Wednesday 28 September 2016

Kelleher determined to build on dream try

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30

Cian Kelleher finishes off his stunning try against Zebre Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Kelleher finishes off his stunning try against Zebre Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Kelleher in action against Zebre Photo: Sportsfile

It's a month since Cian Kelleher scored his maiden try in a Leinster shirt and even though there have been other games and plenty of training since, as you'd expect, the memory is still pretty fresh for the 21-year-old.

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Inside his own half, he collected a Zebre clearance and the rest as they say. . .

"I just remember fielding an up and under and even though I was brought to ground initially I managed to get up and just kept going," he recalls.

"It opened up nicely for me but the work had been done at that stage. We had built up a good lead and the pack in particular had worked very hard to break them down so there were tired legs out there and I was just in the right place at the right time."

The Lansdowne man downplays how good a finish it was and how much traffic he had to get through; his introduction with 20 minutes or so to go brought some of the brightest moments for the Leinster supporters who had braved the bitterly cold Ballsbridge air.

The try wasn't his only involvement of note on a night where Leinster ran in eight tries.

On 60 minutes and only on the pitch a few moments he supported full-back Zane Kirchner and it was Kelleher's break down the left off the South African's shoulder that put Jordi Murphy away.

Surface

"Those evenings are the ones you dream about. It was bitterly cold in the RDS but there was no rain or wind so it was a dry enough ball and it was as good a surface as you'll get at that time of the year," he says.

"We've had a few bad days recently with the wind and the rain but that evening was one of the better ones.

"I love playing with Zane and with Isa (Nacewa). They both have a calming influence on you just by seeing how they go about their business, and they are always talking to you, always encouraging and helping you to manage your way through the game."

Leinster supporters got a first glimpse of the elusive Kelleher during the last game of last season, away to Edinburgh in Murrayfield when he came on as a sub but this year they have seen far more, including his impressive 20-minute cameo against Zebre.

For him, though, it's been a season of mixed news not least because of a few niggles that have hampered his progress.

"Yeah I've been relatively happy; I have had opportunities and little goals that I set myself like starting a first game, I have achieved.

"But you get greedy! You want more. And I don't think that's a bad thing. You want to push yourself more and drive it on more. You don't want to rest on your laurels.

"So when all that is going on to pick up niggles here and there is frustrating. Especially during a World Cup season where there will be opportunities during that initial phase and again during the Six Nations.

"The important thing for me is that I am now - touch wood - feeling good and looking forward to helping Leo (Cullen) out and Hugh Hogan and the Leinster A's out as much as I can between now and the end of the season."

Six games he has now played for the senior team this season and while the Pro12 run-in is occupying his thoughts presently and a game against the Ospreys isn't far away, there is also a home quarter-final in the British & Irish Cup next Saturday against London Welsh.

"We've had a very enjoyable season to date with the Leinster A's. Hugh Hogan and Shaun Berne, our coaches, have us well drilled and we know at this stage what they want from us and how they want us to play and we just went out in those games and gave it our best."

Their best was an unbeaten run through Pool One but Kelleher had to bide his time for an opportunity and for the niggles to heal.

In the third round game against Ealing Trailfinders he started at full-back and scored a try in a 45-13 win in Donnybrook. He would score another try in the final pool game, again at home in Donnybrook, against Rotherham Titans in a 43-24 win to set up the last-eight clash next Saturday.

"You don't have to look too far for inspiration and why we focus so much on this competition. Jordi Murphy captained a B&I Cup winning side only a few seasons ago," says Kelleher.

"Look at Josh van der Flier who was playing in the B&I Cup last season. They are both Irish internationals now. It really is a fantastic testing ground for us.

"It's not quite at Pro12 level but you are testing yourself against very different opposition to what you would face in the AIL. Seasoned professionals in Wales and England and in London Welsh next weekend we'll be facing a team that were in the English Premiership only last season.

"But it's a game that we are looking forward to. We love playing in Donnybrook, especially on a surface like that when at this time of the year you could be dealing with any sort of weather and conditions.

Incentive

"And the incentive is there for us to perform. If we win, it would be a home semi-final the week after.

"We won't be getting carried away but at the same time, we can't wait to get going."

That being said, Kelleher readily admits that not much study, if any, has been done on London Welsh. At a crucial time of the year for Leinster all of the focus is on Ospreys.

"We have been very narrow-minded in our focus this season in particular during these blocks," he says. "Last year this Six Nations block cost us in the race for that top four so we have been very focused on the next game, the next job that's in front of us.

"This week that is Ospreys, who have been playing really well lately and were unlucky against Connacht last weekend. For me I just want to put my hand up and train hard and see where that takes me.

"Next week we can focus on London Welsh but it's an exciting time of the year and it's great to be fighting hard on both fronts for the end-of-season run-in."

Irish Independent

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