Thursday 19 April 2018

Dempsey relishing 'huge' derby clash

Girvan Dempsey (SPORTSFILE)
Girvan Dempsey (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

At the beginning of the campaign, if Leinster's current position in the Pro12 had been offered to Leo Cullen, he would have gladly accepted it but, as the play-offs loom, there is the small matter of the final inter-pro derby of the regular season to be taken care of first.

Leinster are assured of their place in the play-offs but tomorrow's opponents Ulster still have some work to do, despite being in fourth place of the table.

In his maiden season in charge of his home province, Cullen is still very much in with a shout of winning silverware and for Girvan Dempsey, who came on board as backs coach at the same time, finishing as Pro12 champions would be a massive endorsement of their credentials.

Leinster's place in the last four may be guaranteed but the biggest challenge they face now is to ensure that it takes place at home in the RDS and that is something that Dempsey was keen to emphasise.

"I think you look to the game on Saturday and that's why it's so big," he insisted.

"The permutations that could come about in that final game between Connacht and Glasgow in Galway is massive and could impact on the whole shake-up of the league.

"So we know this game against Ulster is huge and we know we have to perform and get a result because you look at that group and obviously Ulster are six points back from Glasgow, and even then Scarlets are on their heels.

"So it's a great place for us to be, to be in control of that with Ulster away and then Treviso at home.

"You look further down the table and you've even got Ospreys looking for a Champions Cup spot but it's a good spot for us that we're in control of it and going to Belfast in a good place."

Despite not scaling the heights that they have done in recent years, there has been improvements in Leinster's backline play in recent weeks - particularly in the second half against Edinburgh.

The early exit from Europe may still linger like a bad smell but the reality of that is that it cannot be rectified until next season.

Dempsey has worked closely with Ben Te'o in particular and although Leinster are now reaping the rewards, they will soon have to face the prospect of coming up against him in the future as he joins Worcester Warriors.

The former Ireland international has watched Te'o become an extremely potent weapon for Leinster and admitted that there was a sense of frustration at his leaving as well as pride in helping him improve since joining from rugby league.

"A bit of both but I think that's the ultimate objective when you go into coaching in any form, I think that's what you try and do," he said.

"You want a player to be better, to be a better person, a better athlete, better in every aspect of the game when you've finished working with them.

"If you look at our training and the intensity with which we train, we'd feel that guys are capable of stepping in.

"Ideally, you want guys match-conditioned; but we feel that, through our S&C programme and our rugby programme and how we train, that guys are capable of stepping in if we have any injuries or issues.

"I think Ben has been excellent, he's the consummate pro and he has been, I think that league background stood to him.

"I suppose the intricacies of the game of Union, he learnt and he picked them up pretty sharp.

"I suppose there is a bit of frustration in seeing him move on, but obviously he's got different opportunities now."

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