Monday 26 February 2018

John Muldoon: It's great to see Eoghan Masterson back - I see him as a future captain

Player Diary

Eoghan Masterson Picture: Sportsfile
Eoghan Masterson Picture: Sportsfile

John Muldoon

It was nice to have a week off after a tough month with Connacht, and the team are raring to go with a trip to Glasgow Warriors coming up in two weeks.

It was important to take some time away from the Sportsground and I feel refreshed - other than a bit of physio, I kept out of there for the week.

I got three hit-outs in the gym, and I got out for a run as well. You need to give your body a bit of a break but, at the same time, keep doing something. I spent a bit of time in the gym in the Salthill Hotel. It was a good week overall.

And now it's an exciting couple of days ahead with tonight's game between Ireland and Wales in Cardiff, and Scotland trying to upset England at Twickenham tomorrow.

As a rugby fan you want to see England coming to Dublin next weekend aiming for the world record number of consecutive wins - they are looking to equal that this week - which makes for a big side-plot.

The fact that they haven't played New Zealand in those 18 games slightly detracts from the achievement but it would be great to see them looking for the record in Dublin on Paddy's weekend. You couldn't write it and, as a fan, it's what you look forward to.

It would be a fantastic occasion at the Aviva Stadium but Ireland and England both need to do the business this weekend, and it won't be easy for either of them.

Beast

There is pressure on some of them to step up their game, especially with Lions selection around the corner.

Wales at home are a different beast so it will be very difficult. Playing the game under lights on a Friday night in Cardiff can only add to the atmosphere for what will be a massive occasion.

Wales will come out all guns blazing but, hopefully, Ireland will have enough in the locker. They need all the momentum they can get going into next weekend's game, where England might only need a losing bonus point to secure the championship.

While Wales have had a tough two weeks, it's great to see Scotland going so well, having defeated both Ireland and Wales now. With Glasgow Warriors going so well in the Pro12 and in Europe over the last few years, that's finally starting to transfer over to the national side.

The Warriors are our next opponents in the Pro12 and it was vital to finish off the last block of games with a win, but we could have done with a closed roof over us last Friday against Zebre!

They were probably the worst conditions I have ever played in. There have been games where the wind has been worse, and maybe the rain too, but the underfoot conditions and state of the pitch were awful to deal with.

The weather at the start of the day wasn't that bad but then it began to rain very heavily and there was a lot of surface water on the pitch. The ground staff usually have the Sportsground looking very well, and they did a great job to even make it playable.

To get five points under those circumstances was very pleasing. The main word used in the dressing-room afterwards was 'professional'. It really was a professional performance, especially given the fact that we made 12 changes to the team, and Danie Poolman pulled out late on, but it still didn't affect us.

We had a strong bench, and the lads did very well to keep things going and to get 10 points out of those games against the two Italian teams is the perfect result.

It was also great to see Eoghan Masterson back on the pitch after such a tough year on the sidelines. He picked up a horrific injury at Zebre last season and you don't see too many lads come back playing after a setback like that, but he acquitted himself very well in tough conditions.

He is a very good lad to have back in the squad. I see him as a future captain of Connacht, with his character and the way he is off the pitch. It was fantastic to see him back on it - a lot of people wouldn't have had the mental and physical capacity to stick with it.

It just goes to show what you can achieve with hard work and determination. Tristan Sharp from the strength and conditioning department and all of the medical staff did a remarkable job too and they deserve great credit.

As a team we have gone through a tough period where the results have been hit and miss. Our depth has been tested with a lot of guys out, but we have players coming back now and there is a bit more energy about the place.

There is a lot more competition in the different positions, with more experience in the ranks again, and training during the week is much better. There is a good buzz around the place again and we are going to need a good finish to the season.

Unfortunately, we have given ourselves a tough task if we want to get automatic qualification for the Champions Cup next season, and really that's out of our hands at this point.

We lost a couple of games at the start of the season, which puts you on the back foot. But if we stay winning and put a bit of pressure on the teams above us, then hopefully we can get a few results going our way.

Getting 18 points out of a possible 20 for our last four games was a good achievement and if we can keep pushing on and getting results then we won't be far off.

Irish Independent

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