Tuesday 18 June 2019

Newcastle hurt. I don't want it to happen again - Healy

Cian Healy is a relative of former Ireland soccer kitman Charlie O’Leary but he never got hooked on the round-ball game. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Healy is a relative of former Ireland soccer kitman Charlie O’Leary but he never got hooked on the round-ball game. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Four times, Cian Healy had gone in to Champions Cup finals and come out on the winning side. Earlier this month in Newcastle, he finally tasted the pain of defeat.

You would think the collection of gold medals might ease the pain, but not so. The defeat to Saracens will go down as the one that got away for the loosehead prop, one of only three players to have featured in all five of Leinster's finals, along with Johnny Sexton and Devin Toner.

Against Munster, a week later, a number of senior men were stood down or missed out through injury, but Healy was pressed back into service and he was again one of Leinster's best players, as he has been all season.

Beating their old rivals helped ease the feeling of an opportunity lost, but even a PRO14 title might not quite erase the disappointment Healy is still processing from the defeat to Saracens.

"It was tough," he admitted.

"We turned the page quickly in here and got moving on the week. It was creeping up on me during some basic stuff, cooking dinner thinking about the 'what ifs,' which you have to slap out of your head a bit and have to stay focused.

Showed

"It probably just showed to myself that it did hurt. I don't want it to happen again."

With the average age of the side lowered considerably by the changes in personnel, Healy looked around the dressing-room on Saturday and saw a vision of what Leinster will look like in the next decade.

This summer, another few of his generation will retire or move on but rather than dwell on the passing of time, the 31-year-old has decided to get amongst it.

"You have two ways of taking it, you sit there as the old boy or you shape up and go in and be one of the young lads," he said.

"And I love that, I love the craic you have with the lads and pretending that I'm 21 and living off them a bit.

"So it's such a good place to come in to work and to train and play around, the buzz is deadly and a lot of that is coming from the young lads and they're driving that on, and there's no point sitting there thinking that you're an oul boy in training, that's not going to do you any good.

"We've had a few squad nights in houses where you don't go out, you just all stay together and it's not just the old boys turning up, everyone turns up and it's a good vibe to be a part of, that no one feels singled out."

Although they are well able to handle themselves on the pitch, Healy has been impressed by how the young guns have come into the Leinster set-up and made themselves heard straight away.

"A lot of them came in like that, they're coming in now as full professionals from the school system or the academy system," he said.

"They find more of a voice as they go through their career but there's never really a question over their ability to talk or their ability to say the right thing in meetings or lead on the pitch, or anything like that."

Not that the old boys are slacking off, as Healy showed when combining with the rest of the front-row to score the crucial second-half try that turned the game against Munster.

Nothing shows the evolution of forward play quite like the sight of Healy reaching out to take Garry Ringrose's pass in space, straightening to attract the full attention of Keith Earls before popping the ball off to Tadhg Furlong, who drew Joey Carbery and put Sean Cronin over.

"That's nice isn't it?" Healy said with a satisfied smile.

"I enjoyed that. I didn't have the energy to celebrate like Tadhg but I enjoyed it. It's a straight drill that we do in training. It's pretty good to see it being directly transferred into a game."

It was the first time he can remember the trio combining for a score, but attack coach Felipe Contepomi was delighted to see the progression in skills.

"It was Leinster rugby at its best," he enthused, describing it as a "masterpiece of the front-row".

"It started with a driving maul, when we got a penalty we took the advantage play, wide into the channels and then some of our backs do what our forwards normally do and when we saw space out wide, the front-row play that beautiful straighten up, squaring up and short-pass rugby.

"I'm not surprised as we trained that way and today I was telling the backs, that front-row action is exactly the same exercise that Stuart (Lancaster) does with all the team of coming around the posts and squaring up. When you see it happening you realise and understand why we do things in training. It's to actually do things on game day."

Although he's a relative of former Ireland kitman Charlie O'Leary, the football bug never bit with Healy and so Celtic Park is just another stadium to the prop.

But he's intent on beating the locals on Saturday so he can add it to the collection of stadiums in which he's picked up silverware against a Warriors side backed by a big local crowd.

"I don't follow football, I don't have time to follow football," he said with a shrug.

"I've heard about Celtic Park and I've obviously heard about Celtic but I've no major interest. My mates told me the stadium is called Paradise. That's the height of it.

"Their support will be big enough but the travelling support we've had in the last while has been incredible, not the last while, always. At the moment, we get huge numbers.

"Going into that Champions Cup final was one of the greatest things I've ever seen, that's something I'll never forget. If we have any sort of support like that, as usual, it should nullify that."

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