Tuesday 24 April 2018

Shane Jennings: It's been brilliant but this is my time to go

One game left but lessons from season will stay with the lads - it hurts winding down the season this early

Shane Jennings goes through his paces in training
Shane Jennings goes through his paces in training
Shane Jennings in action during training
Shane Jennings pictured at this week’s IRUPA awards

Shane Jennings

So the day has finally come! My last diary entry. . . and also the small matter of my last week of training with Leinster. Not quite sure I can get my head around it but what a time it has been, and full of ups and downs.

There have been some great days. Winning trophies and doing so with your mates makes it even more special. And of course there have been some not-so-great days. But thankfully the good ones have outweighed the bad.

It has been a great experience for me, being able to be a part of my home club and province, a place that means so much to me and that I had the opportunity to be involved with for so many years. Having entered the squad in 2001, and apart from a brief spell away for two years, it has been all Leinster.

The last few weeks have been difficult for everybody involved and it has been hard to assess where we have let ourselves down on the pitch.

We have not had the time to reflect due to the games and I think over the summer break people will have that time to reflect and to analyse where we need to improve and with the added disappointment of not having the chance to compete for trophies, it will be a driver for next year.

Last week wasn't the most glamorous of fixtures to watch, but it was hugely important that we won and qualified for Europe next year.

Edinburgh losing also helped our cause, so this week it's down to pride away to the Scots. We are striving to finish in fifth position, but we are up against a very good side that are very dangerous at home and have already taken care of Glasgow and the Ospreys at home this year. We don't need reminding that both those teams will finish above us come 5.0 tomorrow.

On a personal level, it was very nice to get the opportunity to say goodbye to the home RDS crowd at half-time. The reception I received was very much appreciated and a very nice memory for me to have.

It was also fantastic that Gordon had the opportunity to come on and play what hopefully might have been his last home game for Leinster.

I say hopefully because we all hope that he will make the Ireland World Cup squad, which would really cap a truly fantastic career.

Friday wasn't the only goodbye as last Saturday evening the Leinster Rugby Awards Ball was hosted in the Double Tree by Hilton.

It was a brilliant night and fitting recognition to various clubs, personalities and players around the province who have been performing brilliantly on the pitch or who have been contributing selflessly off it.

From a professional point of view, the Bank of Ireland Players Player of the Year was Sean Cronin. It was thoroughly deserved. Sean has had an amazing year and richly deserves his reward. Jack Conan picked up the Samsung Galaxy Young Player of the Year award and again I think it was deserved. You see how he performed and you forget just how young he is. I'm looking forward to seeing bigger and better things from Jack in the future.

The night was very enjoyable for me on a personal level. Leo (Cullen) interviewed me on stage and had some very nice words and we had a chat about years gone by. He has been with me every step of the way including those two seasons in Leicester, where we played for the Tigers and shared a house together.

The video that the two analysts in Leinster, Emmet Farrell and John Buckley, pulled together provided a suitable backdrop and it was good to reminisce.

Brian (O'Driscoll) also came back and did the same for Gordon and it went down very well. I suppose similar to Leo and myself, those two know each other inside out and there was no better person to interview Darce than Brian. And, like Leo, he also knew a few good stories!

This week has been a difficult week as there are a lot of distractions with Irish squad announcements and various other things, which can get in the way of the most important thing, which is the match on tomorrow afternoon in the Pro12.

In my opinion it is a must-win so we can draw a line under this season on a high and enjoy the summer break.

We shouldn't lose sight that we were the width of a post away from Twickenham, but in the Pro12 we need to be better.

Finally, thank you all for the various kind messages over the last number of weeks and thank you all for the fantastic support which you have given us over the course of the season.

Irish Independent

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