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Reddan enjoys buzz at Leinster


Leinster's Eoin Reddan during squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Eoin Reddan during squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Eoin Reddan during squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

THE close and competitive nature of interprovincial derbies stirs the senses more than most games.

Eoin Reddan, who has travelled the road less travelled from Limerick to Galway and then to Dublin (via London), knows this more than most.

When he speaks of Connacht, the club who he says were responsible for shaping his career at an early age, he does so with the highest of regard. The lifestyle and the rugby out West suited him and he insists that he learned more out of that stay than he may have done anywhere else.

"And the reason behind that", he explains on the eve of tomorrow night's Halloween showdown in the RDS, "is because they were the first team to give me a run of matches. They gave me a shot when nobody else would and I owe them a huge amount."

It is something that he has never forgotten. While it is not unusual for past players to reflect favourably on past clubs, it is clear the regard Reddan has for Connacht. And having watched their progress from afar this season, he believes that they are evolving positively under Pat Lam.

"Well, if you look at the last two weekends from the cold light of day, you could argue that they had a more impressive few games than we have had. Saracens have been setting the Premiership alight this year yet when they went down to the Sportsground they were very lucky to escape with a win.

"With the bounce of a ball they could have gotten the result which they deserved. Then last weekend they were impressive and professional in beating Zebre. So they will take confidence from that win on the road and it makes for a tough job for us this week.

"At Connacht, Eric Elwood laid down some excellent foundations over the last few years and Pat Lam seems to have continued that good work and is adding his own stamp to things. And they're certainly improving. No doubt they'll be looking to stick it to us this weekend!

"I would be in regular enough contact with the likes of Fionn Carr and Paulie O'D (O'Donohoe), while Michael Swift would have been involved with them back when I played there. Johnny O'Connor, who has subsequently retired from the game, is a really good friend of mine too.

"As a club they have strengthened right around the park over the last few months and they have lots of good young players coming through. And as an Irishman, and an ex-Connacht player, I'm delighted to see them do well. Hopefully they will continue that ... after Saturday night!"

On a broader scale, Reddan's point is an interesting one. There is a perception, or a misconception as the 32-year-old might put it, that each of the provinces are cultivating their own path.

"I suppose things kicked off in the opening round (of the Heineken Cup) when Edinburgh shook things up by beating Munster.

"And then with Cardiff defeating a heavily-fancied Toulon, that really got people talking. And it's great that the competition can continue to surprise people.

"I remember sitting in a press conference earlier this season and a UK journalist had a pop at Scottish rugby and asked whether they merited inclusion in the Heineken Cup. Well, you only need to look at how well Glasgow have performed for the last number of years and again in the PRO12 this year. And Edinburgh beating a great side like Munster tells you that they're a team with a lot of talent.

"It's extremely healthy to see not just the PRO12 sides do well in Europe last weekend across the board, but for the four Irish provinces to win gives everyone involved in the sport here a timely injection."

From a Leinster perspective, the last two weekends brought about welcome results but not 100pc accurate performances, which is something the squad have worked hard to address in the early part of the week.

"There are always lessons to be learned and we fought hard to win away to the Ospreys and then last weekend against Castres," the Ireland scrum-half reflected.

"We showed a fair amount of character and we know that we have gotten off to a reasonable start in Europe, so we can park that for a few weeks. But before the November series we have two massively important games. Playing in front of a big RDS crowd is always special and to have the chance to do so twice in-a-row is great for the players. There has been a real buzz around training this week.

"Playing in a league requires a different skill set and mentality and obviously the challenge is to build up over a longer period of time than say the Heineken Cup, where you have six weekends which you approach with a cup final mentality.

"There are important points up for grabs this week and next away in Newport and then there will be new challenges to face for those who are going to be involved with Ireland. But first and foremost is Connacht, and we're not looking any further past them."

Fresh challenges, but similar goals.