Thursday 8 December 2016

Player diary - Luke McGrath: Accountability can help drive us forward

There were harsh words after Ulster defeat but Treviso clash is a chance to achieve our objectives for the league

Luke McGrath

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Luke McGrath has been balancing his studies at UCD with his rugby schedule at Leinster Photo: Sportsfile
Luke McGrath has been balancing his studies at UCD with his rugby schedule at Leinster Photo: Sportsfile
Luke McGrath is tackled by Ulster’s Andrew Trimble during last Saturday’s game Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Dave Kearney with supporters, from left, James Doyle, Rory and Jack Byrne during Monday’s open session at the RDS Photo: Sportsfile

The day after a defeat like that against Ulster is a strange day. On the one hand all you want is to go out and address what went wrong, back on the bike. But you have to balance that with a need for recovery.

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Depending on the minutes played and how the body is, some lads will have to check in with the medical team and S&C team to start rehabbing an injury or it could mean a trip to the Sports Surgery Clinic for a scan for those with more serious issues. Thankfully for me it meant the couch and a dip in the Forty Foot!

By Monday the analysts have cut up the match day footage for us to go through with the coaches. This is done in units, so backs would analyse away from forwards and visa versa. Once that is done there is a team meeting where Leo brings us all together and we address the issues as a collective before the focus switches to the next game against Treviso.

It's not easy. I suppose in layman's terms it's a full-on review of your performance every week, in front of your peers and it's all out there. There is no hiding place. But that's the way it should be. To perform to the best of your ability you need that drive and you need that level of accountability.

Were there harsh words? Yes. But we wouldn't expect it to be any different. The most important element for us though is taking those lessons and getting it right for tomorrow.

Monday wasn't all doom and gloom though. Season Ticket Holders that have already renewed their tickets for next season were invited along to watch one of our training sessions in the RDS. The atmosphere was brilliant as hundreds of kids and parents made good use of the Bank Holiday Monday.

It wasn't easy for them though. As we drove down from UCD hail stones were lashing down and it didn't look great but no sooner had they appeared than they were gone again and thankfully the session was played out under a blue sky. There is of course the signing session afterwards but it is more like a photo shoot these days with most in attendance wanting a selfie on their smart phones! But it's all good fun and we're very grateful for their support.

Off the field this week, I've been focused on my studies in UCD where I am in the final stages of a Commerce Degree. I have two exams next week and one the week after. I am also doing a project with two other Leinster lads, Bryan and Ed Byrne. There was a bit of late night scrambling to get that in on time last week but we got there!

It's not easy balancing a college degree with the rugby schedule but I have to give huge credit to both UCD and Leinster Rugby for the way this is managed as most of us get to do our degrees over a number of years. So in my case I am only finishing the last few modules now even though those that I would have started college with on the first day would have finished a few years ago. We all have to pass the same exams but I suppose we are able to space them out more to try to manage the additional workload.

So hopefully I will be done with UCD in a few weeks. Is it a place I'd like to go back to? Definitely but I think for now I am happy to leave the books behind and just concentrate on rugby. The older lads and also the advisers in IRUPA are always talking about life after rugby so I'll certainly re-evaluate again in a few years.

At the start of the season we would have set ourselves targets for the Guinness PRO12 and, having missed out on the top four last season, this season that was a minimum requirement - but really it was about the top two and a home semi-final. We are within 80 minutes of securing that objective and I think we can do it if we go about our business the right way.

To secure a home semi-final would be a brilliant way of thanking all the fans that have travelled with us on the road, to give them that huge occasion at home in the RDS. If we do achieve that objective, very quickly a new goal will be set: Edinburgh on the 28th May.

But first we need a huge performance and the four points. See you tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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