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Mon, May
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Irish hooker has South Mayo links

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Damien Varley is pictured at Dublin Airport last week as he prepared to depart to join the Ireland squad at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.?
Damien Varley is pictured at Dublin Airport last week as he prepared to depart to join the Ireland squad at the 2011 Rugby
World Cup in New Zealand.


Irish hooker has South Mayo links


Feature
Rob Murphy

THERE ARE certainly worse phone calls to get. Last Wednesday morning Damien Varley was munching away on his corn flakes, possibly wondering what to do with the rest of his day when Declan Kidney called.
Jerry Flannery had picked up a knock at the World Cup and Varley was the obvious man to fill his boots. He didn’t need to be asked twice and, before the corn flakes went soggy, his bags were packed and passport found.
The Munster hooker’s father, James, is a former Garrymore footballer and lined out in red as the club emerged as a force in the 60s.
He hails from the Ballyglass side of the parish which holds hands with the Galway border and he has fond memories of playing club football with Garry’.
James Varley left the village in the mid 70s to join the Gardai in south Clare but his ties to the area are as strong as ever. In fact, in a couple of weeks time, he’ll be part of the 50-year reunion of the 1961 junior team that won a county title. Ten years after that success, James Varley was playing his part in Milltown’s 1971 Galway senior title win having transferred to the club across the border.
“I have great memories playing football for Garrymore and Milltown,” James told The Mayo News last week. “We grew up on the Galway side of the border in the Milltown parish but my neighbour and good friend, Martin Fitzpatrick, was on the Mayo side and we both ended up with Garrymore.
“I’m looking forward to going back for the reunion. Damien would have spent many days back there growing up and it’s a very important place for us.”
Rugby came into the Varley family’s lives after James moved to Clare.
“When I moved to Killaloe I was in my 30s and I had stopped playing football at that stage,” he explained. “I got involved in the local rugby club because at that time a lot of the clubs were recruiting ex-footballers. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about the game; it was more of a social thing. I can honestly say I know a lot more about the game now than I did then.”
Damien picked up the game in St Munchin’s College in Limerick and won a Munster Schools Senior Cup during his time there. His older brother Colin went to Garbally College and played for the Senior Schools Cup winning sides of the 90s. He also went on to play for the Irish Colleges and with distinction for Garryowen.
“There are five in the family and Damien is the youngest,” said James. “The rest of them follow his career keenly. We’re all very proud and delighted. His good fortune is another man’s misfortune, I suppose, and we’re disappointed for Jerry.”
Limerick man Flannery has had his fair share of disappointment and more followed last week after he suffered a calf injury that shattered his World Cup dreams. He played an inspirational role in the background but was set to fly home just as Varley arrived.
According to his father, the call-up didn’t faze the 27 years old. “He’s not the kind of fella who panics.
“He got the news and headed off. He knew he was on standby and there was a chance he’d get the call. He’ll be linking up with the team for the build-up to the Russia game.
“He has been working hard all summer,“ added James. “I think he’s made tremendous progress since his Munchin’s days.
He’s captained the Irish schools, played Irish colleges rugby, and had some great days for Garryowen. We’re looking forward to the World Cup now.”
James is contemplating a possible trip out to New Zealand to see one of the games in the weeks ahead. Damien’s relations in Mayo (including his second cousin, Enda, the Mayo footballer) will be on the edge of their seats if he jogs out in the green of Ireland on the biggest rugby stage of all.

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