Monday 23 July 2018

It's great to be back in battle for starting spot after a long lay-off

Being captain for the first time was a massive honour for Jack O’Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile
Being captain for the first time was a massive honour for Jack O’Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile

It seems like an age since I last played against Ulster on New Year's Day, but after six weeks on the sidelines I'm more than ready to pull the red shirt on again.

The injury is good. I'm back fully now. I came through all the levels of contact this week so I'm getting close to being available for selection for this week, which is very exciting.

When you get to the last few weeks of your rehab it's a very slow process, but thankfully this week I've seen great progress as I ramped up my comeback.

This last week or so I've trained fully with the team, so I'm delighted to be in with a shout for selection again.

Unfortunately, I wasn't ready to make the trip to Cardiff, but what can you say about it: we got blitzed.

The first ten or 20 minutes was such an arm wrestle and then we got hit with three really quick scores. We fought back well but discipline and a couple of errors let us down. We weren't able to grind out the win but fair play to the lads for fighting back from being 19-0 down.

That blitz can happen easily enough though. Cardiff have a lot of battle-hardened veterans on their team. We were just caught on the bounce for those few minutes and in the end it cost us dearly.

Positives

One of the positives was that we managed to turn things around a bit in the second half, but it doesn't really make it any easier to review on a Monday morning.

It was still a loss, it was still a missed chance for us to catch up on a few points with the leaders. It is four points gone a begging.

There are positives to it, you have to take positives out of it, especially when there is this many games in a season but it still hurts to see a winnable game like that get away from you.

For the lads to get back into the game, moving within four points, having opportunities, and then not getting it across the line was tough.

It was a big occasion for a lot of the lads though. Being captain for the first time was massive for Jack O'Donoghue and he was definitely handed a tough assignment with that first half.

He did well as a captain and played well as an individual. He's a quality player and I'm sure he'll see the captain's armband again in his career.

It is great to see Tyler back, and Ronan O'Mahony make his first start in a while after that bad injury.

It's great to see a lot of those lads who were on the injured player list starting to be available for selection again. The numbers in training at the moment is a real positive - I don't want to jinx it - but it is good to see right now.

Being back in the hunt, there is so much to play for, for me and all of the lads. There are opportunities coming up and a few big games ahead too.

Although the games are numerous, once you get past the Six Nations you are very much on the home straight.

The season is almost over but there is so much to play for. Having a healthy squad at this time of the season means you'll be firing on all cylinders at the right time of the season.

If all the cards fall right for us, the squad will be well rotated and playing well coming into that key May period.

Moving on there's not much harder than tonight's opposition, and we're up against the high-flying Glasgow Warriors.

They have the most points accumulated, tries scored and the most tries scored from counter-attack. They are dangerous if you kick the ball loosely to them, they defend in such a way that they invite you to kick the ball, and they watch for mistakes, and attack from that.

We got caught out earlier in the season and we'll be out for the win. It's not a case of making amends, but we'll be out to put in a performance in Irish Independent Park.

When we played them in Scotstoun they went after us in all the right areas and we misfired. There are a lot of guys that will be looking to put their hands up again and put in a big showing.

Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to seeing this weekend's rugby. The Six Nations is really heating up, and this will be a very interesting game from an Irish point of view.

This is a Wales team that went to Twickenham and almost came away with a win, only for a video referee error that has now been acknowledged.

Wales will look to resurrect their championship hopes; the Grand Slam may be gone for them but there is so much up for grabs.

With it being at Lansdowne Road, it's a big help, because they are a very good side when they are in the Millennium Stadium.

Their team is not dotted with the usual names, but there is a big quota of Scarlets players who are doing so well at the moment. With a Munster hat on, we'll be looking at those Scarlets lads to see how they perform. Unfortunately, we already know how good they can be.

Irish Independent

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