Saturday 18 November 2017

Player diary: Ready to fill rugby void with charity walk and delights of Culture Night

Duncan Casey in action against Edinburgh
Duncan Casey in action against Edinburgh

Duncan Casey

There was a strong stench of relief around the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon. At least in the away dressing-room there was anyway.

It looked like the tide had turned against us with ten minutes to go. Despite this we passed the first test of our resolve this season with flying colours. Last-minute victories are quite rare occurrences but when you grind your way to one in a place like Swansea, it's a hard feeling to beat.

Making my first appearance of the season in such circumstances was a bit of a baptism of fire. It's a well known fact that the most punishing time to come on is when you're chasing a game.

Throw the fact that you haven't played a game in 16 weeks and you have a very punishing experience ahead.

There were a number of players that impressed on their competitive débuts. The obvious ones were Tyler Bleyendaal and Francis Saili, who directed activity around the three-quarter line well all afternoon.

The stand-out performer, however, was Steve Fitzgerald who put in a very composed shift on the left wing.

The former Árd Scoil Rís man only returned to training from the Junior World Cup in the middle of July but has seamlessly slotted into the senior programme.


Scoring from one cross-kick and very nearly another, he repeatedly showed his pace and ability with the boot in a performance that must have turned many heads.

Another special mention must be given to Jordan Coghlan, who made a big impact when he came off the bench with 15 minutes remaining.

The management will be pleased with the impact the bench made. Sunday was another reminder that the days of rugby being a 15-man game are long gone.

Surprisingly, that was only Munster's fourth time winning in Swansea in 14 attempts. Luckily I've won on both my visits to the Liberty but I can certainly attest that it is an incredibly difficult place to play.

With two wins out of two at the start of a funny looking campaign, spirits are certainly high.

Most of the squad have had a week off this week. Some have opted for a few days in the sun, while others have chosen to brave the elements here.

Because I've made a late start to my season I'm due to make my first appearance for Shannon in almost two years tomorrow. I need to get some game-time under my belt ahead of a demanding run of 16 games on the bounce during winter.

The game against Blackrock in Coonagh tomorrow is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Shannon are a new-look outfit this season with Marcus Horan taking the reins as head coach.

Marcus had one of the greatest careers an Irish prop has ever had. The wealth of experience he amassed in a 14-year playing career and two years of coaching will be invaluable for the club.

I was fortunate enough to play alongside Marcus for Shannon in the latter part of his career. I'm certainly looking forward to playing under him for the first time.

I'm also delighted to be able to continue my work with the Mid West Simon Community this season. I got involved nearly 18 months ago, and I've been blown away by the tireless work being done to battle homelessness across the region.

However I've also been blown away by the scale of the problem itself and the difficulties such organisations face each week.

Walk Simon's Way is a beautiful fundraising walk along the stunning coast of Clare which is being held from Friday to Sunday next week. The route begins in Kilrush on Friday and finishes in Fanore on Sunday. You can walk as many or as few stages as you like.

The idea is that you raise money for a great cause and take in some of the breathtaking coast in the process. For more info you can see, call 061-608980 or email

Culture Night 2015 is on across the country tonight. I ended up wandering around Limerick on my own for the occasion two years ago and had an incredible time. Having missed last year's I'm very excited about sampling what's on offer later on.

It's a real shame that it only happens once a year. If you've never been I can't recommend it highly enough for people of all ages. Chances are you'll find a gem or two that you didn't know was hidden away right under your nose.

Although I didn't get there last time out Freemasons' Lodge was giving tours to the public in Limerick. This sparked some interest and I ended up arranging a tour for a group of players last season which was very interesting.

Tonight I'm planning on hitting a harp recital at No 1 Pery Square, walking the medieval walls, seeing some trad and opera at the Hunt Museum and if I have time, getting to an organ recital in St John's Cathedral, which I really enjoyed two years ago when it was given by an old Glenstal teacher of mine, Br Cyprian Love.

In Cork the selection is just as diverse. The Centre for Russian Culture, a tour of the Franciscan Well Brewery, a late opening of the English Market and a visit to the Quaker House caught my eye.

With events all over the province you're best off just visiting and seeing what you fancy yourself.

I'd also like to wish all the lads representing Ireland the very best for their opening game tomorrow and the tournament as a whole.

Irish Independent

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