Player Diary: 'I won't forget my first game as captain!'
So much was memorable about thrilling victory over Glasgow - and not just the lights going out
It has certainly been a busy last month with Leinster but it's what we wanted. We missed that buzz last season when knockout games in Europe were not an option. So the buzz around the place was certainly welcomed back with open arms as we got set to take on Clermont in Lyon.
I have played in France before, but never experienced anything like that. The noise and energy in the stadium was outstanding. Driving into the ground. Warming up. And then coming out of the tunnel and into the sunlight.
The players' tunnel was unique and added to it too. It was as long a tunnel as I've ever been in and as you wait for the TV guys to give you the nod to walk out, you are just standing there below the actual stand. And the stand above is going bananas! You are trying to remain focused but it is hard not to take those things in and to enjoy them. It was so loud and it didn't let up.
Coming off the bench in that game is something I won't forget. The game was very much there for us so I knew I could play my part and that I had a job to do.
Unfortunately the result didn't go our way, but as one of the younger members in the squad I learned a lot. The taste of European knockout rugby is something that will motivate me in coming years. They really are special days that you want to be involved in. You want to be in places like Lyon, in brilliant stadiums like the Aviva in front of our own fans. Days which I have no doubt Leinster will see again in seasons to come.
Fortunately, with the structure of the season we had an opportunity to shift our focus only five days after the Clermont game. It was extremely challenging to come in the day after we arrived home from Lyon. However, as a group we decided the pain felt in Lyon would drive the mentality for the Glasgow week.
We were given a 24-hour rule in which we had to move on and put the semi-final behind us. So come 5.0 on Monday, all focus was shifted to Glasgow. And I think it worked.
Leo Cullen asked me to captain the side against Glasgow. This was an incredible honour. To captain the side I grew up supporting was an extremelyhumbling and proud experience. It is without a doubt the personal highlight of my career to date.
I was hugely excited to see Nick McCarthy getting his first start and Tom Daly his first RDS start.
I felt we started the game with pace and took the early momentum. With the quality in the Glasgow side they were always going to come back into it. Fortunately Joey Carbery kicked us a point ahead and we managed to hold out, despite a few distractions along the way!
I can safely say I've never experienced the electricity problems on a rugby pitch like last week. I will always have a story to tell about my first captaincy anyway! On another note, watching Mike Ross lead the team out and the reception he received was immense. Mike has been through it all and is a wise head to look up to in the changing-room. He will be dearly missed and I want to wish him the best of luck with what comes next.
We will also struggle next year when the projector breaks and there's no Rossy to fix it!
Last Saturday we broke out the suits and headed to the Leinster Rugby Awards Ball. It was a really enjoyable night and a fitting farewell to the quality players moving on at the end of the year. A massive congrats to Joey, Luke and the rest of the lads on their awards!
This weekend we face another challenging task in the Kingspan Stadium. Mathematically still having a chance of top four depending on results, Ulster will be gunning for us tomorrow. They will also want to give their home crowd one last show for the season.
Their motivation is clear, ours should be too. We want to finish the season strong and build momentum going into the knock-out stages. Similarly with these inter-pro games, there is always that extra edge.
I am excited to experience that intensity tomorrow. With the right mindset and some running rugby I'm hoping we can come back with the win!
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