
“I tore my triceps clean off the bone about 6-8 weeks ago and that’s kind of what has pushed for this decision to come so early. It’s like anything; it is hard, it is going to take me 5-6 months to rehab it fully, so my time and my effort will be better spent putting that hard work into the academy.”
“I can now get on with academy coaching pretty much 24/7 rather than splitting my time evenly between playing and coaching.”
With coach Danaher now in full action, it was important to remember some of his greatest achievements. With a fifteen year stay he certainly wasn’t short of them.
“Winning the Powergen cup in 2002 was a pretty incredible moment.”
“I suppose what I’m most proud of is playing in that team from 2006-2010 where we made the Premiership final, the Amlin final, and we got to the semi final of the Heineken cup. It was great to be around those sorts of players and it was a pretty inspirational time for me. It was probably my proudest moment at the club.”
“My all time favourite moment was beating Quins in the semi final of the Premiership in 2009. That was my fondest moment, we beat them 17-0 and that was a pretty good day.”
With so many different memories, and having been at the middle of the team for so long, it’s going to be hard for Declan to make that transition from player to coach, “I’m going to miss the relationship with the boys.”
“When you become a coach it becomes a different relationship and I suppose you lose the ability to just turn up and have your day. Your day can be over by 11am as a player, I’m not going to lie these full days are killing me at the moment.”
Danaher isn’t the only one saying goodbye this year, as not only is he hanging up his boots so is the beloved ground of Sunbury. As he moves on as a player, so does The Avenue as a training ground.
“Yeah, it is almost full circle. As my career ends, we will say goodbye to Sunbury and head over to Hazelwood with the new facility.”
“There is a tinge of regret to leave somewhere so historic where I’ve done training and stuff with the boys. I’ve had fond memories, but the new facility it’s a great thing. It’s come along and it can only be good for the club and the young guys coming through in the next couple of years. “
Danaher is a very unique player. The game has changed and there are only a handful of players who have stayed loyal to one club. So that is an achievement in itself. We’re noticing more and more talent being grown at London Irish and then passed onto other Premiership teams. So what was the magic secret that kept Danaher there for 15 years?
“There were a couple of years when I was in my early twenties when things weren’t going so well, when you start to get noticed and clubs begin to get interested. You know and they start chasing you and there are those options.”
“I suppose something always happened whether it was a change of staff or young players coming through or a vision. I think the main thing is there has always been a vision and the club has always been going forwards. Whether it is tiny steps or giant strides, for me it has always been going in the right direction and for me that is why I’ve always stayed.”
“I think the reason the guys left to Bath last year and Marland as well is to do with vision. It probably came a little bit too late with Marland but it’s to do with vision and there were periods in my career where I did think about leaving but I’ve always kept moving forward.”
“I guess the vision came to a bit of a halt two years ago and I guess if you’re a young guy and you want those sorts of things taking care of. You just want to be playing rugby and know that the club is going forward.”
“It’s just starting that journey again and I’m adamant that we are going to hold onto these future players because like I say I can see what it means to them to play for the club and I think hopefully if they’re given an opportunity which hopefully they will get because they’re good enough. We will hold onto them and they will feel the potential that this club has.”
“There are some seriously talented young guys coming through. In the next couple of weeks we’re going to be announcing who we’ve signed to our senior academy and that’s an exciting thing.”
“Working with the kids is great, we were up in Leeds yesterday for the AASE semi final and they lost. To see their faces and to see the emotion after the game, to pull on the jersey and play for the club you know it means a lot to them already.”
As the new coach on the block unveils some of his plans we get to our final destination, the closing speeches get drummed up, the cue cards come out and the lights dim. As final words go, these ones are pretty special.
“Look, it’s with great pride that I’ve been at one place for fifteen years and had so many highs and lows. I’ve met so many wonderful people who I will be friends with for the rest of my life. So it’s probably as simple as that.”
Next stop Hazelwood and a shiny new job as Academy coach. Everyone at RugbyFanCast wishes Declan Danaher all the luck with his new journey. London Irish will miss him and his no nonsense approach on the pitch that is for sure.
For more news, views and interviews head to @RugbyFancast.