Kiran McDonald proves his Glasgow Warriors credentials

24-year-old second-row has had to do it the hard way but has the raw attributes to become a key player for his hometown club

Kiran McDonald has grabbed his chance during this World Cup window. Image: © Craig Watson -
Kiran McDonald has grabbed his chance during this World Cup window. Image: © Craig Watson -

AT the age of 24, Kiran McDonald is at the upper end of the age-bracket reserved for emerging players. His route into the pro game has been slightly more circuitous than most of his contemporaries in the Glasgow Warriors squad. But time is still on his side, and after a couple of impressive performances against the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues during the last fortnight, it feels like he is now ready to establish himself as a genuine frontline player at the club.

“I played school rugby for a while – just at my own school [Boclair Academy in Bearsden] which wasn’t a proper rugby school, as such – and I then joined the Glasgow Hawks Under-18s team, before playing a season for Glasgow Accies [in 2013-14], which was literally across the fence,” he explains.

“I was recruited to the [SRU] academy based in Glasgow but was unfortunate with a couple of injuries and didn’t get re-contracted, so I made the move down south [in 2016-17], where I played for Hull [in the third tier of English club rugby]. A couple of months later, I got a call from my agent and I was lucky enough to sign my first professional deal here at Glasgow.”

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McDonald is now in his third year as a full-time pro at the club, but a combination of ferocious competition for places in the second-row and untimely injuries means he has so far struggled to really establish himself.

“I had a run in the team early last season but then unfortunately picked up a hand injury,” he reflects. “At a club like Glasgow, the calibre of the players is so high – especially in the second-row – and when I came back from injury a lot of guys were on form, which unfortunately meant I wasn’t able to put a marker down again to get back into the team.”

The World Cup opened the window of opportunity for him at the start of this season and he has made the most of it, with those impressive back-to-back performance in the last fortnight earning fulsome praise from both the Warriors coaching staff and the team’s supporters.

Making his mark

After missing the first outing of campaign away to the Cheetahs, McDonald played the fill 80-minutes in round two, and his 12 carries was more than any other member of the Warriors squad while his 11 carries was equalled only by openside flanker Callum Gibbins.

Then, in round three, his 14 carries put everybody apart from Gibbins in the shade, while his 11 tackles was equalled only by centre Nick Grigg. He received a standing ovation from the Scotstoun faithful when he was replaced by Tim Swinson in the 72nd minute, by which point Warriors were well on their way to a maiden win of the season, thanks in no small to McDonald’s contribution.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to come off and the crowd are right there in front of you waiting for you,” he smiled, when reflecting on that moment afterwards.

“You don’t really think about it until afterwards when you’re walking back inside and maybe doing some analysis. There’s always things to improve on and fix, but it was certainly a really good feeling for me personally to play like that, put in a shift, and to get that reception from the fans at the end.”

He knows that the return or Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings from international duty during the next few weeks means that he is going to have a huge fight on his hands in order to continue commanding regular game time. However, having watched the latter of those two players go from struggling to get game-time at Warriors to internationalist inside the space of six months, he feels encouraged to believe that his destiny is in his own hands.

“Young guys don’t get forgotten about at this club,” says McDonald. “If you’re training well and performing well, then the coaches will look at you more seriously every week.

“Scotty is a role model to me. I’ve known him for a fair few years now. If I can get into the same position as him in that short space of time, then that would be amazing.”

Keeping an eye on the prize

McDonald is pushing on 6ft 8ins tall, with a rangy and athletic build, so the raw material is certainly there for him to follow Cummings into the international arena, but he knows that his target for the time being must be to continue establishing himself at Glasgow.

“It’s been good to get a run of games under my belt and we got a win last time out, so we’ve got a nice bit of momentum heading into this weekend. For me, personally, it’s just about keeping my momentum going and, hopefully, getting another start.

“The Dragons are a tough outfit. They always bring a lot of line speed and they’re really physical around the contact area and lineout. We need to have a quality set-piece and hold on to the ball.”

“It wasn’t ideal to start the season with a couple of defeats, although there were still some good aspects within those games. It was great to fix certain things and bounce back with a win last time and now we need to carry that on.”

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. Could not agree more a player who quietly goee about his business winning line out ball,tackles and carries.
    Last year he was unlucky to pick up the hand injury.
    A shrouvdpiece of business by Glasgow would be to exstend his contract and allow him to progress.

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