Saturday 26 May 2018

Player Diary - John Muldoon: This is certainly a banana skin if we don't turn up with the right attitude

Not many people knew Shane O'Leary before the last few weeks, but he has been brilliant for us (SPORTSFILE)
Not many people knew Shane O'Leary before the last few weeks, but he has been brilliant for us (SPORTSFILE)

While it was really disappointing to lose to Grenoble in the Challenge Cup quarter-final, in hindsight, the chance to have a couple of days off last weekend has probably set us up well for the next couple of weeks.

Looking at Harlequins against Grenoble, I'd say we would have been pretty tired this week had we reached the semi-final, so maybe it is a blessing in disguise. Don't get me wrong, we really wanted to be there and go another step after that, but competing on two fronts with a small squad is very tough.

What we have now is a squad of fresh lads, all of whom are keyed into to a huge couple of weeks to come and are focused on this vital trip to Italy.

We didn't dwell too long on the Munster game. It was a very good win for us, but at the same time we know we have huge battles ahead. We just want to get that top four wrapped up this week, then look at securing a home semi-final by beating Glasgow the week after next.

It is a very tricky assignment over in Treviso tonight. They are still playing for a Champions Cup place and they will see this as their last big chance of getting a win, being their last home game.


For both teams there is so much up for grabs. It's important that we play the game with a positive attitude like we have been doing all season. If we don't approach this game with the right attitude it is certainly a banana skin.

Of all the teams in the league we have the most bonus points with eight, and it is something we have looked for at every opportunity.

We've tried to run the ball and tried to play the way we want. We really have to respect Treviso, but we will be pushing hard to get the maximum return possible. Every point is huge at this stage of the season.

Looking back, Treviso has always been a very difficult place to go to. Just look at some of the results recently: Glasgow were losing over there until the 50th minute and eventually they pulled away. Last year we only won 9-6 over there, so we know all about the potential pitfalls of that trip.

While there is plenty of positivity around the place, the injuries to Denis Buckley and Bundee Aki are difficult on the lads themselves.

We all saw Bundee's injury against Munster - he was very unfortunate in the way it happened. He is hopeful that he'll be back in time to face Glasgow, but we'll have to wait and see how he progresses over the next week.

Denis' one was a real innocuous incident. We were running trough a fitness game in training, a non-contact drill, when the ball spilled and two lads went for the ball. It was very unfortunate for him and it's touch and go whether he'll make it back before the end of this season.

But he has played a massive role for us already. He'll be back stronger than ever for next season, which is an exciting prospect.

This is an opportunity for lads like Ronan Loughney and JP Cooney, who have been waiting patiently for their chance all year. Like everyone else they have put the work in behind the scenes, and what an exciting time to be coming into the team.

This season we seem to clear the recovery room and then two or three lads replace them. All of a sudden we have all of our out-halves fit again. Not many people knew Shane O'Leary before the last few weeks, but he has been brilliant for us.

Jack Carty came on against Munster for a short run, and AJ MacGinty is back and fit this week as well. And with Craig Ronaldson nearly there too it's funny how things change. All of a sudden we have options again, and having those fit, eager players around really keeps the lads that have been playing on their toes.

After a full day's training on Wednesday we headed up to Dublin, before an extremely early flight over to Italy yesterday morning. We had our captain's run shortly after we arrived to open out the lungs and stretch the legs, and then we went for our usual Italian treat of a nice gelato before an early night.

Being in the fight for league honours is a very different position for us to be in. I reminded a few of the lads in recent weeks that we have been in semi-finals of Europe before and we have been in the hunt for silverware. But there is a big difference between a one-off game and a league campaign that's assessed over 22 games.

To succeed in the Pro12 you have to perform every single week and every day in preparation for that. The best teams are always at the top of the table when it finishes. We know Leinster, Glasgow, Scarlets and Ulster will be thereabouts, and we are still in there too. That's a testament to how well we have performed throughout the year.

It's a great statement of where we have come from. In the past we have been in semi-finals and we had chances to win something, but they were one-off games. This is different, we have played well most weeks.

For players, staff and fans, it's a great feeling to go to the Sportsground knowing that we are in with a shout of winning every week - no matter who we play. We're thriving on that feeling and long may it continue.

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