Tuesday 10 December 2019

Player diary: Refreshed and ready to go again

We are all very excited for Edinburgh game but it is also a milestone for Will Connors and Michael Bent

Ross Molony hopes to take inspiration from team-mate Johnny Sexton’s Six Nations heroics as Leinster return to PRO14 action tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Molony hopes to take inspiration from team-mate Johnny Sexton’s Six Nations heroics as Leinster return to PRO14 action tonight. Photo: Sportsfile

Ross Molony

Now that the pool stages in Europe and a massive block of Guinness PRO14 games are behind us, the group split for the Six Nations window. The players not on international duty took a well-earned week off, the rest headed to Spain with the Irish squad.

I was lucky enough to fly over to New York and visit some friends who are working there for the year. Myself, Nick McCarthy and Ross Byrne packed our bags and headed for a small three-bed apartment in Brooklyn in which our mates are living. It's always nice to switch off for a few days and a first visit to New York made it even better.

It's a great spot. We were lucky the weather wasn't too cold either so we were able to get out and about and take it all in. You'd be looking forward to going back there that's for sure. It was a great experience.

Then, after a well-needed physical and mental break, we were back to work.

We kicked off the training week reviewing the Montpellier and Doncaster fixtures.

As most of the Montpellier 23 were in Irish camp it was important to focus on both games. Preparing the smaller squad in the best possible way ahead of these challenging four weeks meant looking at both performances and what players did well and not so well.

Nick McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile
Nick McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile

After reviewing and learning from both games our training week could begin in earnest.

S&C coaches Charlie Higgins and Cillian Reardon definitely took their opportunity and I think it's fair to say they enjoyed it! Not being a game week meant they could push us that bit harder in the gym.

Then we had to prepare ourselves for even tougher pitch sessions. It was crucial to get this hit-out while maintaining thoughts of Edinburgh in our minds.

But then Edinburgh comes to the forefront and towards the end of the week we started to prepare a game-plan and build cohesion in the various combinations. As the game is on a Friday, this week is shorter and the work we did in the training week last week was critical in getting us right for the trip to Myreside.

Over the weekend it was important we recovered well after a taxing few days. But it was also important to celebrate the week's work and get the squad together for some down time.

James Tracy and Jamie Heaslip played a blinder and organised for the boys to watch the Ireland and France game in The Bridge on Saturday.

Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile
Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

When the group is smaller these bonding days can have a hugely positive effect on the team.

With the amount of Leinster Academy boys stepping up in the Six Nations block it is so important to integrate the group and become a tighter unit.

And there is no better way than over a few pints and watching Ireland beat France with the last kick of the game.

Jamie posted a short video on his Instagram of the moment Johnny's kick went over the bar... and caught our reactions and celebrations on camera! It's fair to say we were delighted for them all and for Johnny in particular. What a moment.

We are delighted to have so many Leinster players representing the group for Ireland. Hopefully this weekend they can continue the momentum and take it to the Italians in front of a home crowd.

Similarly, with this block of four PRO14 games we want to put ourselves in the best possible place heading into the end of the season.

While the current focus is getting into the team over this block, the Irish boys will eventually return and nobody will want to hand back the jersey easily. We're expecting a big test tonight. Edinburgh will be looking to make amends for their visit to the RDS in September.

It's been a hugely exciting week since the team announcement. Everyone is delighted for Benty leading the team out for his 100th cap and I'm delighted for Will Connors getting his first cap tonight and have no doubt he will fill the No 7 jersey comfortably.

The back-row of Max Deegan, Josh Murphy and Will have had some powerful performances for the As and are itching for tonight's clash. If we apply our pressure-game early on we can build momentum and hopefully get an important away win to start the block of games on a high.

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