Lads hit Lisbon for R&R but big tests lie ahead
A week off is a great chance to get away from it but I am determined to knuckle down and regain my place
It's weird to be on a week off so early in the season but because of the World Cup our schedule is going to be a lot different to normal this year. Hopefully it's our only full week off until May, so I took full advantage and jetted off with some of the lads to Lisbon, 'the City of Seven Hills'.
It was nice to travel with Ben Te'o who loves history and museums. He even made us go to the aquarium, which turned out to be one of the highlights. He was like Christopher Columbus navigating us around Lisbon to see all its famous landmarks.
It was a good return to the RDS last Saturday against the Cardiff Blues. It was a great atmosphere in the RDS and the crowd really kept the lads going right until the end.
After last week's disappointment against Edinburgh a win was very important for the squad because to go into our week off without a win would have been a huge disappointment.
Meggetland was a tough, physical 80 minutes and it will be a hard place to go for teams this year. It was way below par and Leo and the coaching staff let the squad know that, so we had to bounce back.
With the World Cup and injuries we are down 20 senior players at the moment so it's important for other lads to stand up in this period. There were a number of young players in the team on Saturday and it just shows the bright future for Leinster when you watch the likes of Josh van der Flier. He was a silent assassin, chop-tackling everything in his path, and picked up a fully deserved man of the match award.
It was also incredible to see eight St Michael's lads in the squad (unfortunately it's probably a record!) but that's testament to their rugby programme over the past ten years. The Academy is wedged with 'Swords', as they are affectionately known, and it's great to see some of them getting a run.
For myself it was disappointing to watch from the stands but getting dropped is part and parcel of the game. You have got to stay positive and help the team prepare for the game. To be dropped for someone as nice as Garry Ringrose is tough cause you can't begrudge him! He is a very-down-to-earth young lad with a seriously bright future.
Every cloud has a silver lining, though, as it was also nice to be released back to St Mary's. At the end of the day I just want to play rugby and if that's not in the Leinster 23 it's nice to return 'home' to Templeville Road and play for St Mary's.
It was also a proud day personally as my dad, Declan (not Derek as he has been named in the press a number of times) is president of St Mary's this year, which is a fantastic honour and something I know he has been looking forward to for a while now.
He is a true blue and to be able to help Mary's get his first league win as Pres was very special.
This week in Lisbon was nice and chilled and a good chance to get away and think about the season ahead. For me it's about working as hard as I can in the environment and help the team be the best they can be - whether playing or not.
Obviously my main goal is to get back in the starting 15 and that means training as well as I can and when I get another opportunity in the side making it count.
Sport is mental and anything can happen, you can be dropped one week and a match winning hero the following week it's just about capturing the opportunity when it's presented to you.
The next six weeks will be an exciting time. Who knows what's going to happen but we are going with a great squad and coaching team and anything is possible over the next month or so! It's great to see so many of my team-mates involved and hopefully they all get what they deserve because they have worked incredibly hard over the past few months preparing.
It was good to have them in UCD at different points during pre-season but while the RWC is going on in there is still a job to be done in Leinster and the squad are fully aware that.
But for the next two weekends - come on Ireland!