Sunday 25 August 2019

Munster will be a challenge but we have what it takes to get victory

Feeling the Blues: Leinster will hope to give Sean O’Brien a send-off following last weekend’s disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile
Feeling the Blues: Leinster will hope to give Sean O’Brien a send-off following last weekend’s disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile

Ross Molony

The easiest trap we could fall into this week is to feel sorry for ourselves. Yes, we are hugely disappointed with finishing second best in Europe. Yes, it is something to be proud of to get that far but when you reach a final, it isn't really about stopping there. Who remembers the runners-up? It's all about taking those steps on the podium.

But we are determined that this will not define our season. We sincerely hope that the amount of hard work that has gone into the last 11 months will not go to waste. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to hopefully play two more games this season. I believe that it is a chance that we are not going to waste.

But before then we had to get through some tough video sessions and then we have to get through an even tougher Munster team.

Reviewing the game on Monday was an extremely painful experience. Having tasted victory last season in Bilbao, dealing with last weekend was even more heartbreaking. You really do get a sense for just how far away from it you are. The reality between first and second is pretty stark.

Sombre

After the match on the pitch, coming home, the bus, the plane, the hotel with family and friends when we came home. All very tame and sombre affairs. Everyone deep in their own thoughts for a lot of it. Some lads having just played their last game for Leinster in Europe. Some lads, potentially, having played their last games ever for Leinster full stop.

There is a lot of disappointment, anger, hurt. And that is before you get to the physical pain of it all.

However, the whole squad agreed to bottle that anger and disappointment and positively channel it into our Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster tomorrow in the RDS.

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Visualising lifting a trophy in Celtic Park at the end of the month will motivate us through the pain. In order to get there, though, we face a massive challenge in the RDS. To be fair, it's a challenge that is relatively easy to get up for and that is a good thing about having a fixture like this against big interpro rivals like Munster.

Once the Monday review was done, there was huge excitement all week about this game. Not only with what's on the line, but the fact it is the last home game of the season. Our last chance to play in front of our supporters in a packed RDS for another year. The supporters have been so crucial all year to our performances.

I will never forget getting off the bus in Newcastle last week and the noise the Leinster fans made in the tunnel. This support means so much to us and we are so lucky to have one last opportunity to impress the fans at home tomorrow afternoon.

I have no doubt Munster will come to Dublin full of confidence from our last encounter with them. We may have beaten them in the Aviva in October but they got the better of us in December and that will be on their minds. They will believe that they can get to us and that they can beat us.

Having had no game last weekend, they will also be fresh-bodied and motivated to secure a PRO14 final spot. They will have learned from the last game we played against them but I am also sure they will have looked at the Champions Cup final and at what Saracens did as a template to turn us over.

But I feel we owe them one after Thomond Park when we just didn't give a true account of ourselves and then credit Munster, they played well and deserved their win. But I feel we have something in us and I think we can deliver.

What gives me that belief?

First of all, emotionally, there is no better game to get up for than Munster in the RDS in knockout rugby.

You saw the physical effort it took to get us over the line in the semi-final against them last year, but emotionally and mentally I felt we were at the right pitch.

Another motivating factor is to create memories for all the lads moving on at the end of the season. Hopefully, Nick McCarthy and Seánie O'Brien can have the perfect RDS send-off. For the lads not involved who are moving on, it is an opportunity to give them one more memorable last week in the club before focusing their attention on Glasgow and hopefully ending their time in Leinster with some silverware.

Nightmare

On a personal side of things, it has been an extremely frustrating last two months. Picking up a disc injury in my back at this stage of the season was a bit of a nightmare. Watching the lads putting in big performances each week really drives you to get back playing.

Thankfully, with the help of our incredible S&C staff, and particularly Diarmaid Brennan, I was able to get back fit to help play a part in the last few weeks of the season. Which hopefully will end with a Guinness PRO14 trophy.

But, like everything in sport, there are no guarantees. We have no divine right to a fairytale ending for the lads leaving. We have no right to defend our title in Glasgow, never mind to win it outright. What went before this season, us winning in the Aviva, them in Thomond, what went before last season in winning the double, it will all count for nothing come tomorrow at 2.30pm.

All that will count is that 80 minutes and who performs best. I believe it will be us and I hope we get that one last week of training in UCD with some great lads.

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