Tuesday 24 October 2017

Watching the hurlers celebrate brought back the taste of victory

Player Diary

Galway hurling hero Joe Canning on the pitch at half-time during last week’s PRO14 game against Southern Kings at the Sportsground. Picture: Sportsfile
Galway hurling hero Joe Canning on the pitch at half-time during last week’s PRO14 game against Southern Kings at the Sportsground. Picture: Sportsfile

John Muldoon

This is my first time doing the player diary for 2017-'18, and a lot has happened already this season with Kieran Keane, 'KK', coming in as our new head coach, and of course Galway bringing the Liam MacCarthy Cup back west of the Shannon.

It's great for Galway and it's great for the west. We know what they are going through. It's a great time and a great place to be in. It's always unbelievable to win silverware and 29 years is a long time, but I am delighted for the lads that have been around for a long time. It's fantastic to get over the line. Hopefully they can push on and get a few more in the bag.

It really hit home for us when we saw the homecoming and the success and the goodwill around the place for the hurlers. It really reminds us of what we had when we won the league. It brought back some great memories for me and a lot of the lads were in the same boat.

You want to experience that feeling again and that was the main thing the lads have been saying in the last couple of days. It was such a wonderful time for us and a happy time in everyone's lives. That's the thing that everyone has been remembering over the last few days watching the hurlers.

You want to experience that again and it whets the appetite a little bit more as well. It was very special for us when it happened. We all know and appreciate what they are feeling like and we want to get back there.

Cracked

Back in the Sportsground, I am enjoying the new voice, new way of dealing with things, new way of approaching it. KK cracked the whip when he came in but he is a bit of a joker at the same time.

I am enjoying his company, the witty comments and his way of getting across the game-plan as well of course. It's just fresh. But it's a steep learning curve and he's only been here for about a month.

We made mistakes in the first week against Glasgow Warriors and that cost us. If we had a few weeks to iron out those mistakes maybe it wouldn't have happened.

But it's good, it's putting us under pressure. We just have to be patient and try and improve every day we go out. We were better while not perfect for the Southern Kings game. It's all about progression and getting better.

We are delighted to get our first win of the season. The main thing was to get that victory after losing our first game. We were very disappointed with the result and performance against Glasgow, especially considering it was in the Sportsground.

We just didn't control the game well enough in Round 1 and weren't physical enough. Ultimately, the team which handled the conditions won the game. We were still disappointed with some of the stuff we did on Saturday too and we know we will have to improve for Dragons.

I know Bernard Jackman for a long time, we played together for a while. Back in the day, one of my first memories of rugby would be 'Berch' coming out to coach the school in Portumna in 1997 or '98.

He was playing here in Connacht at the time; he had a period away playing in Sale and came back again here after. When he was here in his second stint, I played with him before he went to Leinster.

Berch had a couple of good years over in Grenoble in the Top 14 and it's a new chance and opportunity for him in charge of Dragons in Wales. Dragons have two defeats in the two weeks but Leinster is always a tough game, no matter where you play them, and Edinburgh was a hard one away from home too. Dragons are a bit like us here in Connacht, getting used to a new coach and a new way of doing things at the moment. But I am sure they are working really hard and this is a chance for them to get their first win on the board. But we need to look after ourselves and get our stuff right.

Defensively, we have to be better than we were against the Southern Kings in Round 2. We need to iron out things in attack too. And while we will paying the utmost respect to Dragons, it's all about getting our own things right at the moment.

The Connacht fans will actually see a lot of the old stuff that we were doing with Pat Lam this weekend. Dragons will be playing that 2-4-2 system with the second-row in the middle and the flanker and speedier lads on the outside.

It's a very different style for them, away from the forward-dominated game that we are used to seeing from Dragons. But they have got some very speedy backs now.

And it's up to us to get our defence right. We all know the 2-4-2 system but if you give them time, space and opportunities they will be able to cut you open. They will definitely be a very different attacking threat than they have been in a good few years.

It's something that we know very well so we should be able to nullify but there is that lingering thought that if we don't do it right they can get through your defence like we did a lot in 2015-'16.

There will be a big onus on our D to get things right. But also on our attack to build on what we did at the weekend and put them under the pressure. That's what Leinster and Edinburgh did. They put them under a lot of pressure and worked the Dragons defence hard.

It would be great to make it two wins from three and we will be right in contention at the top of Conference A in the Guinness PRO14.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport