Monday 26 September 2016

Player Diary: Denis Hurley - Success at provincial level hinges on keeping our AIL clubs vibrant

Denis Hurley

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

The Irish provinces will find the going tough in Europe this season according to Gordon D'Arcy
The Irish provinces will find the going tough in Europe this season according to Gordon D'Arcy

It's been tough with the injury lately and I am a bit fed up with it at this stage, considering how much of my season has been taken up with these setbacks.

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This particular injury has just been very slow, slower than I would have hoped. I am still nearly on track, maybe just a week or two later. But it's still progressing in the right direction at least and that's the main thing.

I'm finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel with it, and hopefully I will be back on the grass before too long, and crucially get in some game-time before the end of the season.

But 2015-16 is coming to a close in some regards. There are just three games left in the league and if you haven't been playing for the last couple of months it's hard to get into the team.

You might miss out on a lot of the action towards the end as a result of not being able to play earlier in the season.

When you are at the knock-out stages of the season, where we have three games to get ourselves into the position to make the play-offs, it can be tough to find a spot.

Target

The play-offs in the Pro12 are still the target for us, and selection-wise you are going to go with your most used, and fittest guys that you have been using for the last number of games.

Unfortunately that leaves me at the wrong end of the queue.

At the moment I am concentrating on myself, and getting myself right and fit to play. If an opportunity arises, it does but I'm keeping the head down.

I have been watching too much rugby in some regards. I still watch from the sidelines, and I am still supporting the guys. I am hoping that we can push ourselves into a position to qualify for the play-offs with a good few weeks.

Europe is the overall main target, but with the competitive nature of the squad we want to be making the final four. So we will be disappointed if it's anything lower than that.

I went down to the Mardyke to watch UCC last weekend - they were playing their last game of the league. They just made the play-offs by beating Nenagh Ormond at home. It's good to see an old club I played with when I first came to Cork- it's always good to see the younger talent that's available.

UCC has been a breeding ground for young talent over the years for Munster.

Some very good players have been involved there. It's nice to see a different side of the game.

As important as the pro game is, the grassroots is the AIL. Teams like UCC give lots of younger guys opportunities to play at senior level. That's where the Munster Academy have kept a close eye on them over the years.

There's a lot of guys currently in the Munster senior squad who have graduated from playing UCC, into the academy and into the senior ranks. Clubs like that are still very important to the senior game.

It's important that especially the Cork teams are keeping themselves up in the top tiers of the AIL.

With the one centre moving to Limerick, a lot of younger players will be possibly looking to move to Limerick, to stay involved with the Munster academy and senior squad.

From a club point of view then it's just to get that balance right for when guys are available to play AIL games. If the clubs in Cork are performing well, contracted players will be playing with them for the game to continue to develop as it has since it first went professional.

We need to recognise the importance of the AIL, and having as many Munster clubs in the AIL as possible is important. Younger guys need to start getting picked up by the Munster academy, or even guys later in their careers.

That's part of the game that has to be looked after for the next number of years and into the future.

As long as Cork clubs are staying in the top tiers and performing, that's where you would see the knock-on effect at senior level.

With Munster, even at the moment, there is quite a number of home-grown players in the squad, and that's on the back of work being done at AIL level with their clubs.

The two go hand in hand, it will continue like that into the future as long as those players are being looked after, being made available at the right times with the clubs getting all of the help and support from the Munster branch.

But back to Munster Rugby, it's hard to know whether this break came at the right time.

If we had won last weekend, you would look at the break as a good opportunity to give guys with the heavy knocks time to recuperate and ready to hit the road again up to Galway for a big game.

After losing the game you could see the lads were quite keen to get back on the horse as soon as possible. If the game was this weekend players would want to respond from the Leinster loss.

In the wider scheme of things it does give the chance for recovery and you want a fit playing squad available for the clash in Galway. The weekend break gives them this opportunity now.

There are always pros and cons for having the weekend off here and there, but it's getting the squad in the best mind-frame and the best physical shape recovery-wise, to be ready for that game.

All guys will be watching the European games with interest at the weekend, wishing that we were involved in it. But we will take the break. It's up to the coaches, S&Cs and medical staff to get the guys ready for an important game in Galway next weekend.

Irish Independent

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