Friday 20 July 2018

Cronin gritting his new teeth in hope of earning Ireland recall in New Year

Sean Cronin is eager to make up for lost time. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean Cronin is eager to make up for lost time. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Sean Cronin got a new set of front teeth for Christmas, now all he wants this New Year is to get back into the Ireland squad.

Joe Schmidt tends to name a lot of players in his Ireland panels and so it takes a bit of time to digest. When the November list came through, the Leinster hooker's name was a glaring omission.

During the New Zealander's time in charge, the 31-year-old has been capped 29 times and was the regular back-up for Rory Best in the majority of games.

Injury ruined last season for him, opening the door for Munster's Niall Scannell, but with the Corkman out of the November series Cronin might have expected to have been called back up to Carton House.

Instead, the call came to tell him he hadn't made it.

Schmidt gave him a run-down of his reasons, explaining that he hadn't started the season quickly enough. Cronin accepted it, but if he wanted to he could have had reason to be perturbed by the decision.

After all, Best missed the start of the season and barely played before the November series and James Tracy, who was picked ahead of Cronin for the internationals, is behind him at Leinster.

Ultimately, he is determined that his international career still has road to run.

"I knew that was going to come up," he said with a wry smile when the issue came up at Leinster's press briefing ahead of Monday's meeting with Connacht.

"I haven't spoken to him (Schmidt) since November.

"At the time it was just that he thought that I didn't hit the ground running at the start of the season, which was probably fair enough, and other guys had played well.

"I felt that I was coming back after basically nine months injured. I'd my hamstring and then I had my neck, I probably wasn't given much wiggle room, but I probably didn't hit the ground running.

"That's what was said to me, there wasn't anything else in the conversation so... I think I'm nearly there. Obviously I can play a lot better, but I think I've gradually (done that).

Chance

"The only thing was that that (November) block gave me a chance to get a bit fitter, which I did. It gave me a chance to get some game-time with Leinster against the Dragons, Treviso and that got me ready and got me in for the Champions Cup games.

"It's had its positives, gave me a bit of a kick that I needed.

"We'll see what happens, I need to try and play well again in the next few weeks and see if I can get back in contention.

"My phone is always on, so if he wants me back in we'll see what happens I suppose."

Some would opt to ignore the internationals when they're not in the set-up, but Cronin tuned in for the games.

"I wouldn't be that bitter, I wouldn't be watching the Coronation Street omnibus when the Ireland matches are going on!" he said. "I enjoyed it, they did well and that is all they can do.

"I use it more in a positive frame of mind. Deep down, at the end of the day, I think I am good enough to get back in. I know if I can play well, and I can put in the performances here, I can do enough to get back in. And hopefully that will happen.

"I am probably a bit too far down in my career to be throwing a TV out the window at this stage."

Whether it plays into Cronin's decision on the next stage of his career remains to be seen.

At 31, this is arguably his last chance to move when his contract is up at the end of this season but he also speaks highly of the Leinster set-up.

The province appear to be going places and he is fully part of that.

Playing well for Leinster, he reckons, should put him back in the international frame.

"I am quite happy that we have such a good squad here and it is such a competitive environment that you know you are playing well if you are in the team, and the team is going pretty well, and everything else will flow off that," he said.

He's certainly putting his body on the line. After a clash with Exeter flanker Don Armand during the brutal Champions Cup encounter earlier this month, he was left with both of his front teeth smashed.

Turkey

"Eating turkey out of the side of your mouth is not ideal, like," he smiled.

"I'm seeing him again today and still trying to talk properly with them. It's not ideal, like but part and parcel of it.

"The lads have actually been slagging me about it, saying I look a bit better with the new ones now than I did! One of them is still loose so I still don't know what's going to happen, That's the sore one, it could be coming out. The other one isn't too bad."

He'll hope to be flashing his new winning smile in the New Year.

Irish Independent

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