Tuesday 17 October 2017

We learned so much from Saracens that will help us in the big games

Munster bounced back from defeat to Saracens with victory against Treviso helped by this try from Darren Sweetnam. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster bounced back from defeat to Saracens with victory against Treviso helped by this try from Darren Sweetnam. Photo: Sportsfile

Player Diary: Tommy O’Donnell

I had last week off for some much needed rest - my first week off since November, which is hard to believe. I enjoyed my few days; I got so many jobs done around the place, things you never get to do at your own pace when you're working.

Just not having to worry about being too tired after training when you're at home was one of the highlights of my few days!

Sometimes the travel weeks seem to mash into each other; you are only back from one game, you fit in a bit of training and you're off again. You forget how many miles you rack up in the season.

But after a week's rest you come back in to training and the boys are after winning in Italy and they are all buzzing. We were training on Monday and it was a bit hotter than usual, so you wonder was the week off worth it at all as you struggle to find your feet again, but the muscle memory soon kicked in.

Like most Munster fans I was tuned in to TG4's website to see the live stream of the game in Treviso. It looked like a right tough game for the boys. Treviso were probably expecting to be able to take our scalp - they have being going well in the last few weeks with wins against Ospreys and Edinburgh.

Damage

They were fully expecting to have a go off us. But the lads did quite well. Where we did the damage was the last ten minutes of each half. That broke them down and we got away from there with the points.

We are at opposite ends of the league and realistically our fitness should be better than theirs. We should be able to pull away in the closing stages of a game if it is close.

They had the advantage early on with the bit of heat that we wouldn't be used to, but we managed to pull away.

They are a good side, and they have improved big time of late. They have changed their tactics a bit and they are definitely on the rise.

People have this idea that the Italian teams are weak and might not be the best quality, but one thing they are very good at is the physical side of things.

You have to be prepared to get stuck in against them; it's only when you do that that they can fade away in the latter stages. If they are in touch late on they are a team that can really upset you, they up their pace and like to surprise teams that way. You can't give them a sniff, and the boys didn't.

The injuries that Ronan O'Mahony and Dave O'Callaghan picked up out there marred the win. It's awful for the boys, they have had very good seasons for us.

Ronan is the top try scorer in the Guinness Pro12 and he is a key guy in our team. If you could see how hard he works in training, he is so dedicated. Sometimes he misses out on big games when Zeebs or Earlsey come back in, but he always keeps the head down.

Dave is the same. When he came back from his shoulder problem, he never looked back. Whether it was on the bench, starting or not involved, he would play No 6 or in the second row, he didn't mind.

We're wishing the lads all the best with their rehab.

It's very annoying for two guys to go down like that. They put so much work in and they are consummate professionals, it's just horrible and you don't want to see it.

While we're all delighted to have the home semi wrapped up, we still have the small matter of a derby to play tomorrow. There are bragging rights to be fought for. And considering that the semi-final is still two weeks away, we can concentrate fully on this game. 

Neither defeat to Connacht sat well last season, but the one in Thomond Park was not pleasing for us at all. I wasn't involved at that stage because of my hip injury, but it was still tough to take.

It came at a time when we just weren't able to put performances together. And we met a Connacht team that was firing on all cylinders. The personnel they had and the system they were running just clicked perfectly. Everything they tried came off.

It was tough to take that loss at the time, but then when you see the year they had and how they went on to win the competition, it was a bit more understandable.

Right now we have parked our loss against Saracens, but we have taken some excellent lessons from that game. We had our opportunities, but they are a dogged defence and are well used to the occasion. When chances were presented to them, they took. We'll learn a lot more from that game than we think, it wasn't just a beating.

Ruthless

You probably get away with not being as ruthless in the group stages of Europe and in the Pro12 - you can get away with knocking on the door for a few minutes.

We realise now that you have to be more clinical at that stage of competitions. In a semi-final if you have a set-piece close to the line you have to come away with a penalty, a drop-goal or a try. You have to be efficient, and that's one of the big things we've learned.

Another couple of scores when we were dominant could have been a great help. But the nice thing is that we have another shot at a semi-final in a fortnight's time.

The excitement is certainly building around the place - I've already had people asking me for tickets, so that's going to be crazy. The Munster fans are very quick to put the disappointment of two weeks ago behind them, they are already hopeful of reaching the Pro12 final.

They expect us to get there, so we have to deliver.

Irish Independent

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