IN the final years of a three season Schools Senior Cup career, Dave Kilcoyne would set his alarm for 6.30am and be take a lift from his dad en route to work for a 7.30am gym work-out before going on to Ardscoil Rís.
Five years later, the Limerick prop was playing for Ireland against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.
Munster and Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne says the disappointment of missing out on Ardscoil Ris' first Munster Schools Junior Cup winning squad of 2003 and then losing to CBC in the Junior Cup final 12 months later has helped shape him into the accomplished international rugby player he is today.
Were you always going to attend Ardscoil Ris?
David Kilcoyne: "My older brother Padraic would have gone to Ardscoil Ris. A good few of my friends who I played rugby with were going there.
“I played with UL-Bohs from U-8s the whole way up. The fact so many of my friends were going to Ardscoil was a big deciding factor.
"My dad Pat (a Munster Schools Junior Cup winner with St Munchin's College in 1973) and another brother went to St Munchin's, so there probably was a choice to make, but I decided to go to Ardscoil. That was it.
"Paul O'Connell, Sean Cronin, Paul Neville all went to school there. I was aware of their rugby pedigree as a school. That would have been a big deciding factor for me for sure.
“We had a good team with Bohs at the time and the fact of those lads were going to Ardscoil was another reason. We went to win the Junior Cup for the first time ever.
“My team, when I was in third year, got to the Junior Cup final. The team the year after us won it again.
"I played all three years at Senior Cup level, but we never got past the quarter-finals.”
How disappointing was it to miss out on Ardscoil's first Junior Cup winning squad?
DK: "The setback of not making the Junior Cup team when I was in second year and they won the Junior Cup made me realise this was something I really wanted.
“Sometimes, I think you have to get a setback early in your career. I know there have been studies done that show that more successful athletes who get a setback early in their careers and they tend to have better careers than athletes say who are at the top level from a very young age, the whole way through. It has to do with dealing with adversity too. I think it helped me, made me hungry.
"I trained very hard for the following year, the summer of second year, I really started to train hard. I think the disappointment of missing out on the Junior Cup squad in '03 is what motivated me.
"There were some guys in second year who made the team. We had some very good players at the time who were under-age.
"Mike Sherry was on the team. I would have been a year younger than him playing Schools Cup rugby, but we were in the same year in the school.
"Mike has obviously played for Ireland, played for Munster, he is going to have something about him from a young age which you are going to pick up on.
“He had a huge amount of football in him. He was a good athlete. You could see that right from the outset, seeing other fellas get on makes you hungry as well because you want to do what they are doing, that drives everyone on.
"We had a very good Junior Cup team when I was in third year. I would have started going to the gym before school every day.
“ I would have gone three or four mornings a week to Crunch Fitness, a gym in town, and then walk across to school. That started around then.
"There was a group of four or five of us who did it. That stood to me in the long run.
Weight training wasn't as big back then. There wouldn't have been as big an emphasis on S&C work then. It would have been my own.
“I was quite motivated from a young age. I always have been. I would have gone to the gym on my own at 7am before school, three or four mornings a week.”
Didn't Munster's John Langford live across the road from you at one stage?
DK: "John Langford, the former Wallaby second-row, who played with Munster, lived across the road from me growing up in Ballinacurra.
“I would have been training in the mornings and schools rugby was obviously a huge part of my life back then. I remember John playing for Munster at the time. He was an incredible player. I remember calling over and him giving me some playing gear. Those are the kind of things which last with you.”
You played in the Schools Junior Cup final in 2004?
DK: "In the 2004 Junior Cup final that we lost, it was CBC down in Cork. I remember it being a huge occasion. We could have scored at the end to win it. We had a very good team and did well in the U-14 competition the year before.
“I remember it being a very tight game and being bitterly disappointed afterwards that we didn't win the final. You suffer another loss in a Junior Cup final, it made me hungrier. I trained really hard the year after. I put on a lot of size.”
You became a front row forward when you moved onto playing Senior Cup?
DK: “I was in the gym the whole time and would have been strict on my diet.
“I remember playing well in the Bowen Shield and I got called up to play with the seniors. I was actually playing back row for the year for the Bowen Shield team. I got all up to play front row with the seniors. I ended up playing prop.
“I started Senior Cup for three years. I think the initial year or two when fallas have a year or two on you in terms of age, it is a huge thing. But fellas develop at different rates and different ages.
“It was definitely a step up in terms of physicality. You either step up to that physicality, wanting your place on the team or you don't. You stay playing Bowen Shield. But I wanted to be thrown in there to see how I would get on.”
What do you make of the second-chance system in the Cups at present?
DK: "It is a harsh competition, but that is what made it so exciting. You had one chance and that it is. We lost three quarter-finals in the Senior Cup, so we would have been happy with the new format where you get that second chance today.
“But back then the straight knock-out made it very exciting. It is probably right that fellas get a second chance today. Players put in a huge amount of work and effort. They deserve a second shot.
"In sixth year, we played Crescent Comp. It was 7-6 at one stage, we were up.
“We have away a soft score for them to win it. We were most confident that year. Chris Delooze and Ben Martin were coaching us that year. We had gone really well that year. We went in with big expectation.
“Comp came out and just beat us on the day. You learn from those disappointments and I think they make your hungrier, especially getting them at that young age.
"I went on to play Munster Schools but didn't play for Ireland schools. I played for Munster U-19s and U-20s, but didn't make any Irish under-age teams.
“On the Munster Schools team you had Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Peter O'Mahony, Scott Deasy, Sean Scanlon and a few others.”
How did your schools rugby experience shape your career?
DK: "Those setbacks, particularly that one when I didn't make the Junior Cup team in 2003 when they won it and I was in second year, it made me realise then that I had missed something great there.
“I remember being at the game, how disappointed I was not to be involved. It created a hunger in me to eventually want to be a professional rugby player for both Munster and Ireland. I would have supported Munster and Ireland growing up and to play for both teams was my dream from as long as I can remember.”
What direction did your rugby career take after you finished school?
DK: "After school I went to college and played U-20s with Bohs. We won two All-Ireland U-20 titles, back-to-back. We had a very strong U-20s side
"I was picked up through the Sub-Academy. I did two years in the Sub-Academy, one in the Academy and then I got onto a full contract. In college I did a degree in Business Studies and I am doing a Masters in Project Management from UL.
"My parents, especially my mum Pauline, would have been huge on the benefits of having a third level qualification to fall back on whenever rugby ends.
"She never minded me pursuing the dream of playing rugby, but was always made sure I was getting my degree.
“I ended up getting a 2:1. Looking back it is a blessing to have that qualification.
It enabled me to go on and do this Masters and hopefully I can go on and finish that in 2017.”