Tuesday 24 April 2018

A dream weekend - now we need another one against Warriors

Player Diary

Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway celebrate a fifth try in their victory over Toulouse. Photo: Sportsfile
Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway celebrate a fifth try in their victory over Toulouse. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack O’Donoghue

With six or seven weeks left in the season it's a great feeling to still be in the thick of the fight for silverware on two fronts, and after a memorable weekend we're eager to transfer that form into the Guinness PRO12 against Glasgow tomorrow.

So much about the win over Toulouse made it a special game for all of us. It was my first big win in the knock-out stages of Europe, and just being part of the occasion was a real buzz.

In the early part of the week I couldn't train due to a hip knock I took in Italy, so it was a bit nerve-wracking at that stage. You're never sure that you'll be fit and the last thing you want are doubts on whether you'll be in or out.

The squad was announced on the Tuesday and I was in it, but even then you regard your name as having a question mark beside it.

Boost

But once you get back training it gives you a big boost of confidence and a kick to go and prepare well and show the coaches that you are fit enough. I trained fully on Tuesday and had no worries by Wednesday morning.

Being on the bench and getting to play my part in a Thomond Park quarter-final in front of the home support was unbelievable.

The atmosphere was amazing, the buzz we got from the final lap before we went into the dressing-room was unreal. We were just dying to get out on the pitch and feed off the energy that you got from the crowd.

Despite that I was nervous before the game, but when you are on the bench you're more restless than anxious. If a back-row goes down you are immediately switched on, but more often than not you have to relax back down again.

Eventually when you do get the call it happens so quick that your body doesn't have time to get nervous, you are straight into the game.

Once I was on it seemed like it was all going off around me. When you come on as a replacement the main thing is that you have to get up to speed immediately. Lads have found their tempo for the previous hour or so, and sometimes it can be hard to hit that rhythm, but once you get the first tackle out of the way you feel a lot better.

I don't think I touched the ball for ages, we seemed to be defending for a long time then, but I was keen to bring good line-speed to the defence and be as physical as I possibly could. You could see they were beginning to tire a small bit, so every extra bit of energy we could muster was massive.

The way we added to the scoreline late on showed how we wore them down. But the winning margin in the end didn't reflect how tough it was. With 15 or 20 minutes to go they were very much in the game, and our bench had a massive impact right across the line.

After the final whistle we soaked up a bit of the atmosphere around the place without the pressure of the game, and it was great to see the happy faces of family and friends around the stadium.

Once we got back into the dressing-room it was pretty special because all of the squad was in there to celebrate.

The B&I Cup team were in there too and they deserved to be in the thick of it.

They had a really tough week in the run-up to their big game as they were playing Toulouse roles in training, but they still went out at CIT and had an incredible performance against Ealing Trailfinders to reach the final.

With all that in mind you can only imagine the humour in the dressing-room.

We all sat down for a while and had a beer together, chatted through some of the incidents from the two games and just relaxed for a while. There were a few squad photos taken too and it was a great way to cap off a brilliant couple of days for the province.

Those are rare occasions, and for myself it's a day I'll want to remember for a long time.

That feeling all feeds in to this week as well. There was a great buzz around the place, but we know what's coming against Glasgow too.

They are such a tough outfit and they'll want a bit of revenge against us. They'll be hurting after losing to Saracens last weekend in Europe.

Stain

We are back in Cork too, and we are very conscious that we lost there earlier this season. We really don't want another stain on our record.

We have played Warriors three times already and came out on top of each game, but only barely. There has been nothing in it for each of those games, so we know it is going to be a tough encounter.

The physicality that they can produce is immense, it's every bit as big as we faced last weekend against Toulouse. They have a massive pack, two huge locks, but they have plenty of skills behind that as well.

Their running style suits their lively back three; Stuart Hogg is really dangerous and Finn Russell is another quality player. It's going to be tough.

Meanwhile, it's massive for me to sign up with Munster again. It's an indication that Rassie Erasmus sees me in his plans going forward and he wanted me to stay on for another two years; that's a massive confidence boost for me.

It's nice to be rewarded for the hard work, but the fact that it's with Munster, my home province, and the place I love playing the game is so special. It's a dream and an honour.

Irish Independent

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