Sunday 25 March 2018

The injury was a bit of a setback but another win would heal a lot

We needed our young guys like Caolin Blade to make a big impact last weekend and they were outstanding. Photo: Sportsfile
We needed our young guys like Caolin Blade to make a big impact last weekend and they were outstanding. Photo: Sportsfile

Tiernan O’Halloran

Although I missed out last weekend through injury, it was great to watch the boys perform so well and pick up our third win of the Challenge Cup this season. It was a real solid performance I thought, and hopefully we can do a repeat job in their place on Sunday.

I picked up a small dead leg against Cardiff but I aggravated it in the captain's run late last week. The big worry for everyone was that it was another serious injury for the squad so I got plenty of questions at the game the last day but thankfully it isn't too bad and I should be back next week.

I was practising my kicking and I felt my thigh tighten up a small bit again, but I was still keen to play. The management gave me every chance to prove my fitness - I could have played if it was the last game of the season I'm sure - but to be safe they made a late call to pull me out of the game.

With so many bodies missing from training it made for a difficult week's preparation last week, but still it was a very positive build-up. After losing in Cardiff, Pat said a few words to us and he told us he backed everyone in the squad, that he knew everyone would have to play their part in the coming weeks - even the young academy guys.

The way things are at the minute anyone could get game time, so it's up to us senior guys to make sure everyone is confident and well-schooled on what's needed from a game-plan point of view.


In fairness, everyone trained really well all week, despite some shocking weather conditions. And even though we had so many injuries the management felt we needed a good pitch session. If you go into a game against a Premiership side without a good hit-out you are asking for trouble.

Last weekend was my first time this year not involved in the match-day squad at home, so it was a bit strange. All the non-playing staff watched the game from behind the glass in the enclosed stand. It is better for us because there is a better view of the whole pitch from the higher viewpoint. We're all expected to analyse the game and give our feedback in the match review so you really have to be tuned in.

It was tight there for a while, but I thought Jack Carty kicked his goals really well and I felt we defended impressively too, so it was an all-round good outing.

Newcastle selected a few younger players for the game, but I remember well myself what it's like when you get your chance. When you get an opportunity to impress you are always very keen to stake your claim, and I thought Falcons were a quality side. They will pose a real test this weekend on their own patch. The same goes for our side; we needed our young guys to perform this week. Yet again, they all made a big impact when asked last time out. Guys like Caolin Blade at scrum-half, Sean O'Brien and James Connolly in the back-row and Finlay Bealham in the front-row were outstanding.

With Enisei beating Brive at the weekend the group is thrown open a bit. Fair play to them, it was a huge win for them and for their club in their first year in Europe. It was a real shock result to most people, but it shows that the way they played against us was no flash in the pan.

The conditions were a bit more favourable in Sochi than we had in Krasnoyarsk, but it was a great result, and maybe it gives Newcastle a bit more hope ahead of our return leg.

It's a few years since I played in Newcastle but it's a much-changed venue now by all accounts. They have a 4G pitch now, and having some recent experience of playing on one in Cardiff will be a help to us. We had a difficult day at the Arms Park so hopefully we'll have a less abrasive time in Newcastle. The last thing we need now is another two or three serious injuries.

Interestingly, we had a nine-day turnaround ahead of this game, which gave us a chance to rest up a few lads, to try and see if a few injuries might clear up too, but it also meant that we could have our Christmas get-together on Saturday.

We all went to watch the Eagles game at the Sportsground and we went into town afterwards as a squad.

This year's theme was Christmas jumpers, but there wasn't very much originality around unfortunately. A lot of lads seem to have gone to the same shop and bought the same jumpers, but we had a good time all the same.

Like every place of work, it's great to be able to enjoy Christmas together when you get a chance, but as a rugby team it's vital that you have some down time together as well as putting in the long hours of training.

This week was a big one for me too with me signing a new two-year extension with the province. It's always a relief to get contract talk done and dusted and I always feel I play better when that pressure is lifted off my shoulders.

As a rugby player, there is always a worry that you'll miss out, that you'll pick up an injury or something, so to have the next two seasons secured with my home province is a real dream come true.

A win on Sunday would the cherry on top of a great week, so as a group we remain focused on achieving our goals at the end of the season.

Irish Independent

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