Monday 23 April 2018

'Is ROG on the Lions selection committee?' - Sean Cronin brushes off tour talk

Leinster's Sean Cronin. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Sean Cronin. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Seán Cronin knows exactly what's coming Leinster's way when they visit the Sportsground on Saturday night. Having been on the other side of the fence, the hooker appreciates Connacht's special brand of welcome reserved only when men in blue jerseys cross the Shannon.

The Guinness PRO12 champions may be a shadow of the team that decimated Leinster in the tournament final last May, but they will get themselves up for this one. They always do.

"When I was there, there was something funny about when Leinster go down there," the Limerick native said knowingly.

"There is an edge, both with me playing with Connacht and me going down with Leinster, everything goes out the window with the fact that they are obviously trying to climb the table trying to get into those Champions Cup spots and we are trying to solidify a top-two position, it is a derby game there is always a nice bit of bite there.

"They seem to enjoy it, enjoy us when Leinster roll into town."

Cronin will always have a soft spot for the western province having kick-started his professional career in Galway. "I was in the Munster academy and had Jerry Flannery, Denis Fogarty, Frankie Sheahan all ahead of me at the time, I was offered an opportunity to go up to Connacht," he recalled.

"It was a tough decision, real tough at the time, it worked out very well for me.

"I got plenty of professional game-time, which stood to me and I got into the Irish squad a couple of seasons later.

"Connacht's definitely moved on from that now, but at the time it was the right fit for me on a personal level, I was happy I chose to go up there."

It propelled him on to greater things on the eastern seaboard and Cronin has forged a fine career for himself with Leinster and as Ireland's go-to impact replacement.

It's a role that many feel he could bring to the Lions party, with Ronan O'Gara tweeting his endorsement after the 30-year-old scorched over for a try on his return from injury against Ospreys last Saturday.

He brushes off selection talk for now and is more intent on securing his place in the Leinster squad for next week's Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont in Lyon.

After overcoming the hamstring issue that ruled him out of the Six Nations, Cronin was almost fit in time for the win over Wasps but just ran out of time and instead lined out for the 'A' team against Ulster.

"I'd missed 12 weeks of rugby, the lads have been playing top-end stuff and I was only coming back, so I was happy to get the game-time," he said.

"Obviously playing in front of 55 people in Banbridge on a Friday, and there were 55,000 in the Aviva on the Saturday so... to be honest I was just happy to get back playing and the leg held up well, and I was happy to have game-time.

"It's a tough squad to get into here, so it's head down, stay focused.

"Is ROG on the selection committee? I hope he is!

"Ah look with the whole Lions thing, I'd be chuffed and delighted if I was even in those conversations but it is good to have people like ROG plugging for you in the background.

"I am focused on just trying to play well, just get back on the pitch, just trying to play well and get minutes under my belt and try and get up to the level.

"I think I was at a decent level before Christmas."

Irish Independent

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