Thursday 18 January 2018

We're all bursting out of our skins to finally see some real action

Dave Kilcoyne

Well, I was consigned to the stands again last week as the lads did the business against London Irish at Musgrave Park.

I joined the likes of our new captain Peter O'Mahony, Simon Zebo, Tommy O'Donnell, Paulie and a few of the other lads up there, while we were all amused to watch poor old Donnacha Ryan getting very excited during the game.

After his rousing interview on the pitch before the game, Donnacha had to sit in the last available seat around us, which happened to be in the press box.

God help the poor reporters, but I'm sure they had the best of craic too, watching him get worked up about how the line-outs were going and which lad was not fulfilling his defensive duties.

Like myself, I'd say he can't wait to get back on the pitch and do his talking there – and not on the sideline before the game!

But we were all well impressed with how the lads played against a tough London Irish outfit. The first half saw some seriously bruising stuff and, as a result, there was a good few errors popping up.

But in the second half, I thought we played really well and to see Ronan O'Mahony bag a hat-trick was brilliant. I know Ronan fairly well and he was thrilled with himself on his home patch.


With Keats and JJ playing so well at 10, it goes to show how well our game plan is working so far. Hopefully, we can transfer that into the league when it starts tomorrow.

The boys did well in the scrum too. They have a huge front-row and I thought they settled in really well. The new laws were interesting to look at too; it seems we could see a few more heels against the head. It really is back to old-school scrummaging.

We are all keeping our fingers crossed for BJ Botha after the weekend. It is rotten to see anyone getting injured, but for a guy who is so important to us, it is very hard.

BJ is a real rock-solid fella, but in the last few games we have seen what John Ryan and Stephen Archer can do as well. Hopefully, he'll be back with us before too long and that his injury is not as serious as it looked at first.

With us facing Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup as well this year, Saturday's game will have an extra bit of spice. I feel like a broken record, but I am mad keen to play in this one. We have eight or nine weeks of pre-season behind us, weights session after weights session, followed by conditioning and more weights. It's been quite a tough few weeks, but we are all bursting out of our skins to play some ball.

Before every game, you do plenty of video analysis on your previous games with your opponents. On the back of that, we have seen how we have done against Edinburgh in the past. Last season, we took a penalty try from them in Edinburgh, while we got a few more penalties and points off them in the ERC group games. No doubt, they'll have looked at those games too and will remember us getting the upper hand, so they will definitely be up for this game. They have some great front-rows in fairness to them, the likes of Geoff Cross, John Yapp and WP Nel are as good as anyone, so we'll definitely need to be on our game.

One great thing that Rob introduced since he arrived is an online video and audio review, which is simultaneously held in Cork and Limerick. It means that we can all have a backs or forwards meeting without having to travel to the same place. Anything that cuts down the miles on the road is a major bonus.

On Tuesday, I went into Thomond for our forwards meeting, which is conducted over something similar to Skype and we went over the London Irish game and had a good look ahead to Edinburgh. Being able to chat to the lads in Cork to run over a simple team meeting is a great facility to have.

We had a squad session in Cork IT on Tuesday, one in UL on Thursday, and I had a weights and recovery session in between on Wednesday. After all that, the carb loading and taking on of water started. It can be tough sometimes to get all of the pasta down your neck at times, but it is all laid out for us pretty much, which is handy.

We usually start to work on getting our water intake up two days before the match, but once match-day comes, it is all feet up until game time and doing everything we can to make sure we are ready for action.

I suppose getting the chance to pull on the red shirt again makes all the sacrifices and long hours in the gym worthwhile, but in saying that, there has been some great craic with the lads too in the off-season.

The Munster Race was a great way to start off the camp and we all stayed below in Youghal in the hotel, which was a great laugh and a brilliant way to get to know the new lads.

Next up is the prospect of the training camp in Italy in between the Treviso and Zebre games and no one wants to miss that one. The chance of a week in the sun in northern Italy sounds pretty appealing right about now, so, hopefully, I'll be able to work my way into Rob's plans by then.

Note to self: Remember the togs and the sun block...

Irish Independent

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