Hungry O'Halloran enjoying 'massive learning experience'
Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30
He had his Connacht celebrations cut short and had to postpone his holidays in Mauritius but Tiernan O'Halloran is not complaining after winning his first Ireland cap at Ellis Park last weekend.
Yet, for all he is living the dream, it doesn't sound like it has been all fun and games for the Clifden native, who is undergoing a crash course in playing for Ireland under the tutelage of Joe Schmidt.
Called up as a late replacement for Rob Kearney, the full-back came off the bench for the final minutes of Saturday's defeat to South Africa and could be in line for his first start in the series decider in Port Elizabeth.
Although he spent time in Ireland camp during Declan Kidney's tenure, the 25-year-old had never worked with Schmidt before this summer tour of South Africa.
So, he has been working hard to catch up with his squad mates.
"I had been up there a good few years ago in 2011 or '12, but that was a completely different squad," he said. "So it was pretty intense in those two days at the Aviva.
"It was a lot of information, I had to spend a lot of time at the computers trying to learn it all.
"I did get things wrong and you do get in trouble for it. It's an intense environment, but I like to put myself in that situation and it will make me a better player.
"So, just trying to learn from it all. Even now, still two and a half weeks into camp I'm still trying to learn. It's exciting, but you're nervous all the time as well; you're always on edge.
"But I'm hoping it will make me a better player."
It probably didn't help that he arrived into camp after a couple of days of celebration after Connacht's title win.
"It didn't help too much, to be honest," he admitted with a smile. "Joe said I was on stand-by, so I was trying my best to look after myself but it was such a special occasion for Connacht I had to enjoy myself .
"There were a few lads still on the go during the week when I got the call, but I had already taken a few days off so I wasn't too bad and then when you're in an environment like this you have to be ready.
"I had a few tough days in Dublin, but that got it out of the system and then I was ready to go."
O'Halloran was understandably disappointed not to get into the initial squad, but Kearney's training-ground injury opened a door.
"There was a mix of emotions, I was very nervous and had a lot to learn. I had a lot of plays, it was my first time to be in camp with Joe and I had to learn everything from scratch," he said.
"It wasn't just learning full-back, it was the wing and a couple of other positions so it was a massive learning experience.
"It was exciting as well, for my family and friends too it was a big week after the final and getting called in. It was a lot of emotion, but I had to channel it and put it in the right places.
"We had our two-day camp in Dublin, then we had a couple of days off and after those couple of days off I had to channel myself and get myself ready for a big three weeks over here."
And O'Halloran believes that the experience of being in South Africa, working at this intensity and winning his first cap will only improve him.
"Apart from all the detail that you learn coming in, it's that intensity in everything you do," he said when asked what he's learned. "Not just on the pitch, but in meetings you have to really, really concentrate on everything that's going on because there is a lot of information.
"The training has been at such a high level of intensity that sometimes at your province it's not at that level.
"Every skill, every pass has to be right on the money and; being on pitch-side at the weekend and seeing some of the hits, the intensity of the game . . . I was only in it for three minutes but those three minutes you're still blowing.
"It's that step further than provincial level, that's the biggest difference I've felt so far.
"So I'll work hard this week and maybe get another chance at the weekend and take it from there."
On Saturday, he is likely to become more accustomed to it before he and his girlfriend Dana jet off to Mauritius for their holiday.
"It's only sinking in, the whole thing," he said. "Firstly Connacht and then getting called in, the way the whole season just kept on building and then when I thought it was over I got called up.
"It's a massive learning experience and hopefully after it's done I'll reflect on the season and build towards next year."