Wednesday 23 August 2017

It was tough to let our amazing fans down but we have lots to play for

Player Diary: Jack O’Donoghue

A disappointed CJ Stander and Ian Keatley following last weekend’s semi-final defeat. Photo: Sportsfile
A disappointed CJ Stander and Ian Keatley following last weekend’s semi-final defeat. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack O’Donoghue

Last Saturday was a tough day for all of us as we exited the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage, but after a positive season to date we are still hopeful of ending the campaign on a real high in the Guinness Pro12.

From a personal point of view, it was disappointing not to be involved, but that just shows the strength and depth in the squad. There is a lot of competition for places so you have to take those setbacks on the chin and push on in the next week's training to try and get back into the team.

I was tipped off early on in the week that I'd be 24th man if everyone was fit. They weren't 100pc sure if CJ Stander would be fit, so I still did a lot of the training during the week - it wasn't as if I wasn't involved at all. I had a lot of detail nailed off, so was a strange one.

I felt I was in the mix to play, but then when the team was announced it was a bit of a blow.

It was devastating to miss out, but even then I knew I had a job to do on match-day. I was out on the pitch for warm-up, I had to help the lads prepare and I needed to be ready if called upon.

Involved

I think I did that as best I could, but you want to be involved. Still, you want to see your team-mate fit again, so it's a tough personal test, but I was happy for CJ.

The way we started the game was unbelievable. We went at them from the off and I felt we were a bit unlucky not to come away with a try from that initial foray.

We had them under the pressure, we stuck to our game-plan and we executed it very well. So to come in at half-time 6-3 down was tough, but still not the worst.

We knew it should have been at least the other way around. We played the majority of the rugby in that 40 minutes, and a lack of disciple on our behalf let them in. Owen Farrell is deadly with the boot so we shouldn't have given them those easy kicks.

There is no denying it, Saracens are a class outfit. The way the execute everything is quality. At the end their defence looked somewhat impenetrable, they are so well drilled.

Looking at both teams coming off, you could tell it was an intense, physical encounter. There were a lot of tired bodies. It was one of the toughest games this season.

It has to be acknowledged, the support we got up in the Aviva was incredible. At the end when we were walking around clapping them it was quite emotional. We felt that we had let everyone down a bit, even though the lads had given the game everything.

Right up until the very end the supporters were there for us; sometimes I don't think they get enough praise for their support.

To see them packing out the Aviva… it was unbelievable to sit there and take it in. The amount of red flags, jerseys and shirts was unbelievable. It was notable that Munster supporters gave the Saracens team a good applause at the end too. They could see that we were beaten by the better team on the day, and when that happens you have to give them the credit.

Afterwards, it was a tough dressing-room. For a few of the lads it will be their last European game with the province. Donnacha Ryan is moving on so it was a big deal for him.

But still, if you had told us last season that we'd be back in a Champions Cup semi-final, we'd have bitten your hand off. We've come so far in nine months that it's really exciting.

The future is really bright, with Rassie confirming he is staying. We're back in Europe again next season too, so we'll give it a good lash there.

Before all the mayhem of the Champions Cup, there was the small matter of a B&I Cup final in Irish Independent Park to think of. And seeing the A team and the way they won on Friday was unreal.

During the first half we were really surprised to see them 18-0 down because the lads have been unbelievable all season. It didn't look too good at that stage, but the try before half-time was massive for them and they really kicked on after the restart.

It was such an unbelievably exciting game of rugby to watch. For Alex Wootton's try we were all standing up roaring, and when he stepped the last two defenders there was great excitement in the group.

It was just a huge buzz and a real lift to us all. Considering the work they have put in all season in an effort to break through, it is a real credit to them and they deserve the glory.

Follow

Unfortunately we couldn't follow their lead the following day, but we still have a huge run-in to the season to take care of and we face Treviso, who are coming off a few great wins over Ospreys and Edinburgh.

We need two points for a home semi-final and we have to go out there with attitude of getting the win, and bringing the same intensity to the game as we did last week. We are approaching it looking for a win and maybe a bonus point, that's the way we have to take it on.

After the weekend's exertions, we had Monday off as a collective, but I went in and did a bit myself to try and keep ticking over. When we regrouped on Tuesday, we did a review of the game with a view to previewing the Treviso game. It was immediately clear that all of our focus is now on the Pro12.

We can't be looking back at the Champions Cup and saying 'if only we did this'. We can't change that now and we just have to focus on getting more silverware in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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