Friday 23 June 2017

Great win at Arms Park sends boys off on a high

Conor Oliver, right, celebrates after scoring a try during the Pro12 clash with the Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Oliver, right, celebrates after scoring a try during the Pro12 clash with the Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile

Niall O'Donovan

To get the win last weekend was a great finish to the last five weeks. It certainly wasn't the best performance, far from it in dreadful conditions, but it was hugely important for this squad's confidence in getting points on the road again.

It was another gritty performance in fighting back from ten points down and fighting until the very end. Coping with the early knock to Ian Keatley as well, there was a lot to handle in tough conditions, in a difficult place like the Arms Park. We're lucky we have those guys that can slot in and out of positions and that just shows the depth across the squad. We were forced to make a few last-minute changes and rotations so to handle that disruption is also another huge positive.

I think everyone stepped up to the mark and all knew their individual roles well and looked after one another in making sure the four points were secured. The drop goal is something that's been pulled out of the bag a few times this season and Rory slotted probably one of the dirtiest ones ever last Saturday, but who said points need to be pretty, and it was a great score at a crucial time.

At this time of year we're calling on guys and younger players who don't necessarily play first team rugby week in and week out so for them to come through this block with four out of five wins, and three of them on the road, is testament to the hard work going on at training and behind the scenes. Being in one place together is so much easier to manage with players able to slot in and slot out.

ACADEMY The academy representation is coming up trumps at this level with Conor Oliver scoring for the second week in a row, Dan Goggin and Brian Scott both involved, and then of course Fineen Wycherley making his Munster senior debut. Not a bad start for a 19-year-old from Bantry and he's had a great few weeks with the Ireland U-20s also so he's gaining a huge amount of experience at the moment.

We got the usual charter out of Cardiff after the match and did the double hop home, dropping the squad between Shannon and Cork. A number of players were back in the airport the next day as flights and trips were booked for a few days' rest.

This week isn't necessarily a full down week for everyone as we're still competing in the British and Irish Cup with the quarter-final stage against Ulster 'A' this Sunday at home in Cork.

The High Performance Centre was a bit busier as the week went on with the Munster 'A' squad coming in to train, and the rehabbing players already in each day following their programmes. I know there are lads who have come through recent injury spells that will want to get some game-time this weekend and they'll want to make an impression with every opportunity they get in putting pressure on the coaches come selection time. As a squad we want to advance in all of the tournaments and that starts this Sunday, although we know Ulster 'A' will be coming down looking to put a stop to any of our plans so we just need to stick to what we've been doing well this season and front up for the 80 minutes.

Of course before then all eyes will be on the Principality Stadium tonight and we'll be hoping Ireland can follow their recent form in getting another win in the Six Nations. It's going to be a huge occasion and it's one of the best venues and atmospheres to play in so the 1-23 will need to give it everything if they want to turn over a very proud Welsh side at home. It's such a difficult place to go and it's produced some contests over the years so no doubt this occasion will be just as special - and tough.

We had a good run in Wales ourselves this season, completing a clean sweep against the Welsh sides in Wales with the win in Cardiff and it's something I don't believe we've done before and is very difficult to achieve. But as we know these results are great for building momentum in looking to climb up the table but when it comes to the business end of the season we can't slip up and have to make sure we're in the right position in the table and are still competing come knockout rugby time. That's the aim for everyone and with so much still to be played we can't lose sight of that.

In saying that, it's good to have two free weekends to recharge the batteries and step back for a few days, because when the next block starts we want to be competing all the way until the very end.

Irish Independent

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