Sunday 15 September 2019

O'Donnell: I put too much pressure on myself in the past

Tommy O’Donnell. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tommy O’Donnell. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It goes without saying that there is never a good time for a player to pick up an injury, but for Tommy O'Donnell his latest setback was particularly costly.

On the back of his fine form this season the flanker had worked his way back into Joe Schmidt's plans and was hopeful of making his first international appearance since the Six Nations win over Scotland last year.

A shoulder injury picked up early last month, however, scuppered his chances of featuring in the Autumn Internationals and in the meantime Chris Cloete has hit the ground running since arriving in Munster.

O'Donnell has had his fair share of injuries over the years, though, and has learned to cope with these setbacks.

"You see the way the cards fall and heading into November there was a good opportunity of getting game time. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, as was shown by the injury, but you can only get into those positions by doing what you do and playing good rugby," the Tipperary native maintains.

"I've found in the past if you are focussing on 'I have to get back to Ireland, I have to get back to Ireland', that's when you're not going to play your best rugby.

"But doing what you do and leaving it 100pc on the field every week and just building up game time every week is the best way of doing it.

"At times, going back three or four years, maybe (I put too much pressure on myself), but since then I have learned a lot.

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"Now it's all about playing well for Munster and that will eventually lead to putting your hand up for Ireland selection."

O'Donnell missed the back-to-back wins over Leicester and will have to quickly recapture his form if he is to get back into the starting XV when the Champions Cup returns in a fortnight.

The flanker got an hour in the Stephen's Day defeat against Leinster and, for the most part, he found it tough against Dan Leavy, who was outstanding.

Cloete gets the nod at openside today, with O'Donnell at blind, but he believes that the South African's form will ultimately bring the best out of him.

"In fairness to Chris, he's played incredibly well since he's arrived and that breeds more competition," the 30-year-old admits.

"It means you have to be at the top of your game. All you can do is go out there and if you're playing one or two less games but you're fresher and playing better rugby, then that helps the team.

"I suppose we're different players and we have different attributes as well, but it's great to have a player like him.

"There's definitely a bit of cross-pollination because you'd like to learn and pick up the skills, how he approaches games and his mindset.

"It's all for the greater good of Munster and it's all about putting us in a better position," he adds.

"Last year we got close and if it means we win trophies this year, then that's better for Munster."

Munster are looking to bounce back against Ulster today and O'Donnell believes that they have the strength in depth to do so.

"We lost that experience two years ago with the likes of Paul O'Connell leaving and the likes of Ronan O'Gara," he says.

"They had the experience accrued over time and that's incredibly hard to replace.

"Even in those two years since, we've built up that experience again. You just have to go back to basics and do what you do best."

Irish Independent

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