O'Halloran: Signing on again was toughest call yet
Connacht full-back Tiernan O'Halloran has said his recent decision to extend his stay at the Sportsground was the toughest he has had to make since he started signing contracts as a teenager.
The Clifden native won't be 27 until next month but is already in his ninth season with Connacht, having made his debut against Olympus Madrid in the Challenge Cup in 2009.
His omission from the Irish squad for the November internationals, coupled with interest from elsewhere - with Munster apparently quite keen, cast doubts over his future in the west but just before Christmas, he penned a two-year extension.
"I have been here for nine seasons now but this is home for me. I have grown up my whole life wanting to play for Connacht, I watched Connacht all the way growing up as a child, it is a special place for me, I have got friends here, family here, so it was a tough decision.
"Obviously, you have interest and things like that from other places but the way I look at it is that my goal always was to play for Ireland and I was able to play for Ireland representing Connacht.
"At the end of the day the way I saw it was that if I was able to get into that set-up and play for my country while representing Connacht then there is no reason why I can't keep doing that, because at the end of the day that is down to me as a player and an individual to work on those skills and develop those skills and to put in those performances with my team every weekend and hopefully that will get me back into an international squad."
O'Halloran made his Irish debut in South Africa in 2016 and added three more caps on the tour to the USA and Japan last summer, but he was not included in Joe Schmidt's plans last November.
"I think not being in the November internationals was a big thing as well, it probably played on my mind a bit as well, talk inside your head that maybe you might think this isn't the right place for you but at the end of the day it got me in there in the first place.
"But, yes, it probably was the toughest decision I have made so far in terms of contracts," said O'Halloran, who has chalked up 140 appearances for Connacht.
Meanwhile, wing Cian Kelleher will miss tomorrow's clash against Munster at Thomond Park after getting a knock to the head against Leinster and he is following the return-to-play protocols.
He is Connacht's only new injury concern but there was confirmation yesterday that loosehead prop Denis Buckley has undergone ankle surgery this week on an injury picked up last month against Brive and he will be out until mid-February.
O'Halloran said they know Munster will be fired up but that they will go there with confidence after some good results in recent years against their nearest rivals.
"I have had a few wins against Munster but they are coming off a couple of losses so we are under no illusions going down to Thomond Park, one of the toughest places you can play rugby, a hostile crowd and they will be pumped up for that game."