Friday 24 November 2017

Tough night is in store if Dragons play well

Ronan O’Mahony is a great example to all younger guys coming through the system according to Felix Jones Picture: Sportsfile
Ronan O’Mahony is a great example to all younger guys coming through the system according to Felix Jones Picture: Sportsfile

Felix Jones

Last weekend was tough going. It certainly wasn't the prettiest and it was one of those games where we had to just grind out the victory.

I don't think either team played as they would have liked but sometimes they are the best ones to win, and now it's onwards and upwards with Dragons up tonight at Irish Independent Park.

For this group it was really important to keep the momentum going and despite missing so many of the usual go-to men, a lot of lads stood up at Myreside and I think that was most pleasing after making 11 changes. It was far from perfect, I don't think anyone will be falling in love with themselves, but it was a grind and they did well in the circumstances.

I don't like to single out guys but I have to give special mention to Ronan O'Mahony who is a great example to all younger guys coming through the system. He has worked all the way up from sub-academy, Academy and Munster 'A', putting his time in at every level, and just continues to impress.

He is probably one of the hardest-working backs in the team and it shows on the field, and off it too. He picked up the man of the match award and is getting a lot of deserved credit for his performances.

I'm sure he has his own ambitions in terms of getting into an Ireland camp in the future but he has shown he is well able to mix it with that level of player and he has been really effective in what we do down here.

Overall, it's great to see the guys performing well as a unit, with the game so close we could have easily been reviewing a defeat on Monday.


But that's something we've been able to deal with this season, managing the pressure in those final minutes. If you look at some of our other close calls this year, up in Ulster, Glasgow away, they have all come down to the final moments or one kick or one try to win the game.

On the surface, you can think that's brilliant, 13 wins from 14 games, but when you scratch underneath you see the mechanics and it comes down to tight margins all the time and that's where guys are delivering at crucial moments.

This period is all about building depth in the squad and calling on players who have played in the Pro12 on occasions and lined out in the Maori All Blacks game and tonight against Dragons is another opportunity for the group. I remember we had a very strong side out against them earlier in the season over in Rodney Parade and that was a tight affair with us under pressure in the final minutes. They nearly turned us over and we haven't forgotten that. They have the majority of their squad available to them this weekend, and when you look at it like that it's going to be a tough game, we have no doubt about that.

People might talk about Munster being favourites for games like this, and question whether the weight of expectation might get to us. But this group haven't even thought about expectation, they base their game around effort and playing with honesty and guys giving it their all.

They don't get bogged down with expectation. There have been stages this season where we have left that behind us and we have played with a smile on our faces. It's not about taking any opposition less seriously and that's no different today; we all know how important it is to get the win in Cork.

Then all eyes will be on Rome tomorrow where Ireland will look to get their Six Nations campaign back on track after a poor start away to Scotland last weekend.

Scotland were good, they took their chance really well and they are a team full of confidence. Glasgow have gone well of late and they have been able to translate that over.

But I know a lot of the Irish guys and how they operate. They will dust themselves down and the fact that there is a bonus-point system now, they will be targeting a win and five points after that. You would imagine they will be made work hard to get every point but their stamina and fitness should stand to them, so hopefully they can get a full return on this occasion.

However, Italy are going to be desperate to bounce back also and they will want to put in a performance at home so I wouldn't say it's the perfect game for Ireland. It will no doubt be a bruising encounter as is the case against every Italian side. The first weekend has thrown the Six Nations wide open and if other teams don't get bonus points Ireland are back in it. It just adds to the excitement of it all.

Irish Independent

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