Wednesday 28 September 2016

Booster week and time together sets us up for do-or-die showdown

Jack O'Donoghue

Published 15/04/2016 | 02:30

Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell off-loads to team-mate CJ Stander during training on Tuesday. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell off-loads to team-mate CJ Stander during training on Tuesday. Photo: Sportsfile

With no game to keep us busy last weekend, after a heavy week's training, I took the chance to rest up a bit and spend some quality hours on the couch.

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The couple of days was needed to recharge too, because we had a heavy enough week last week. It was more like a week in pre-season - you could call it a booster week. It was a good chance for me to get a few extra gym sessions in and I did three or four in the space of the week, which was a real help to keep my weight up.

On the pitch days we had our usual squad session, but we also had a dirty enough conditioning hit-out at the end of it. That was really tough, but it will stand to us going into this week. Connacht played a tough game in Grenoble and we had a weekend off so we needed to keep our engines ticking over.

The conditioning hits are a mix of games of offside touch with lots of high-intensity running, but in between those games, we also have to do a few sprints and shuttle runs between the 22s. It's pretty unforgiving stuff, but it will stand to us I'm sure in the closing minutes tomorrow, when fatigue can lead to mistakes.

Shuttles

On Thursday, we did the exact same thing: more shuttles and more sessions. We were down a few bodies with the 'A' game going on, but we still had to go through the same work load. Those extra two pitch sessions to prepare for any game are huge, but for a crucial game like this it is a great help. Plus, having all that work done and bagged meant the last few days were all about ironing out the last few creases.

So with the muscles creaking and aching, I spent Saturday and Sunday watching guys in tweed trousers playing some golf. The finish at the Masters was madness, you'd feel for the poor guy, Jordan Spieth, in one way, but you'd have to be delighted for Danny Willett on the other hand too.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry looked to be in for a great weekend early on in the competition but they fell away, but Shane's hole in one on the final day probably made up for it a small bit.

Once we got back together on Monday, the increase in intensity was obvious. We all got together for units sessions in Limerick, where we got most of the backs and forwards split out of the way early on. Then it was all about team play, attack and defence on Tuesday and yesterday. The workload was lightened because of last week, so we were all pretty fresh in body and mind.

For sure this game has been treated like a big Champions Cup game - it'll make or break our season. The Cork lads stayed overnight on Monday and we all trained together for a couple of days in a row which was great. We went out for a meal in groups and we ended up in Texas Steakout where we were treated really well by everyone there.

It was a great night, a beautiful meal was had by all, but it was good to sit down with lads that you mightn't have seen in a while in a relaxed environment.

When you think about it, if someone was injured in Cork, I mightn't have seen them in a couple of months so to sit down together was brilliant. It's like a dry run for what it will be like next season with the high-performance centre in Limerick, when we'll have everyone around.

Not having a game last weekend to get over the loss to Leinster was an irritant really. It was a tough defeat: I felt we played a lot of the rugby in the game; we had the majority of possession; and we really were unlucky in the end not to take a result from the game. Had we won it we'd be sitting pretty now. But now we are still in the dogfight with three games to go. It's do or die this weekend, we really need to front up and go all out for this one in Connacht.

I had a good look at some of their game against Grenoble in the Challenge Cup and we did a bit of analysis on them earlier this week and they scored some great tries. Guys like Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun looked really dangerous so we'll have to perform well in defence to win tomorrow.

Still fresh in the memory is when we lost to them in Thomond Park earlier this season. It was a real tough game and they scored a good try late on from Bundee Aki to win it.

That loss started us on a bad run of five losses, but we are definitely in a better place than we were then. Our attack has come on hugely since then, we are stronger in defence so we all expect a different match.

I didn't play in Galway last year - it's U-19s since I played there I think - so I'm looking forward to getting a run if selected. And it's a real hostile environment now. It's a total sell-out and the Connacht supporters won't exactly welcome us either. They'll be screaming and shouting at us to make it as tough as possible.

Swathe

Still, I'm sure there will be a good swathe of Munster fans up there too - there always is on away days. A lot of them will have had to put their hands in their pockets already this week to renew their season tickets, but as always they'll be there supporting us.

These are the people we play for, the fans that are there in Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park all year round. We haven't given them too much to shout about so far this season, but we still have a chance to finish the campaign on a high, which is the least they deserve.

Irish Independent

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