Tuesday 23 January 2018

Everyone on their toes and aiming for another victory before break

Munster’s Dan Goggin keeps his eye on the ball during training in UL. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Dan Goggin keeps his eye on the ball during training in UL. Photo: Sportsfile

Tommy O’Donnell

Almost a week removed from last Saturday's loss at Thomond Park and it is still tough to digest, but getting the body and mind ready for a tough away trip to Cardiff tomorrow is a great way to deal with that disappointment.

To lose at Thomond Park for the first time in more than a year was not a run we wanted broken this season, but all is not lost. We know fortune has fallen our way in that recent run, so you have to take defeat on the chin too.

Looking back, it was a ten-minute period in the second half that cost us. Their three tries came over a six-minute spell and nothing seemed to go our way for that time. We gave away penalties, we conceded territory and scrums. But in fairness we tried to fight back, we kept trying and plugging away, but while it has gone for us on other occasions this year, it didn't work out for us last weekend.

We were pretty good in that first half, but it was tough playing into that wind too. We could have boxed a little bit cleverer at times. But in fairness to them they took their three tries very, very well and played territory after that and defended well.

Scarlets are fourth in the table for a reason and have been undefeated for a long while too. Sometimes you have to applaud good rugby. They had their homework done and took their chances when they presented themselves.

Weakness

Like for that first try, we haven't been in that position too often this season and teams might not have seen it too much, but Scarlets spotted a weakness and now it's up to us to work on that.

We scored a few good tries ourselves too though. We are well capable of scoring tries this year and we are well able to take teams through the phases. The scores were good but unfortunately they dried up after 30 minutes. But we know we have the ability to take on teams and hopefully we'll get back to doing that this week.

I'm struggling to remember a time that we had such competition in my position, and it will be crazy once everyone is back from Ireland camp too. With younger guys coming through and the faces that have been there a while, essentially we all know we have to perform when we get our chance.

In fairness, it seems everyone who gets in is doing well. Even the 'A' games, lads are really performing well. They know they will be noticed and rewarded for hard training.

It'll be the same again tomorrow, whoever is selected will have to perform. It will be interesting to see who we face too; Josh Navidi has played a good bit at 7 and Nick Williams at 8 in the last few weeks, but whoever is in there will be quality operators.

Cardiff have so much to play for too, the fact that they are only four points behind Glasgow in sixth place means they are a bloody decent team with so much to play for in the weeks to come.

You cannot take them lightly in this competition, and we were upset by them earlier this year at Irish Independent Park. They have really experienced players, their back three are incredibly sharp and well able to score tries from anywhere on the park. We have to go in there with our eyes open and expect a real battle.

After being involved in Ireland camp a bit in the last few weeks, I was keen to see how they fared against France last weekend, and they were really impressive. I ended up watching the game in my sister-in-law's house in Cork to coincide with a shopping trip.

It was a good game, very tense. You could see from the start how attritional it was. The wet weather allowed France to slow down the game and they made it really tough for Ireland. But Ireland didn't shirk the physicality and eventually they were able to open out the game and take the scores when they could.

Ireland camp is very intense. You have to be very switched on while you're there and you have to be ready to perform when it's your chance. The fact that you are there for two days and then you might be released on the Tuesday can be tough going.

You arrive on Sunday night with Irish calls in your head and then you have to switch back to Munster calls again. When you are released back to the province for a Friday game, that doesn't afford you much time to train, so your mental preparation is vital.

I can be forgiven for a couple of wrong calls for Munster, but in fairness a few of the lads that were also up in camp knew what I was talking about.

Earlier this week, I was at the launch of CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) Foundation's walk/run/cycle in Monagea, which takes place on April 29. It looks like a great event, with loads of different distances available for both the walk and the cycle section. Anyone interested in the event can get more information if they look up West Limerick Endurance 125.

I'm also involved on an ongoing basis with a charity called iCAN (The Irish Children's Arthritis Network). I'm an ambassador and patron for the charity, mainly because it was set up by a lady called Wendy Costello, from Cahir, my home town.

The effort she puts into it is incredible, and the help she gives to families with children who suffer from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is immense. It's not like the arthritis that elderly people might get, the cause of the condition is unknown, but identifying cases early is important so the children can be given the correct treatment.

iCAN is an incredible charity, they are completely volunteer-based, there is no board there, but the work they do is extensive. When you see work like that going on it puts everything into perspective and you can't feel sorry for yourself after losing a rugby match.

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