Wednesday 23 January 2019

Disappointed my season is over but thrilled with Toulon victory

Player Diary

Tommy O'Donnell being led from the field. Picture: Sportsfile
Tommy O'Donnell being led from the field. Picture: Sportsfile

Tommy O'Donnell

It was a weekend of mixed emotions for me, but I was thrilled to see the lads put in such a stunning performance and advance to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup after victory over Toulon.

It was an incredible display, and Munster showed such heart and determination to stick in the game late on before Andrew Conway's brilliant solo effort.

Unfortunately, I wasn't at Thomond Park. I chose wisely and stayed at home with an ice-pack on my newly-reconstructed shoulder, after I ended my season in the game against Scarlets in Round 18 of the Guinness PRO14.

We picked up a brilliant win there but I also left with a damaged shoulder, and a season-ending injury. It was a significant tear to my AC joint and there is no coming back from that this season unfortunately.

Although it was initially sore I don't think it was as bad as when I hurt it the last few times and I thought come the Monday it might have been okay. But when I got up to meet the surgeon on Thursday she gave me the bad news.

Rehabbed I am so disappointed with it as I really felt that I had rehabbed it adequately and had no issues with it going into the Scarlets game.

I was just trying to get underneath and win a shoulder battle, to try and help the ball over the line for Robin Copeland's try but one of the Scarlets players got low and hit me directly on the shoulder.

Unfortunately, it didn't hold up. I really wanted to get a good run before the end of the season but it's not to be. I won't be able to contribute on the field now but I'll probably be busier than ever trying to sort this out.

This week already was all about recovery. It was all about getting the feet up and allowing the body to heal. Just getting a small bit of movement into the joint.

Come next week it will be about starting to put mobility and strength into the joint, to get movement into it. Then by week four or five you look to do more strength work and more mobility, getting back out on the field running and getting fitness done. There will be no lack of work, but rugby is finished for this season.

I was only just over 24 hours out of the surgery when the match was on and I had the fans' perspective from my couch. When you are gone for the season you make your peace with missing out. It allows you to actually sit back and watch.

You get to enjoy the spectacle of the game, and it was enthralling, just with the physicality and strength of Toulon alone, and how it was an arm wrestle from minute one to 80.

It was a very tough game and an incredible win. We beat Toulouse in previous years in Thomond Park but they weren't doing as well in the Top 14. They were probably on the back of some poor form coming in to play us but last Saturday was one of the biggest results we have had. Toulon were flying it, and on the back of a 49-0 win over Clermont the previous week they were up towards the top of the table in the Top 14.

The names they have at their disposal is crazy and to bring the likes of Malakai Fekitoa and Francois Trinh-Duc off the replacements' bench, it shows they have class in depth. They were so hard to beat.

It's going to be tough to go all the way with the list of injured players Munster have but we have been doing it the hard way all season long. We have been winning games where sometimes we shouldn't have.

We will take great strength and belief out of last year's experience too. We won't get carried away because we had to grind out the result last weekend. The lads will take a lot out of the quarter-final win and have learnt plenty ahead of the semi-final against Racing 92.

The trip to South Africa is an interesting one now. It's good because the players are out of the media hype until the week of the semi-final.

The guys who play against Cheetahs will take great experience from that game. They can get a fitness boost out of that, playing at altitude and in the heat. It could be a good bonding experience for the players who go out there. They can come back a very tight squad and if everything goes their way out there, Toulon could have started that ball rolling.

The Southern Kings game is happening in George, CJ Stander's home town, so that has the potential to be their highest attendance of the year, with CJ returning home to play against them. They will be out to put in a performance against us, and then the second of the two games will be against Cheetahs, a team within touching distance of us in the PRO14 and points are crucial at this stage.

It will be an interesting two weeks and I'm sure the lads are looking forward to testing themselves down there.

Irish Independent

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