Thursday 27 July 2017

Longest man hungry ahead of the longest day

Late-night kick-offs nothing new to Ireland’s experienced lock and he is ready to hit the roof

Devin Toner will have to adapt to a different match-day routine for tomorrow’s game. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Devin Toner will have to adapt to a different match-day routine for tomorrow’s game. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

There's a multitude of reasons why the Millennium Stadium roof must not close tomorrow evening but one overrides all considerations.

Have you ever been in the same room as a heaving mass of 80,000 beery-breathed, belching, sweating and flatulating bodies?

That's why Lord Henry never put a ceiling atop Slane when he throws open his gardens for the occasional gig.

Tomorrow's sold-out audience, nearly every last man Jack - and girl Jacqueline - of them, will have spent a fair few hours in giddy pre-match preparation given the 8pm kick-off.

And their fun won't stop once they reach the stadium, where drink and all manner of readily digestible - and equally readily discarded - fast food items, are on sale at every corner flag.

No wonder they call this place Cardiff's biggest nightclub.

Not that the players would, or should, notice. They have their own routine to fulfil.

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From sleep to hydration, nutrition to exercise, every second of their pre-match build-up is calculated, each ounce of matter consumed - and disposed of - is moderated.

All energy must be reined in to be propelled from the first minute of involvement to the last. And each man to their own, as all shapes and sizes and different characters must be accommodated.

In Devin Toner's case, his gargantuan frame - not for nothing did team-mate Iain Henderson label him a "freak" this week - demands constant replenishment.

His menu, it would seem, would amply satisfy the communion celebrations of a small family down the road in his local Moynalvey parish.

Aside from all the time he will spend in bed, it appears that he will occupy all other available minutes with a fork hovering between a plate and his welcoming mouth.

"Breakfast at around 10. Eggs. Toast. Porridge. Bacon. Back to bed. Lunch at 12.30 or 1. Chicken. Rice. Pasta.

"Back to bed. Pre-match meal about 3 or 3.30. The same thing. Chicken. Rice. Pasta. Probably some Bolognese. And then you're done until after the game."

Those 120kg clearly aren't whistled from thin air. Just as well he is not gluten-intolerant or some such.

"I love pasta," he says with superfluous enthusiasm.

Interruption

All of which makes the game itself seem like a rather rude interruption to a day of what would appear to an ordinary mortal as feats of ingestion to rival Mr Creosote himself.

But for Toner, and all colleagues, his preparation is the game. Or, at least, his game is nothing without it.

He will time his resting moments rather than submit to complete trust in his own body clock.

Otherwise, one would fear, particularly given the foregoing consumption, there may be a decent probability he could sleep it out until some time on Sunday afternoon.

Now 30, Toner knows the routine.

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"It's just the usual," he says. "It's all individual. I'm re-watching 'The Sopranos'."

The match day itself is a stretch, though, particularly as the team normally stays within the castle walls and, given its relatively small environs, it is difficult to turn any corner without being assailed by green-clad jollity and japery as a city slowly disrobes itself of every inhibition.

"It's pretty boring," he agrees of the lengthy gap between tomorrow's first waking moment and the opening shrill peep of Wayne Barnes' whistle at 8pm.

"We've had a few of them with Leinster so we're kind of used to them now. Basically, you get up when you want, get breakfast and go back to bed for a while. It's usually a lot of sleeping in and watching iPads and laptops and stuff.

"It's getting up as well, going for a walk and maybe for a coffee. You might go about the place, it's all individual, what you want to do." There will be no training session as such.

Aside from perhaps the excessive eating marathon increasing the likelihood of mistakenly stabbing oneself in the cheek with a fork , it is foolhardy to risk injury just hours before the main event.

However, the forwards will conduct a run-through of their set-piece work with forwards coach Simon Easterby and this area will be a key aspect of tomorrow's game.

"I just get on with it, watch stuff on the iPad and the laptop," says the keen student of aerial combat and the man who mostly swoops to conquer in the skies.

Another reason, perhaps, not to close the roof given the likelihood that the 6' 11" skyscraper might clatter his noggin off the rafters when being hefted heavenwards by one his front-row friends.

Irish Independent

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