Saturday 24 August 2019

Injuries are a real setback, but at least I'll be back in a week or two

Player Diary: Tommy O’Donnell

Strength and conditioning coach PJ Wilson keeps a watchful eye as Tyler Bleyendaal goes through his paces at the University of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Strength and conditioning coach PJ Wilson keeps a watchful eye as Tyler Bleyendaal goes through his paces at the University of Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

It is unfortunate that I'm not in a position to play for either Munster or Ireland this weekend, but the good news is my shoulder injury is not too serious and I'll be back in the next week or so.

When you are on the back of a decent run of form and you get an international call-up, it's a huge buzz, but this time it wasn't to be for me as I picked up the knock a few days out from the South Africa game and I've been on the rehabbing circuit since then.

The whole thing was very innocuous. It happened on the Monday before the game and I had the full week's training in before that and things had gone well for me. I ran into CJ in training and I took a bit of a blow to the A/C joint.

It's the kind of injury that you have to be fully right to play against physical teams like South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, so I decided to go back to Munster to rehab it and let it heal properly. In total I expect it will be a two- to three-week thing so I'm hopeful of a quick return.

Injuries are always frustrating, but this was especially so considering all the back-row injuries that happened in the squad. I probably would have gotten my chance against Fiji, but it is what it is. I'm well used to it at this stage. It doesn't get any easier, but it doesn't get any harder either.

ruthless The South Africa game was incredible, though. Ireland defended so stoutly and then their attack was so ruthless. They made South Africa look rudderless at times, which is some achievement. They are capable of huge performances, but Ireland smothered them and made them look extremely average. It all went to plan.

Then last weekend Fiji turned the tables on us. Their physicality was incredible, they hung in there, took their opportunities, and really put us under pressure for the final few minutes.

While we are all one unit in Ireland camp, we naturally always love to see the Munster lads doing well. I'd love to have seen the likes of Killer and John Ryan get their chance again against Fiji, but they picked up slight knocks, and I thought the Munster lads that did play did really well. 

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It was absolutely unreal to see Sweets get over for the try; he is a man who deserves everything he gets. The level of skill and ability that he has is incredible. After injury, he's back into unbelievable form so it is great to see him shine in the Ireland shirt. 

Andy Conway is another guy who is playing well. He was brilliant against South Africa. They gave him loads of space and when he is handed time like that he has no trouble impressing too. A man of the match award against Fiji tells us he is really on song and comfortable at that level.

Keats came on too against Fiji and kicked a couple of great penalties. It was a tough time to come on and he had only arrived when his first kick came up. It was a game Ireland were expected to win well, but it was a significant achievement for him to steer the team over the line. It took a steady hand and a calm mind to execute there.

On the home front, Johann van Graan will be in and around as head coach for the first time this week. He was still on duty for South Africa last weekend, so by and large it has been Jerry and Felix who have been running things in recent days. But that is no change: all along Jerry and Felix have been taking more responsibility and they have been driving the game-plan. It will ensure a smooth transition to the Johann van Graan era. But first things first, we have to win away from home against Zebre on Sunday, and this challenge is all the tougher this year considering they have improved so much.

You are starting to see the trickle-down effect from Conor O'Shea in charge, and with Michael Bradley as head coach they have brought a real calmness to the side.

They are certainly benefiting from the greater organisation that is in the Italian game now, and I'm sure we'll see a big step up from them in the years to come.

Because a lot of the lads had a week off they spread to every corner of the world for a break. A good few of them went to New York for a few days, some of them went to France and more of them took off around Europe.

I didn't go anywhere due to the injury; you usually like to have these things planned out. But sometimes the last-minute plans are great too. I remember I went to Berlin one year without too much planning and it turned into a great few days away.

For me this week has been all about rehab and I was able to really crank up my work in recent days. Most of the swelling is gone and the healing has been done, so now it's all about putting in the work.

The rehab process is very much dictated to you. With an injury like this you immediately gravitate over to the injured players' schedule. PJ Wilson coordinates that group along with the physios, so you have your window to go in to do your work. Usually you come in in the morning and do some weights and off-feet conditioning. After a bit of breakfast you're back in for physio and rehab. The whole day is nicely planned out, you don't have to go away and come back in three or four hours later.

It helps too that you're with all the injured players as a group driving each other on. You don't feel like you are isolated, you're not on your own, there is the training vibe that you need to get through the sessions.

While you never want a lay-off like this at a key time, it does give me the chance to rest up the body after a busy couple of months. So when I do come back in a week or so I'll be ready to kick on into the rest of the season.

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