Saturday 24 March 2018

Jimmy Duffy: Keeping our focus on the next test is our mantra

Connacht head coach Pat Lam with Ronan Loughney during this week’s press conference at the Sportsground
Connacht head coach Pat Lam with Ronan Loughney during this week’s press conference at the Sportsground

Jimmy Duffy

I've been in the role of forwards coach for nearly six months now and I'm really enjoying it. I aid it would probably be the first year before I found my feet but I've settled in really well and I'm really enjoying working with the lads and the rest of the management.

Coming from the academy set-up, there are a lot of differences. In the academy, it's about preparing the individual to work within the team and a lot of the resources go into to trying to develop the person as well as the rugby player.

At professional level, that's still important, but our focus is about preparing the team to perform throughout a long season. But it's fantastic to have the strong relationship between the two set-ups - academy and professional -and that's helping the organisation across the board.

Personally, the work is at a different tempo. You have games back-to-back for 16 consecutive weekends at the moment, which is new territory for me.

So while we have Cardiff Blues today and the players are fully focused on that game, the coaches have already begun work on Newcastle for next week.

I haven't been in that environment before, it's a different challenge. It's fairly full on but you get a good buzz from it, especially when all the hard work is paying off for us on the pitch.


While I had a big smile on my face on Saturday following the win in Thomond Park, I was looking at it with coach's eyes and looking back at the few things that didn't go too well, and where we could improve.

My mind immediately refocused to Cardiff this week. It was a great win, and a really enjoyable one, but we were quick to highlight that it's another four points and we need to ensure we're fully focused for the next game and next job.

Winning is great, but understanding why and how you win is what we focus on, week on week.

It has been a good start to the season. We work hard every week and guys are expecting more of each other. That's probably the change in mind-set over the last few years.

Players trust the systems and there's a belief in the work we've put in the last few years.

Whether you've been here for ten years or you're coming in from the academy, the players understand that they have a job to do and that when their opportunity comes, they have to take it.

I've noticed that there has been a real air of calm around the squad the last few weeks. Everyone is comfortable and understands what we need to do to be successful.

There has been a lot of talk about our young players and it's great to see fellas coming through. That's one of the club's big goals.

But these players are here for a reason and it's because they are good enough. Our expectation is that they can come in and do a job like everyone else and they are doing that.

The main thing is that everyone who is here wants to be here, wants to work hard for each other and perform for this team and for Connacht.

To see the likes of James Connolly and Sean O'Brien coming in last week, it's just brilliant. As well as being talented young players who are committed to the cause, they're smashing young men as well and you can't help but feel proud when fellas like that do so well. They were both exceptional last week in their Pro12 debuts.

Even though we have more injuries this week with Denis Buckley, Eoghan Masterson and Robbie Henshaw all sidelined, the competition within the squad is remarkable. We have guys coming back from injury and we have named another strong side, despite all the changes.

Within 15 minutes of the final whistle, I was speaking to the boys about Cardiff and I know the other management were too. Players were asking me about what we were looking at, which is great as it highlights that this environment is not just management-driven, it's player-driven as well.

Cardiff have always been really tough opposition for Connacht. They've got quality players; they have a strong set-piece, like every side in the league. But for us, it's about focusing on ourselves and improving on our own areas so we can get a good result today, which is crucial.

Irish Independent

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