MAL CONTENT IN THE ROLE OF UNDERSTUDY; FUTURE BRIGHT FOR BLUES YOUNG GUN.
EOIN O'MALLEY is making the most of playing catch-up as he follows in the footsteps of Brian O'Driscoll.
Last year proved a total wipeout for centre O'Malley, 21, after a long-standing hip injury was finally diagnosed and required two operations.
It was not the start to his senior Leinster career that the former Ireland under-19 World Cup starlet had expected but the Donnybrook native is determined to make up for lost time.
"I had a bit of a strange hip problem that was just hard to diagnose," said O'Malley.
"Once it was diagnosed that was the end of it. I had a couple of operations. More so it was just trying to find the problem than the actual injury itself, it was a bit of a strange one.
"It was basically a bone was sticking out into my hip joint so as it was moving it was wearing away, which was causing its own problems.
"I suppose it was probably a bit more complicated than that, after dealing with it for a year. But that was the only injury."
It was the last thing that O'Malley needed as he was being fast-tracked for success - ready to follow in the footsteps of fellow Leinster young guns Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney.
He was regarded as one of the best young players in the country - and was Ireland's outstanding performer in the under-19 World Cup in 2007 - before injury struck.
But he has taken some inspiration from the likes of Kevin McLaughlin, who has fought back from his own serious injury problems to become a regular starter for Leinster and is now also an Ireland international.
"Guys like Kevin and even other guys who made the push, like Sexto (Jonathan Sexton), give me huge encouragement," O'Malley said.
"I suppose the injury was its own worry and once you've deal with that it is great - and then the rugby itself is different again."
This season has been about getting back into his stride and the former Belvedere College pupil. But O'Malley will look for more game time at the RDS on Saturday when the province take on Connacht in the Magners League.
He has built an effective centre partnership with in-form Fergus McFadden with the Ireland players away on Six Nations duty, prominently featuring in four League games since December as well as in the British & Irish Cup.
"It's been a good couple of weeks," he said. "This time of the year is quite a big opportunity for young guys like me.
"It's great to be going okay with them I suppose and getting the results is the main thing I suppose.
"It's a big task to get into the team. When you do get in there are so many senior lads around, it makes the whole thing easier."
Yet he knows that it's only a matter of time when O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy return.
"Brian and Darce were two huge ones for me growing up. You can't really think about filling Brian O'Driscoll's jersey - he has done so much for Leinster and for Ireland and the Lions.
"You can't really be thinking about that kind of stuff. The main thing is, when you are picked, trying to do your best.
"You just got to make sure the results are the right side of things for the squad."
KEY IMAN Gordon D'Arcy MASSIVE INFLUENCE Eoin O'Malley says he has massive shoes to fill when he steps into the void for Leinster