Monday 20 November 2017

'It was absolutely incredible, I've experienced nothing like it' - Darren Sweetnam recalls first game after Axel's death

Munster winger Darren Sweetnam has experienced some pretty good atmospheres in his burgeoning sporting career.

The 24-year-old played in front of a sold out Aviva Stadium in Munster's Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens last month, he's been thrust into the white-hot intensity of an All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final with the Cork hurlers at Croke Park, but his most atmospheric sporting memory is of his Champions Cup debut against Glasgow in October.

Munster's Pool 1 opener with the Warriors was Sweetnam's first chance to make an impression at a European level on a day where rugby played second fiddle to mourning and celebration. In a back three with Ireland internationals Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, Sweetnam performed admirably and spurred Thomond Park to its feet when he made back-to-back try saving tackles on Ali Price and then Mark Bennett.

Munster steamrolled their way through Glasgow and all the way to the Champions Cup semi-finals, where they were unceremoniously dumped by reigning champions Saracens, but the Glasgow win that started the journey still sticks out above the rest for Sweetnam.

"Playing in front of a full Thomond Park against Glasgow in my Champions Cup debut was absolutely incredible," Sweetnam told TG4's Nemeton TV.

"I've experienced nothing like it. The atmosphere was insane.

"Overall it's been a great year for me. I played nine times last year, I think, so I just wanted to build on that and I think I have. It's important to keep putting your hand up because there's some much competition with the likes of Earlsy [Keith Earls], [Simon] Zebo and [Andrew] Conway so you need to be performing every week."

Munster will welcome Connacht to Thomond Park on Saturday in what will be their final Pro 12 game of the season before their home semi-final in two weeks time.

Rassie Erasmus' side defeated Connacht 16-9 when the two sides met earlier this season in Galway, however, Sweetnam is still very cognisant of the threat that the current champions possess despite limiting the Westerners to just penalty goals the last time they met.

"Our main goal is to win the Pro 12," added Sweetnam.

"We've the home semi-final secured but look we'll just take it each game at a time and we've a big game against Connacht at the weekend. They beat us in Thomond Park this time last year and they can run it from anywhere, they can score tries from anywhere, so it'll be a difficult task but we'll be ready."

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