Saturday 24 March 2018

Sunshine and snake charmers left me hungry for training again

Dave O’Callaghan made the most of his time-off. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Dave O’Callaghan made the most of his time-off. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Donoghue - Player Diary

After my recent trip to Barcelona with a few of the lads, it was a pleasure to spend a few days in Marrakesh in Morocco with my girlfriend Olwyn last week.

I know this diary is turning into more of a travel blog now than a rugby update, but what are you supposed to do only enjoy yourself on a down week!

It was great to get a bit of sunshine on the back too. And with temperatures over 30 degrees at stages every day, some relaxation beside the pool under the sun was the perfect getaway.

But it wasn't all letting the hair down either: we all had conditioning sessions to complete during our time off.

To keep on top of my gym work I had three running sessions and two weights sessions during the week - so before I booked the holiday I had a good look in to see what kind of facilities were there, and I booked a hotel with all that in mind.


As it turned out, Dave O'Callaghan and his girlfriend were in the city at the same time, so we met up and had a few gym and run sessions together.

Marrakesh is an amazing place. It's split into the old and new town. All the branded shops are in the new part, but in the old town you have all the energy and buzz around the place.

The hustle and bustle is incredible. Some lads on bikes, some lads on donkeys; food stalls, spices, music, snake charmers and dancers all around the place: it's incredible, a real trip to remember.

All the work I've being doing in the last week or so has been about putting my injury behind me, and I'm raring to go now. It was my knee that kept me out. The week of the Cardiff game I was almost ready, but the match came a day or two too early for me.

After my lay-off, my lungs definitely felt it a bit, especially in the warm weather of Morocco. Running in heat like that is tough, but it was great to top up my fitness base before we all got back together on Wednesday.

It was great to run around together as a group again. Honestly, everyone was so eager; we were well rested - both physically and mentally - after a ten-day break.

Like everyone else, the B&I Cup lads had the start of last week off, but they were back in last Thursday and Friday in preparation for Sunday's game. They put in an unbelievable performance and to have the province in the semi-final again is a huge achievement.

The fact that it was such a strong performance against another Irish province meant a lot too. A few lads who might not have had the minutes they wanted all season got a great run. Dave Johnson really slotted in to 10 well, had a 100pc kicking return and he controlled the game really well. That will really stand to him as the squad leads into the Zebre game and he'll want to be ready when his next chance presents itself.

As a result, the same weekend of our Champions Cup quarter-final, the B&I team have a home semi-final to play. That will make for a massive few weeks in training.

Monday morning is when the big focus switches to our Zebre trip. We all know how big that game will be, especially with points so vital in the Pro12. It also leads into the biggest game of our season so far when Toulouse arrive in town for the Champions Cup a week later.

With that fixture in mind it made my injury all the more frustrating. After I wasn't available for Cardiff, certain regrets creep into your head a bit.

You feel that you've missed an opportunity to prove yourself to the coaches and put your name on that team-sheet for the quarter-final.

But I still have a chance to force my way into the Zebre game. I'll train well next week, get into that squad, hopefully perform well in Italy and send a timely reminder to everyone of what I can do.

When all the international lads come back we'll have 40-odd players wanting to make that 23-man squad for Toulouse, and that means there will be a lot of disappointed people. It's a massive number of weeks and I hope to be able to play my part.

Irish Independent

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