'I would back myself' - Cronin targeting place on the Lions tour despite Six Nations absence
Ireland and Leinster hooker still desperate to tour New Zealand despite seeing Six Nations hopes ended by hamstring injury woe
Seán Cronin will not let his Six Nations injury heartache shape his career. But he just might let it re-shape his body.
He's at the latter end of his career now - before social media howls in disgust, these are the words from his 30-year-old mouth, not ours - and those who have been in perennial thrall to his rambunctious spirit may have thought nothing could have ever stopped him in his tracks.
Fate chooses her moments with indecent wickedness though; a hapless romp against hopeless Zebre opposition, the game won, a run from the bench, five plodding minutes left and then...CRACK! The shooting pain as from an assassin's rifle, his hamstring snapped like a violin string.
"I knew it was something," was his immediate response to the agony. "I haven't got too many soft-tissue injuries in my career, I've been lucky enough.
"Just when it went, I knew I was done playing the rest of the match anyway! On Saturday when I woke up, I was quite sore and I rang the physio.
"I was getting scanned on the Sunday because we wanted to leave the bleed settle. It showed up and I had to get re-scanned again to make sure there was no damage done to the tendon, which there wasn't, so I dodged a bullet there.
"No surgery, so it's straightforward enough. I just need to give it the time to rehab it properly, because there's a 50pc rate of re-injuring with this type of tear, so it's just about getting it right.
"I was out of the brace at the weekend, so it's feeling quite good. It's better than I thought it would be. I was on a bike today and I was doing one-legged rowing, so it's coming on quicker than I thought it was."
His recovery is posted at ten weeks, embracing the entire Six Nations. If necessary, he will absorb every second. The risks of recurrence are too great.
"We'll see how we go. It's pencilled in for the 10 weeks. They're quite happy and quite surprised, just because I couldn't really get into the car after it happened.
"So that wasn't a good sign. I was kind of a realist when I woke up on the Saturday morning. It was quite sore. It's never a good sign if you can't get up off the toilet too freely!
"I was obviously gutted last week after it happened but I've come around now and I'm just focused on getting myself right.
"It's a good opportunity to get other parts of my body right as well. I was kind of carrying my shoulder, which I'd done a couple of years ago, stuff like that.
"Little things with my running technique and stuff that helps me with that, so this won't happen again."
Life doesn't prepare you for fateful intervention; he was blessed before Christmas to receive not merely one, but two bundles of living, loving joy with wife Claire; intimate bonding with twins ensures a joyous spring.
This injury will change him, too; often caricatured as a barnstorming lunatic - "Well, the lunatic bit is right…" - he appreciates that his bulky, broad frame has had to withstand those whirling, wheeling legs upon a long road.
"I just think with the way I'm shaped, with a big chest and my chest arched and stuff, it doesn't help me," he says in a hardly vain-glorious self-portrait. "The way my hips are and my pelvis, if I can try and get work done there, it helps you to sit right, run better and puts you in less of a risk area of doing damage to your hamstrings."
A new design for professional life, then, this reshaping? "Well, I'm a kind of funny-shaped individual," he smiles.
"I suppose younger guys would maybe try and push themselves and maybe not know their bodies. I can look at the bigger picture.
"I need to watch myself now and make sure I come back, everything's moving on nicely and I'm feeling good.
"I'm probably at the latter end of my career at the moment and need to watch myself and make sure I'm right to come back. I don't need to push it."
For now, he may spend more time playing mini-golf in Ireland's only themed indoor mini-golf venue at Dundrum, Rainforest Adventure Golf, which hosts a world championship, no less, next month.
Amidst us, weird and wonderful sounds bounce off the walls. Inevitably, we hear the faint roar of a Lion, natch.
"I would back myself," he says of a summer tour where his personality and abrasive impact could be vital assets to head coach Warren Gatland, a known admirer of the Limerick man.
"I think I offer something different, in terms of the way they will pick the squad, off the bench and the type of games they could be down there.
"I thought I was playing well to put myself in the frame, definitely, for the shortlist. I still think there's an opportunity to try and play well.
"The Six Nations, obviously, has a huge bearing on who is going to go on that tour. They are the elite games and the guys that play well in those elite games are the frontrunners.
"If he's looking for something outside of the box, someone that's going to bring something different, I think I am one of the best around to do that. Hopefully, that can keep me in the reckoning.
"You can see a lot of lads that they want to play well for Ireland because they know if they do that, they will be in the shop window for Lions selection.
"Especially guys who have not been on it before, they are really looking to get on that plane. It is still a massive carrot to have that accolade of playing for the Lions.
"I thought I was playing quite well and putting myself in the frame for selection with different stuff.
"All I can do is get myself right and hopefully be back in that time frame".
It is the goal that will drive him during rehab as he vows to return a stronger and, perhaps, an even better player than he is now.
Seán Cronin was officially launching the inaugural Irish Minigolf Open at Rainforest Adventure Golf to be played on February 18 and 19
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