Darren Sweetnam in action for Munster
FLYING Munster winger Darren Sweetnam has taken professional rugby by storm since swapping a sliotar for the oval ball game.
Twenty three-year-old Sweetnam who played for Cork in their 2012 All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final defeat to Galway, has started for Munster in each of their Guinness Pro12 fixtures this season.
Sweetnam returned to rugby with Munster U20s eight days after that Rebels’ defeat by Galway and went on to play a starring role in the interpros.
He hasn’t looked back since joining up with Munster.
Sweetnam admits it was a tough decision to swap hurling for a shot at professional rugby.
Sweetnam said at UL this week: ”It was a hard decision, I was playing Cork senior hurling while playing for the Munster U-20s with Graham Burns, the manager, and Greig Oliver.
“At the time I actually rang Graham Burns and said, 'd'ya know, I'm going to stick with the hurling'. I was with the Cork seniors, so it was a risk going to the rugby.
“But then Greig Oliver, who was the coach at the time, got on to me that day and he asked me to meet him one more time and bring my dad along.
“So, I met with them and he changed my mind. I played the U-20s campaign, then I got offered an academy contract. I had to choose.
”The Academy is very good, it develops you and I needed it at the time to develop physically as well and my understanding of the game too.”
So did playing top level hurling help him make the transition to playing rugby?
” I suppose the aerial skills definitely help, I played football as well so that definitely transfers on to the rugby pitch. Trying to make space for yourself, use your feet, that helps too.
“I came into the academy at 79kg, I'm playing at 93kg now and that's a big progression. So, I've obviously gotten bigger and stronger and that's very important against.”
Sweetnam’s excellent early season form leaves him well placed to challenge for an extended period of gametime with the marquee Pro12 fixture with Leinster and the Champions Cup clashes with Racing 92 and Glasgow Warriors looming large. However, he also appreciates the stiff nature of the competition for wing places.
Sweetnam said: “To be honest, I'm looking at every game as it comes and not looking too far ahead.
“I'll just concentrate on Zebre, play well there and see what happens. There's so much competition with Keith Earls, (Simon) Zebo, Andrew Conway and Ronan O'Mahony so I'll just work hard.”