Tuesday 24 April 2018

Ready to bring up my century after putting injury woes behind me

Ultan Dillane in action against the All Blacks
Ultan Dillane in action against the All Blacks

Denis Buckley

It has been a long time coming, but I'm finally back fit and ready to go again. I didn't make it back in time for the Dragons match, but that means I will hopefully get to make my 100th appearance for Connacht next time out against Cardiff at the Sportsground.

That's another few weeks away yet - we don't play them until Round 9 commences on November 25 - and in the meantime, I just hope to stay fit and increase my chances of getting back out there on the pitch that night.

I remember my first game for Connacht: it was way back on September 3, 2011 and I only came on as a replacement for Ronan Loughney late on, in an 11-9 victory over Treviso at Stadio di Monigo. But even at that stage it was such a great sense of achievement as I had been working for years in the academy to get there.

My first start didn't come until a good bit later that season when we played Edinburgh and beat them 26-13 at the Sportsground, on February 24, 2012.

And from that to go on and make 100 caps is something I am really proud of. At that time I really didn't think it was possible for me. I am delighted to have that landmark ahead and hopefully I can kick on now and win a few more caps.

From a team perspective it obviously wasn't a good result for us at Rodney Parade against Dragons last weekend. We made a lot of errors, especially at the start and we just didn't play our game at all.


If you are making that many unforced errors and coughing up possession that many times, you are always going to find it difficult to win these big Pro12 games.

Especially with the brand of rugby that we play - our game-plan depends on being able to put over 15 phases together all the time, and having absolute certainty that we can keep the ball and move it around.

Unfortunately, in Wales last weekend, that wasn't the case for us. Our set-piece probably wasn't as good as it has been this season. We are a good set-piece team, we take a lot of pride in it and it wasn't at its best in that game, in terms of both the line-out and scrum.

Fair play to the guys, they came back into it in the second half. If you are going to make that many mistakes it's very hard to pull it back. And maybe we had the chance at the end to rob the win.

But it wasn't our best game of rugby, we have to take the learnings from it and move on. But as long as we learn from it, and we don't let it happen again then we can look at it as a learning, rather than a failure. We need to put to bed some of those mistakes and move on.

When it comes to the Cardiff game we will hopefully be over the hump, following two defeats in a row, and we will need to be.

Cardiff are going pretty well, they had a flying start to the season and they were top of the Pro12 for a while. They got some big wins and even though they have had a couple of losses recently, they are a top team in the league now, and they have improved a lot since last year in terms of their playing style, and also in terms of who they have recruited over the summer.

They have a strong squad and they are playing some good rugby.

But we are back at home in front of our fans at the Sportsground. We are determined to put in a solid performance and being at home, we will likely get an extra few percent from the fans.

We love playing in front of the Clan, they are fantastic and hopefully we can get a win for them. While we know how much we want the win; we also know it's not going to be easy so we need to be fully focused.

For me it has been very frustrating watching from the side-lines, especially the games against Toulouse and Ulster. They are the big matches against some of the best players in the world and you want to be playing in them.

It's great to have got over that injury now, and hopefully that's the end of it for a while. It's brilliant to be back training normally as well. It can be frustrating when you are just going in to get treatment one-on-one from the physios, and you are not taking part in all the sessions or ball-handling skills.

You are very limited in the gym, on top of not being out there with the lads. It can be pretty frustrating missing out, and I am just happy to be back now, and hopefully I can get a run of games.

It has been a great few days for Irish rugby and it showed what teams can do when everything goes right for them and they just hit form. Everyone was saying before the game that the All Blacks were unbeatable and for Ireland to put 40 points on them, it was incredible really.

I am delighted for the Connacht lads who were involved over there: Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane. It's great to see them work so hard and then get a reward at the end of it.

Also the other lads who have been in squads recently, the likes of Quinn Roux, Tiernan O'Halloran and Niyi Adeolokun. It's good for them as well, to see what they can achieve. It's great for everyone in all of the provinces really, just to be around when Ireland finally beat the All Blacks.

It's inspiring for all Irish-qualified players when you see the team achieving something like that. It spurs you on a bit more and you want to be a part of it. You want to get capped and be a part of those famous victories.

Irish Independent

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