Friday 9 December 2016

Player diary - Tiernan O’Halloran: I'm sickened to miss this derby duel when the stakes are so high

Tiernan O’Halloran

Published 15/04/2016 | 02:30

Connacht’s John Muldoon, centre, during training at the Sportsground Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht’s John Muldoon, centre, during training at the Sportsground Photo: Sportsfile

My recent injury meant I didn't get out to Grenoble for the game, but watching at home was just as tough as it was for the lads out there, I'm sure. After such an exciting game, it's a shame that we didn't take the win.

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It is tough to let a home semi-final slip; it's hard to take especially losing by one point like that, but we still have so much to play for in the weeks to come.

My parents had booked to go to France assuming I'd be playing, but I was delighted that they still went out anyway. They said it was a great trip, the atmosphere was unbelievable, and everyone was in good spirits.

So other than the final result it was a trip to remember for the hundreds of Connacht supporters.

The problem when you're not involved in a big game like that is that you have to keep yourself busy all day, but you don't get the release of going out to play the game. When Saturday came I was really nervous watching the clock.

I ended up watching it at home on my own; I prefer to watch games like that. If you were going down to the pub or watch it with a group of lads, it is very hard to concentrate and read the game fully.

I think I was more nervous than the lads that were playing. You wish you could be on the pitch for the tough moments.

Incredible

There was some incredible rugby played - especially by our back three. I texted my dad during the game and said: 'I wonder will I get back in at all this year the way Matt Healy is playing at full-back?'

It is brilliant to see Matt take those opportunities in attacking spaces; it shows just how good he is. We all know it, but for him to light up a big game like that must be a huge boost.

First thing Monday morning when lads came in there was still a bit of disappointment hanging around. They just got back on Sunday, so it was understandable that they wouldn't be their usual selves, but as soon as the match review was done and parked, it was back to the usual atmosphere.

By Tuesday morning all focus was on Munster and this huge game that we face tomorrow.

For sure there were learnings to be taken from Grenoble. We could have finished off a game when we were 19-3 up and then 29-16. Realistically you have to be clinical with chances like that, but we have learned from it and banked that knowledge.

While I miss out again this weekend because of injury, it's important to be upbeat: you cannot drag lads down by feeling sorry for yourself.

It was a strange thing, the way I picked the injury up. When AJ MacGinty got injured against Leinster we knew he'd be out for a couple of weeks, so a few of us stepped up our goalkicking practice.

When I was in school and for Ireland U-18s I did a good bit of goalkicking, and I had already returned to doing a bit at training, so when Pat and Andre asked me how I was fixed I was happy to give it a try. But in practice, during my very last kick I felt something tear in my quad.

It was one of those injuries that as soon as it happened I knew something was wrong. I went in and spoke to the physio and got booked in for a scan. The worry in those moments is: 'that's me done for the season'. I'd torn my quad before so I knew I faced a few weeks out, but once I got the results back I was told I'd be facing about a month out. That wasn't too promising, they said it was a significant injury, but it was a clean tear, which means it was easier to repair.

That was two weeks ago now and to date my rehab has gone really well. Initially it looked as if my regular season might be over, but now I'm hopeful of being ready to play for the Treviso game.

Recovery from those injuries can be tough: there is a lot of icing, healthy eating, no alcohol, and a lot of rest is needed. I'm a bit ahead of schedule as a result of the hard work, so fingers crossed I'll be able to play my part in the next few weeks.

But still it is tough not to be involved in tomorrow's game. It's a massive one for both teams. You'd feel like strapping up the leg and trying to get through it: it's that sort of game. But hopefully we'll have a lot more rugby to play in the coming weeks.

Having played against Leinster two weeks ago, the atmosphere will be similar if not better. Munster need a win to nail down their place in the top six and with all of their internationals back and fit, they will be a really dangerous team.

But we back ourselves at home, where we have only lost once this season. It's a huge occasion for us and we are so eager to get back to winning ways.

The fact that we go into the game knowing that we are sure of a top six finish if we win is huge. That was our No 1 target at the start of the season and nailing that tomorrow would be massive.

If we clinch that, we can then go on and prepare to win our last two games to wrap up a top four spot. But the chance to earn our own Champions Cup qualification is a big deal for us.

The stakes are high, it will be an intense, physical battle, so hopefully we can come out on top.

Irish Independent

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