Player diary: Dave Kilcoyne
Chowing down with Claw and early to bed gets us ready for the big one
Now it gets serious. It feels like our season has been building up to this weekend and next – the two games with Perpignan are crucial for us and we are hell-bent on getting off to the perfect start with a win on Sunday at Thomond Park.
Ever since we slipped up in Edinburgh, this double-header has been in the back of our minds. We all know that, in a four-team group, there is no more room for mess-ups. It's the last chance saloon, as they say!
After last week's short turnaround ahead of the Dragons match, this week it's been great to have an extra day or two to prepare for the Heineken Cup and it's been really good so far.
Ahead of that double trip to Wales, we targeted two wins, so to come home with nine points from a possible 10 was as good as we could have hoped for. We held on to top spot in the Pro12 and stretched our unbeaten run at the same time.
The trip to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons was just as we had expected from them – it was a tough, ground-out performance that eventually brought the win. Fair play to Ian Keatley, though, he had his kicking boots on and without him we might have been going home with our tails between our legs. It was that kind of a game.
After the game last Friday we recovered a bit on Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday we were pretty busy in Limerick. We moved away from our usual preparation and had a small training camp in UL on Monday and Tuesday, which was great.
Tuesday was like our usual Tuesday. It was all about our team drills and things like that, but Monday was all about doing the extra things in preparation for this week and next.
With all the Cork lads staying up in the Castletroy Hotel on Monday night, us Limerick lads did our part and showed them the sights and the whole team went out for a slap-up dinner for a bit of entertainment.
While props are not generally known for the haute cuisine, I have to compliment Peter Clohessy on his new restaurant 'The Gandelow.' He was a brave man inviting all of us hungry lads in just a few weeks after he opened, but it was a great night.
God help their kitchen staff, though, I'd say they were pushed to the limit keeping the trimmings coming. But, as we like to say, it's all about getting the carbs in! I'm sure the Claw had them all warned anyway.
One great thing about having all the lads around is the chance to have a few conversations outside of rugby. It's pretty important to have that team bonding time, especially in these two big weeks.
It's something that we get to do on away trips, but because we are playing on Sunday, we have a nice long week ahead of the game, it was great to get all the boys together and to have a good time.
The one major blow this week was losing Mike Sherry to his knee injury. Mike is one of my closest friends in the team, we went to school and college together – we both studied business in UL.
It's every player's nightmare to suffer a cruciate injury, so we all feel for Mike, but I'm sure he'll be back with us bigger, better and stronger than ever before too long. He is talking about taking the few months to finish off his college course, so I might have to dust off the study notes to give him a hand.
But, all in all, the two-day camp in Limerick was a great success, we got a huge amount of prep work done and had field sessions on both days, as well as a good video session on Perpignan.
Preparing as a unit of forwards, Anthony Foley is always keen on us focusing on our own game, not to worry too much about our opponents. Axel's ethos is that if we are right ourselves, the result will follow. And we got loads of work done on our breakdown work and our scrummaging and we did plenty of line-out work as well.
But, at the same time, it would be remiss of us not to do our homework on our opponents and we've all been keeping an eye on them for the last couple of months. We are fully aware of the challenge ahead of us.
They looked pretty good against Clermont in the Top 14 last week and they seem to have a powerful pack and some decent backs at their disposal. They are well capable of sucking you in and picking out the weaknesses in your defence if you are not on your toes.
With the game being on Sunday morning, we have the lovely experience of loading up with fuel early in the day. It is pretty much a case of getting up at six or seven and get munching on the pasta.
We played Edinburgh early on a Sunday already this year and, it's fair to say, it didn't go well for us, but that has been raised this week and we hope it won't be an issue again this weekend.
Personally, it has been a quiet week for me outside of training. I've been heading off to bed a couple of hours earlier than usual in an effort to train the body and mind into hitting the ground running when I get up on Sunday.
But whatever time the game is at, we know we have to put in a top performance for this one. This is a huge game in our season and we are going to have to fight tooth and nail for everything.
Thomond Park is sure to be rocking again and that's always a massive help to us. We won't have it easy when we go to their place next week, but they will definitely face a hot reception on Sunday.
We plan on giving you something to shout about.