Cronin fears damage done to Euro hopes is irreparable as injuries pile up
THE price Leinster paid over the weekend is likely to be quite high. Not only have they lost control of their own destiny in the Heineken Cup, they will have to manage without Richardt Strauss for the remainder of the campaign, and possibly Isa Nacewa and Shane Jennings in the short term.
The early diagnosis on Strauss' injury suffered against Clermont is anterior cruciate ligament damage, which would mean his season is done for him. Nacewa damaged his arm and Jennings his shoulder.
Their losses are going to be enormously difficult to bear. But even more damaging is the loss of control in terms of qualification, something hooker Sean Cronin acknowledged.
"It's going to be very difficult to qualify now," said Cronin. "It's not impossible, we've seen in the past other teams getting through with 20 points, but it's going to be hugely difficult.
"We have to put this (Clermont defeat) behind us now and concentrate on the next few games because the bracket of next European games isn't up for the next few weeks, so we'll reassess and hopefully get our stuff together."
Cronin – who has been linked with a return to Connacht but now looks likely to sign a new contract with Leinster – was introduced to the fray very early on Saturday following Strauss' injury. He came into a scrum that was second best but this, he believes, had a lot to do with how Wayne Barnes refereed the set-piece.
"It was a bit of deja vu from last weekend," Cronin continued. "We thought the gap was a bit too big and we discussed it with the ref before the game and agreed that it works for both teams if you have it as a close gap.
"It didn't really seem to go that way today and obviously if you have a big gap like that and two packs colliding, you're going to get fellas on the ground."
Leinster play Ulster in the Pro12 League at Ravenhill on Friday night, which leaves little enough time for raking over the coals of Saturday's loss.
"Joe (Schmidt) just said it there, it's obviously hugely disappointing but it's the end of the European bracket, we have to keep our heads held high and get together collectively as a group and pick ourselves up from this," Cronin added.
"It's hugely disappointing to lose at home, obviously, but there is another big-game bracket coming up over Christmas and if you feel too sorry for yourself for too long, you might have a run of bad games.
"We have to get on with things, get back to training this week and hopefully pick ourselves up."