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Cronin: I can make a vital contribution

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Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

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Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

HE is the hooker with the flashing feet that many a centre envies, and that has not always been a good thing for him.

Seán Cronin has embarrassed more than one quick Leinster back in speed drills. There is definitely something of Schalk Brits about the way he tears it up in the wide channels on game day.

Perhaps, he sees elements of his game in those of the Saracen from South Africa, who was so elusive and defence splitting against Clermont-Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-final.

"Yeah, yeah he seemed to pop up everywhere," said Cronin, as he prepared for Leinster's crucial PRO12 League encounter away to Ulster on Friday night.

"They seem to use him a bit like that. He had a fantastic all round game. In fairness, he had huge tackle stats and carry stats. He's a hugely influential player for them," said the Limerick man.

Similarly, it is Cronin's electric pace out wide that has often been seen as a hindrance to his work closer to the action. After all, you can't be in two places at once.

Blessed

It was often said of Keith Wood that his primary duties came second to those magical moments. For sure, there was something to that argument for a British & Irish Lion blessed with remarkable skills.

"It helps if your coach gives you a bit of freedom to be able to do that and not be telling you a, b and c. It's very helpful if the coach is willing to give you that sort of breathing space," added Cronin.

The early season heart surgery to another South African, Richardt Strauss, allowed Cronin to flex his muscles as Leinster's first choice for the first time in his three seasons there.

"With Richardt you know (out), I got that bit more game time. A lot of players will always say that it's hugely beneficial if you get a run of games," he said.

"I don't want to dwell on it too much because past performances are quickly forgotten about if you are not bringing it in week-in, week-out in big games. You don't want to be resting too much on your laurels because you can go backwards pretty quick."

The simple statistic that Cronin pounded out five tries in each of his first two seasons and just two this term is an indication of his increased dedication to the traditional basics of his position.

But when the time comes to pin back his ears, like he did against Treviso, coach Matt O'Connor's open-minded approach allows him to exploit his God given gifts.

"Sometimes, he's shouting at me to get in a bit closer to the breakdown. But he's happy enough if it works out. You know yourself, you are happy if it works out, you get given out to if it doesn't."

At the heart of Cronin's move from Connacht to Leinster in the summer of 2011 was the ambition to win trophies and to make a valuable contribution to Ireland.

By that time, Strauss had spent two years in transition from flanker to hooker, from South Africa to Ireland, as a project player and first choice for the 2011 Heineken Cup final against Northampton Saints.

SIMILARITIES

Cronin had worked for three years at Munster for two caps, three years at Connacht for 55 caps. He felt he was ready for something more. And Strauss stood in his path.

"We've a lot of similarities and we've a lot of differences, strengths and weaknesses," said Cronin.

"I presume they want to use us in different ways, but, again, Richardt has fantastic attributes as well that the team can use. I think if the coaches can get a way for the both of us to bring something to the table, it would be beneficial for the squad as a whole."

Where Cronin has often had to have patience in behind Strauss at Leinster, he has come to terms too with the impact or importance he could bring from the bench.

"There is always a slight bit of frustration if you're not picked for the big games, but you have got to look at the bigger picture and what you can bring to the squad coming off the bench.

"Sometimes, you have to put your personal ambitions to the side and think about what you can do for the squad. That is what you have to do for those big games."

The same has often been the case for Ireland, where he has earned 35 caps, an astonishing 29 of them served from the wood. The impression is of a change-up rather than more of the same.

"Being involved in Ireland, you have a lot of chances to prepare for being on the bench, so it has been easier for me to try and get my focus right for that aspect of the game.

"It is something I have had a chance to develop over time, so it doesn't bother me that much."


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