Player Diary: Tiernan O’Halloran - A few days away from the game has done wonders for everyone
By the time you are reading this week's diary from Connacht, you'll know how our game with the Dragons has gone, but from my point of view, as I put the finishing touches on this, we're still a few hours away from kick-off at Rodney Parade.
It's a strange one for us playing a game of rugby on a Thursday night - I don't think I have ever played a game on a Thursday, apart from a schools game or something years ago. But this week has been all about tailoring our preparation to suit the game.
We got back from our week off on Monday morning and had a really long, hard day's training. On Tuesday, we were back in for some more non-contact sessions and on Wednesday morning we were up early to start our trip to Wales. This week everything has been condensed a bit more but with the bit of preparation we had done before the break we are up to speed.
Monday was certainly a tough reintroduction after the break. First thing, we were straight into a heavy weights session, and after that we went through a mucky, wet units' session out on the pitch. The conditions were shocking, but even speaking to the forwards who had a separate session, the standards of handling and play was really high, which was encouraging.
After a shower and a bite to eat to refuel at lunch, we were back on the field again for the main pitch session of the week. It was a good hit-out, over an hour and a half of full-contact rugby, and at the end we all felt like we'd put in some great work. It's good to reproduce the standards you had before, after a week off.
Before the break I think it's fair to say we were all lifted massively by the win over Scarlets. The Sportsground was rocking and it was one of our best results all season. That 16 weeks of continuous games without a break had turned into a bit of a slog and we probably let our standards slip as the weeks rolled on. But there was a massive effort from everyone involved to finish that run of games on a real high. We targeted the win and we also went after the bonus point, so to get both was great for the spirits.
With most of a week away from the game, I went up to Belfast with Ronan Loughney and Jason Harris Wright. We met up with Mick Kearney and Willie Faloon, two former Connacht lads, and had a good day up there.
The highlight of the trip was the Black Cab Tour that we took through West Belfast. It was really interesting to see all the murals and to learn some more of the history of the area and what went on during the Troubles. It's an eye-opening tour, but I'd definitely recommend it.
After that I went home to Clifden for the weekend and met up with a few friends to watch the Ireland game. It was great to see Whitey and Robbie involved in the action, but it was a pity that Kieran didn't get a run. I was surprised to see Whitey come off so early; personally I thought he had been going really well. And the number of times he popped up at scrum-half was incredible. But he is that kind of guy; if he sees the ball he'll play it rather than wasting an extra body at the ruck.
Robbie was great again I thought. He doesn't shy away from contact and it was great to see him give plenty to Jamie Roberts, who wasn't shy in delivering it from the Welsh side. This will be a big weekend for them all though. Playing France in Paris is always huge so I hope they go well and get the win this time. It's the sort of loose game that would suit Kieran too, so hopefully we see him getting a run on Saturday.
I took it easy though and didn't do anything too mad for the week, especially seeing as we had such a short turnaround for this game. With that in mind I had to give the Super Bowl a miss on Sunday night too - I don't think Pat would have been too happy to see a squad of lads appearing on Monday with black rings under their eyes!
One guy that wasn't there with us on Monday was Jack Carty and we all wish him all the best in his recovery after his surgery. It was a freak injury and very bad luck - in fairness what else would you be doing in a hot country only enjoying the water sports. But it is a bit of a reminder to all of us about how things like that can happen.
Thankfully, a few of the lads were other there with him when it happened, I'm sure it was a scary enough experience but the main thing is that he is going to be okay. Hopefully we'll see him back by the end of the season, but if not we'll welcome him back whenever he is ready.
It's a huge chance for Craig and AJ now to try and find a run of form in the coming months and make the No 10 shirt their own.
They are both really talented playmakers and kickers so I'm sure we are in the best of hands whoever gets the nod.
The one positive note about having a Thursday night game is that you end up with a longer week to prepare for your next game. Considering that game is away to Zebre in Parma and all the travelling that goes with it, it's good to have that bit of time in the bag.
So however we fared against Dragons, we'll be keen to pick up the win in Italy, and we'll be well prepared for the challenge.