Friday 22 September 2017

Scarlets are never far from our minds these days as we regroup

Player Diary

Connacht and Scarlets will renew acquaintances when they square off at Parc Y Scarlets on Sunday week (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)
Connacht and Scarlets will renew acquaintances when they square off at Parc Y Scarlets on Sunday week (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)

John Muldoon

The time for relaxing is over now, and the last couple of days have been all about regrouping together as a team and focusing our minds on a trip to face Scarlets next week.

Training this week hasn't been for the faint-hearted, but even just a week away from it all made it feel good to be back at the Sportsground with the boys.

It was a good to recharge and refresh during the week off, but I didn't do an awful lot really, apart from helping out a bit at home on the farm, although the weather wasn't the best for pulling on the wellingtons.

Much like a busman's holiday, there is no escaping rugby, but we had a great evening at Crowley Park on Friday to watch Galwegians beat Buccaneers in the Connacht derby.

I'm a coach there along with Matt Browne and the lads have been doing really well so far this season. With the smallest squad that we have had in years at our disposal, it's crazy to see them build on last year's promotion from Division 2A and then be top of 1B at this stage of the year. You couldn't ask much more from the guys but we have a great group there, and the drive to the top flight is still on.

As a result of my club commitments, I didn't get to see the Wolfhounds game until later, but fair play to the three Connacht guys that got game time down in the new Irish Independent Park.

Recognition

Kieran Marmion has been fantastic for us again this year and is getting the international recognition he deserves - he will shine on that stage. Nathan White is different because he is coming back from a long-term injury and probably would have been capped back in November if it wasn't for that. He is another key man for us.

But I was really happy to see Eoin McKeon getting his chance. He wasn't involved a whole lot with the Wolfhounds in the lead up, but to see him play so well was great. He can go a lot further in the game considering he is still so young and is such a talented rugby player.

I was at a Christening on Saturday, so it was all go for me, but I didn't bother staying up like all those millions to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. We have a few NFL nuts here in Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran, Dan McFarland, Jason Harris-Wright and Sean Henry are massive fans. I would have more of a passing interest.

It is a great sport and is similar to rugby in a lot of ways, but I wasn't rooting for any particular team, although I did record the game and watched it on Monday afternoon.

That was probably the end of my relaxation, because the tough sessions came thick and fast after that. The week was hectic, but thankfully I had done two gym sessions to keep me ticking over so there wasn't that much upheaval. Other guys might have gone on holiday for a few days, but everybody took it easy because they knew it was going to be pretty intensive this week.

We got back early for a couple of serious strength and conditioning work-outs, but as the week went on we worked our way back towards the tactical side of our game.

The mind never wandered far from Scarlets though and we had a bit of a look at them during the week too. They were in LV Cup action last weekend against London Irish and beat them at Parc y Scarlets so their form is pretty good. They ran in three tries during a 27-18 win so they must be taking that competition fairly seriously.

While there was no carrot for us in terms of a game towards the end of this week, we are all looking forward to our trip to Carrick-on-Shannon RFC this morning. It'll be my first time up there and the same for most of the lads too, so the change of scenery will be nice ahead of next weekend's mid-table battle with the Scarlets.

While a lot of rugby fans we be finding a comfortable spot to watch the Ireland v Italy game tomorrow, myself, Mils Muliaina and Jake Heenan are travelling to Cork for the latest Mazda roadshow on Sunday morning. It was a good laugh the last time we did it at the Sportsground and will be another experience for us down there.

Hopefully we'll make it down in time to see the game though - it's always a massive game for Ireland and I think if they are serious about being World Cup contenders come the end of the year, they should get off to a winning start against Italy.

Saying all that, the Italians' tails are always up at the start of the Six Nations - especially on home soil - so it is probably the worst time to play them. But nevertheless, I don't think the guys will have too much trouble over there.

It is a big few weeks for the likes of Robbie Henshaw. I have a feeling if he plays to his potential he will become more of a household name globally before these championships are over.

Personally, I can't wait for the Six Nations to get started. I might be a professional rugby player but it doesn't mean I can't be a massive fan as well.

But back at base it is a massive few weeks for Connacht. The work we put in this week could be the difference between getting across the line in the final minute of a game down the road.

We've worked hard so far this season and hopefully this week will set us up nicely for some tough away trips to come and victories that will be so important towards securing that top six finish.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport