One of the men who helped shape Rory Best’s career reckons the Ireland skipper is a born leader.
Banbridge RFC’s George MacCormac coached Best at mini-rugby level and says the Poyntzpass man was already showing signs of being captain material, even at such a tender age.
“He was certainly a big part of our team and even then he led from the front,” George told the LEADER.
“He was a hooker for our teams back then so he must have been that natural build. Mini-rugby has moved on now and we tend to move players around and play them in different positions so they become more rounded.
“But Rory was always a hooker and his brother Simon always played prop, where he went on to play for Ireland.
“Rory, Simon and their brother Mark were all very impressive at young ages.”
Despite playing a part in the development of Best’s career, George says he didn’t foresee such a rise to stardom for the local man.
“It’s hard to really know how good a young player is going to be at that stage,” said the coach. “He has a lot of growing to do and everyone develops in different ways so it’s hard to really pinpoint anyone and say they are going to go on and play for Ulster or Ireland.
“It’s hard to know if they’re even going to stay in the game. I have coached good players who don’t continue in the game but then about 90% of our current first team squad came through our mini-rugby set-up. Coaching the future Ireland captain is not something you ever think about happening when you’re working with the young lads.”
George has been coaching mini-rugby at the club for over 40 years now - an invaluable level of commitment to the club. And that trait is exactly the same one he praises in the new Ireland captain.
“It’s absolutely wonderful for Rory,” he said. “It’s a result of sheer dedication from Rory. He’s such a well-rounded guy and I’m absolutely delighted for him.
“He still comes down to watch his son Ben on the weekends that he’s at home and the young lads love him being around on. Our guys have sort of got used to it now but a few weeks ago he was watching the games in Lurgan and all the opposition players were over getting autographs and photos.”
George is still hard at work with the club’s emerging talents, admitting he ‘wouldn’t know what else to do with a Saturday morning.’
Now, who will be next to emerge from under his guidance and receive an Ireland call-up?