Monday 5 December 2016

Jack O'Donoghue Player Diary: Cardiff defeat was a difficult way to finish a fortnight to remember

Jack O'Donoghue

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

Jack O’Donoghue speaks with reporters at training in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue speaks with reporters at training in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

It has been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, and I have been busier than ever after a few sessions in the Ireland camp and last week's game against Cardiff.

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While the game in Wales didn't go as planned, linking up with the Ireland senior squad for the first time was a big personal achievement.

The way it worked out was that I got released back to Munster midway through the week when the team was selected, so you then had to switch focus from one team to another, from one book of calls to another, and get your mind set for game-time with the province. I'm so used to the Munster set-up so it wasn't too bad, but going in the opposite direction is a challenge.

In the Arms Park we started very well with some real positive play. We had good go-forward ball from our centres and then our forwards came around the corner really well. We turned that into the ideal start with a penalty and try for an 8-0 lead.

I think it's fair to ask if we took the foot off the pedal a bit at that point after we had taken the lead. We allowed Cardiff to get back in the game and they built on our mistakes.

Empty-handed

They took full advantage of those opportunities and in the end that was the difference between us leaving empty-handed, rather than getting at least a losing bonus point from a game we could, and should, have won.

It was a really frustrating second half in particular. Looking back at where their last try came from, it was me that took their man out in the air and a penalty was awarded.

They kicked to the corner, went for the maul and they ended up scoring out wide off the back of that. When you look back on things like that, those are the things that haunt you.

After that error I did my very best to try and make up for the mistake and getting the try at the very end was a positive, but it came too late.

We were chasing the game at that stage, trying to play from our own try-line in an effort to go the length of the pitch.

And in fairness to Cardiff they defended really well, they forced a penalty and Rhys Patchell kicked the three points like he did all day long. It was tough to miss out on at least a bonus point and hopefully we won't pay for missing that one point down the line. It means we have a huge few weeks ahead of us, we need to start with a good win against Zebre tonight, if we are to make the play-offs and clinch a top six place at the same time.

This is a good Zebre side who will have their Italian internationals back as well. We had a real tough, physical game with them out there a few weeks back so it's going to be a matter of meeting that challenge head on.

Everyone one of us needs to front up, play with real grit and determination, and be dogged in everything we do. We need good, direct go-forward ball against them to win this one.

While that result was an awful return for us, the previous ten or 12 days were huge for me. After the Dragons game I was having breakfast with my brother and my girlfriend and next thing my phone rang.

It was a strange number calling, so I wasn't in a rush to answer it. Then the caller texted me, saying it was Joe Schmidt and he wanted to talk to me when I was free.

My mind started racing at that point, I wondered what it could be and when I called him back I got what I had hoped for when he said he wanted me to link up with the squad.

It was quite nerve-racking at the start but the lads were great, they welcomed me in to the squad, eased me in. It was a great camp to be in and a brilliant environment to learn in.

I was delighted to get the call and it being my first involvement at senior level for Ireland, the whole experience meant a lot. It was a huge positive for me to be there.

Overall, the training was really intense, so quick. Everything was done at a high pace.

If someone scored a try in the corner off a set move, there was no hanging around admiring it - it was straight back to halfway to run another one.

But at the end of the day to get called in again I need to be able to perform for Munster on a consistent basis. I need to be starting regularly and that has to be my focus. I'll knuckle down now, work on my game and try and improve on the few things that Joe has suggested to me.

I think the last week there were ten Munster players up there. It's a positive for us that we're pushing players in there, but we have to focus on the province from here on in. We need to push on now into the play-offs.

Tonight is massive for us and the fact that the game is in Thomond Park again is great. Last time out there we had a good bonus-point win over Dragons and winning in the manner we did was the perfect night for us.

But today we have to focus on Zebre, winning the game and taking a minimum of four points from the night. If more comes our way en route to that win, then great. But the win is the most important thing here.

We had great support from the fans in Thomond Park all season and we feel that we really need to step it up for them as much as for ourselves.

People have been with us every step of the way, home and away, and we need to give them something to celebrate in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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