Cronin's no 1 also his no 2 Blues goal

Des Berry

FOR hooker Sean Cronin second best has never been good enough. He wants Richardt Strauss's number two jersey at Leinster.

"Any professional worth his salt wants to start. I'm no different. Any chance you get, you have to put your best foot forward when you're given the chance, give them (the coaches) the selection headache and see where you go from there," he said.

The achievement of reaching his first Heineken Cup final was tinged with the "disappointment" and the "relief" from the senior players which seeped through to the squad.

"To really make a mark and improve ourselves as a team, we had to go to France and win. They'd been to Toulouse a couple of years previously (2010) and got beaten fairly convincingly.

"A lot of the lads felt they had a point to prove and that is what they were driving to all week. We had to beat them in their own backyard."

Cronin does give impact off the bench for Strauss. But, he doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as a career replacement. He wants that single digit jersey.

"When I came on, it was pretty frantic. The last 10 minutes defending on the line was crazy at times. It was an incredible atmosphere to play in."

The Limerick man has played 19 times for Leinster this season, nine as a starter, twice in the Heineken Cup. He is closing the gap on the equally admirable Strauss.

Of the three Connacht signings last summer, Cronin has applied heavy pressure to Strauss, while wing Fionn Carr and tight-head prop Jamie Hagan have slipped out of sight.

"It is a competitive squad. But, it is a great place to be. We drive each other on week-in, week-out. That drives you on to be a better player. I am delighted with the move," said Cronin.

"When people ask me -- why did you make the move? -- I just see the opportunity to play in the Heineken Cup final and the Rabo semi-final."

First, he wants soon-to-be-Ireland qualified Strauss. Then, he is going after Ireland's Rory Best.