WHEN Darren O’Shea was coming through the ranks at Munster, Donncha O’Callaghan was considered a club legend and a national hero.
He had won league titles, two Heineken Cups, a Grand Slam with Ireland and had been on two British & Irish Lions tours, while O’Shea was simply in awe of him.
But fast forward 12 months and the two giant locks find themselves on the same squad sheet fighting it out for a starting position.
O’Callaghan, who has won 94 caps for his country, maybe one of Worcester Warriors’ ‘big name’ signings.
But O’Shea is one of Dean Ryan’s most promising players having played a key part in their push for promotion last season.
And speaking to The Observer, the 22-year-old said he was relishing the chance to go up against his ‘hero’ O’Callaghan as well as new signings Darren Barry and Tevita Cavubati.
“I would love to push on this year, but it will be tough as we have strengthened up in the second row,” O’Shea said.
“When I was back in Munster I trained with Donncha and he was a great fella to be around.
“Even when I was growing up, I was looking up to him as he was playing for Ireland and Munster. He was the best Irish lock around and still is.
“He definitely was a hero, so I was delighted when he joined and I have got to see it now as healthy competition.”
O’Shea admitted he is no long the ‘quiet man’ of the squad and said Sixways was beginning to feel like home as he gears up for his second season at Worcester.
“This year has been a lot more comfortable coming in because I did not know anybody in the squad when I arrived and I was very quiet,” he said.
“But throughout last year we really bonded as teammates and I have made some friends for life here.
“So coming in this year to train with the lads again made everything a lot easier.”
And having made 22 appearances last season O’Shea said he had also set himself higher goals for this season.
“When I first signed, I signed for the version and thought of it more as long term thing,” he added.
“I aimed to get ten games and I exceeded that which was amazing.
“But I am not really looking at games this year as I am just looking to become a permanent fixture in the squad and try to make an impact in the Premiership, so hopefully I can achieve those goals.”
Here are three other players to keep an eye out for….
Jean Baptiste Bruzulier
The 23-year-old played a small part in the Championship despite captaining Worcester Cavaliers superbly and leading Warriors to glory in the British & Irish Cup.
But when Charlie Mulchrone and Jonny Arr were ruled out of the play off final, Bruzulier was called upon and he did not disappoint.
The scrum half now finds himself on loan at Clermont Auvergne and Dean Ryan is confident he will be fighting for a starting shirt once he returns.
Niall Annett will be seen as Agustin Creevy’s successor having been his understudy last season, but Ryan clearly rates Sowrey highly.
The Warriors boss could have found a replacement for the Argentina skipper to compete with Annett and Dan George for the number two jersey.
But the 24-year-old hooker appears to have made an impression and he will be keen to push his rivals hard.
Standing at 6ft 1in and weighing in at 118kg, the 21-year-old prop, who can play at tighthead and loosehead, has the stature to cause opponents problems in the scrum.
Since arrived from Mogliano, Appiah, who has featured for Italy u20s, has played just over half an hour in pre-season.
But Dean Ryan has described him as having ‘enormous potential’, so he will no doubt get his opportunities to showcase his talent this campaign.