IT was the kind of Munster debut Luke O’Dea could only have dreamed of.
Twenty one-year-old O’Dea marked his first start for the province’ senior side by bagging one of the home side’s four tries in an impressive bonus point victory.
O’Dea has come a long way since he joined Shannon RFC as a wide-eyed 12-year-old almost a decade ago.
But the dynamic Ennis star, who attended renowned hurling nursery St Flannan’s College, has been making waves for Shannon RFC in the All-Ireland League in recent seasons and with Munster’s ‘A’ side.
The exciting broken field runner and classy finisher made a seamless transition to the RaboDirect PRO12 in the youthful home side’s impressive success.
O’Dea repaid Munster coach McGahan’s faith in him when he pounced on Ian Keatley’s neatly-placed grubber kick in the 74th minute to touch down under the West Stand. The cheer could have been heard as far as Coonagh and well out the road to Ennis.
Munster forwards coach, Anthony Foley believes there is plenty more to come from O’Dea, who is probably even more effective at full-back as on the wing.
Anthony Foley said: “For a guy like Luke (O’Dea) getting his first start, it is obviously a big day for him and his family. To score a try on his debut is obviously great for him.
“I don’t think we saw the best of him out there. He has got amazing feet. Give him more time on the ball and he can really do damage. Probably his best position is full-back. He is a genuine talent.
“I have known the young guys who featured tonight for three to four years now. I had them at U-20 level and they came through the age set up together. There is an amazing amount of talent there and at times we overlook it.
Munster’s stand-in captain Mick O’Driscoll was even more glowing in his tribute to young Shannon star O’Dea.
Mick O’Driscoll said: “Luke O’Dea, I thought, was unbelievable on his first start. He looks like a special player.”
Meanwhile, Shannon RFC President Eddie Price said Luke O’Dea’s selection to play for Munster was a huge honour.
Eddie Price said: “This is a huge honour for Luke and we are delighted that his talent and work ethic has been rewarded. It’s also a great honour for his family and indeed the club. From a young 12-year-old Luke has always shown the potential and his performances for us this season a have been outstanding. Hopefully this will be the start of a glittering career with Munster.”