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Sean up for test in west


Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

IT IS a time of 'resolutions' in this season of goodwill. For Sean Cronin, his only intention is on the here and now.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the Limerick man when he and his team-mates arrive in Galway tomorrow evening, a city where he was based for what he describes as three happy years.

But he will put sentiment to one side once more as Leinster aim to build on last weekend's victory over Ulster.

Refreshed, revitalised and ready to return, the in-form Leinster hooker is excited about returning to the fray this week for a trip West to a city he knows all too well.

"I couldn't speak highly enough about Connacht, what the club stands for and for the people who are involved there," the 27-year-old revealed on the eve of tomorrow's derby.

"Going back to play Connacht is always a special fixture and playing there for three seasons was an important part of my development as a player. When we played them earlier in the season in the RDS we narrowly came out on the right side of a victory and were probably lucky to do so.

"They have improved in recent weeks and we know that we're in for one hell of a battle again this weekend. It will be a very proud moment for me to return there on Saturday."

Cronin watched with interest his former side's seismic victory in Toulouse last month, a performance which he believes is a real signal of the kind of threat that they can pose to any opponents.

"Everyone knows how strong Connacht can be on any given day and they have put in a series of strong performances against Leinster in recent times.

"There is no doubt that their win over in Toulouse was their biggest ever win – and it might well go down as one of the biggest victories in the history of European rugby. As an Irishman you want to see all of the provinces putting in big performances in Europe and it's very hard to win in France, so they deserve a lot of credit. And they have turned a corner in recent weeks with a win at home to the Dragons and a big effort down in Thomond Park last weekend.

"So there's no danger of us not preparing accordingly for another big battle. Matt (O'Connor) has us well prepped and he has put a lot of faith in me over the last few months, which I hope I am repaying in a small way.

"We have worked hard in training this week because we know that we weren't as clinical as we could have been against Ulster so for those who were involved then – and for those coming back after some time off over the holidays – that's a big target for us."

As a block of games goes, Cronin believes that January could be decisive for the province on several fronts. But to achieve the targeted victories, he stresses that the process must begin on Saturday and the back-to-back Heineken Cup ties will then look after themselves.

"We're coming off a massive interpro' derby last weekend and we managed to get the win.

"From Monday morning we were focused solely on Connacht and another big game. So we're very much process driven in that regard.

"There has been no talk of Castres Olympique or the Ospreys. We know that January is a make-or-break month for a lot of teams across the various leagues, and we're no different. But we're in a decent place in the PRO12 and in Europe and by the end of the month we want to be in a stronger place ahead of the start of the Six Nations.

"Everyone is focused on Connacht. We know that a win in the Sportsground could enable us to sneak a place or two in the league table and that's a strong enough incentive for us at this point.

"It has been an extremely competitive league this year. Munster have been very consistent and we know how strong Ulster are. Having come so close to winning the PRO12 last season, they'll be determined to go one step further this year. The Ospreys are always a big threat, while you can't discount either of the Scottish sides.

"It's very congested up the top of the table just now and it's quite similar to the Premiership football over in England at present, where any one of five or six clubs could be in the mix for the title."

New Year's Eve came and went with a simple night off, as he says, " ... with the feet up watching the darts from Ally Pally!"

It's light years away from the season of parties and indulgence and an indicator of the kind of willing sacrifice sportspeople make at this time of year. Not that you'll ever hear Cronin complain.

His one pledge is to try to limit his mistakes and to continue learning. It's a simple resolution but one which says an awful lot.