IT IS no distance at all from Anniesland to Scotstoun, and over the years a succession of young players have made that short trip as they graduated from Glasgow Hawks to Glasgow Warriors. Kiran McDonald, on the other hand, took a far longer route from the club to the pro team – via Hull.
Still, although it was a highly unusual and very roundabout way of ending up in the Warriors squad, it has been a successful one so far for the 23-year-old, who made his competitive debut for Dave Rennie’s side in Sunday’s PRO14 win over the Ospreys. He moved to Humberside in 2016, after a couple of seasons in the Hawks squad, and having fallen down the pecking order due in part to some injuries. But once he got a regular run of games for Hull in England’s National Three North, it was not long before he began to attract attention back home, and in April he agreed a contract with the Warriors.
The standard in the fifth tier of English rugby is well below McDonald’s capabilities, but the physical challenge nonetheless stood him in good stead for life with the Warriors, where he hopes to remain in contention for a second-row place in the coming months. “It’s not a pro league, but it’s for players going up and down the system,” he explained.
“I did work part-time as well as playing. I trained Tuesday and Thursday then played Friday or Saturday. Down there it was physical, big guys coming from the championship. It went both ways – guys coming down and others going up.
“It was quite a crazy couple of months. I was on my way down to England to widen my rugby horizons. I didn’t have that chance in Glasgow – the competition here is fierce. I went down to Hull, and after a couple of weeks we started talking to Glasgow and things went from there.”
McDonald’s last match for Hull was a 26-10 win over Kendal at the end of April. He signed a one-year contract with Glasgow shortly thereafter, and now hopes to be given the opportunity over the rest of this season to prove himself worthy of a longer deal. He actually first played for the Warriors in a pre-season friendly against Canada A in 2016, but the Ospreys match marked the beginning – and a very successful one too – of what he hopes is a far longer association with the club
“I took it in my stride and just tried to enjoy it,” McDonald said of the 47-6 victory at the Liberty Stadium. “Didn’t chase the game, and once the five-, ten-minute mark was gone I tried to enjoy it as best as could.
“The speed more than anything was the big thing. It is very fast. Have to get your lungs after about 30 seconds. Once you get through that first wind you get a second wind and you get going. There are a lot of stronger players who are fitter and faster and more physical.”
With five debutants in the squad, it would have been understandable if the Warriors had looked a bit disjointed, and they were widely expected to have a tough match against the Ospreys. Instead, they looked superior organisationally, and fitter than the Welsh side, and in the end comfortably claimed their ninth PRO14 win from nine outings.
“The focus last week was about continuing the winning streak and playing the best rugby we possibly can” McDonald added. “The younger boys coming through had to keep the standards high for when players come back from international duty. We’re competing for spaces and we have to keep the challenge steep to get into the team. Hopefully I can make my mark over the next few weeks.”