'We want to be a scrum with an attack mindset'
The Big Interview: Peter Dooley
It is easy to get lost in conversation with Peter Dooley. About any topic really but on the day after Valentine's Day there is only one topic up for discussion - the plight of Offaly hurling.
Having suffered a 6-23 to 1-12 defeat to Galway last weekend, and at home in Tullamore too, Dooley - a proud Birr hurling man - is in no mood to talk them up but at the same time is confident that the future isn't all that bleak. This is after all a man that the TG4 cameras spotted at a recent Leinster U-21 hurling final featuring Offaly.
"It's tough times at the minute but what can you do? They just have to put the shoulder to the wheel and get on with it because I think the talent is there but it doesn't happen overnight. They'll get there I hope," he says."
Before he gets too down we move matters on to things altogether more oval. After a month away from the Guinness Pro12, Leinster bounced back into action with a good win last weekend.
"The few weeks off were nice but those first few minutes when you're blowing hard you feel every day that you were off and away from HQ!" says Dooley. "But it was good to blow off the cobwebs, and to get a win and a bonus point was very pleasing.
"Treviso are always up for it over there and while we got a great start - it's nearly a hindrance to score that early in a game, we kind of fell asleep after Rory's try - they owned a lot of that first half so there were lots of questions asked of us and eventually we had the answers.
"The second half was better and I think the whole 23 can take huge positives from it as we move towards Edinburgh."
The performance of the Leinster pack and in particular the front-row against Treviso garnered a positive review by scrum coach John Fogarty.
The stats make for pleasant reading. Three scrum penalties won and another scrum won against the head. Not a bad day at the office in particular when three of the six players used are in their early 20s and have only 52 senior appearances between them. Dooley is included in that trio.
"We want to be a scrum with an attack mindset. So every ball that is put into a scrum is one to be gone after whether on our own feed or theirs," he says. "Huge credit to John Fogarty for that but we also drive that as players ourselves. We enjoy that competitive element to the scrum.
"It's not just about us doing our own thing in the scrum. We know that if we can provide a really strong platform we have the quality of backs that can do some real damage. Even winning those penalties. . . it gives everyone a boost and lifts the siege a lot of the time."
Interestingly, last Sunday the scrum was used as a penalty option far more than the kick to touch.
Dooley laughs. And gives all the credit to his captain Richardt Strauss.
"That's the benefit of having a hooker as your captain rather than your full-back!" he says. "But we got our rewards. We felt we had an edge on them and that bonus point try from Adam came about because of those scrum penalties where we managed to create a platform, suck them in and then went wide.
"So I suppose as long as we got that result, Straussy could stand over his calls!"
And yet it wasn't without its challenges, in particular a Treviso sod that looked inviting to the naked eye. Less so to a prop's 16mm studs.
"The only thing I'd say is that it's the same for both teams but yeah it looked great but when you got to run on it, it was heavy enough," says Dooley. "Especially for us front-rows - carrying the extra bit of timber it was tough on the legs."
Well past the half way point in the season it's as good a time as any to get Dooley's own mid-season report. Some good. Some bad. But overall he's happy with where he's at.
"It's been blotchy I suppose. Looking at Jack (McGrath) and Cian (Healy) and how well they have gone, it's hard to have any complaints but by the same token you want to be playing and last season I had that exposure.
"That's the joys of it, I'm still very young for a prop and I feel like I'm learning every day and if I keep getting better my chances will come again."
The next chance for Dooley and the rest of his front-row union is a date with an Edinburgh pack that have flattered to deceive at times this season and at other times have blown the likes of Harlequins and Stade Francais away.
Will the real Edinburgh please stand up.
"If you look at the Pro12 table it doesn't reflect how well they can play," warns Dooley. "The last two rounds against Munster and Ulster they lost but picked up losing bonus points and should have won both games you could argue. But that still goes down as a loss regardless of the performance and how unlucky they were.
"But in the Challenge Cup they have had that bit of extra luck and have been able to get over the line in some really big games and against top teams from the Premiership and the Top14, so we have to prepare for the best that they can deliver and that is a powerful thing.
"They'll have a few Scottish internationals back in full of confidence after beating Ireland and pushing France really close.
"So they'll complement the rest of the lads that have been going well anyway and they'll hope to get a bit more luck against us than they had against the other two Irish teams lately."
Leinster are third in the Guinness Pro12 table, and despite his young age and relative inexperience, the 22-year-old prop with 30 caps to his name knows how crucial a game this is for the team.
"With Munster and Ospreys locking horns this weekend something has to give so for us it's about making sure that we do our bit, keep the pressure on them, try to close the gap," he says.
"But it's definitely getting to that point in the season when you start looking at the table a bit more and the possibilities of results here and there.
"But we're up there and in the mix and we don't plan on leaving that conversation any time soon."