O'Callaghan buzzing for action
IT has been 11 years since Donncha O'Callaghan made his European debut as a raw 19-year-old, bursting off the bench in Perpignan full of energy, enthusiasm and promise.
Sixty-six Heineken Cup appearances later, the Munster, Ireland and Lions second-row has more than fulfilled that promise, while the 30-year-old's energy bubbles as powerfully as ever.
Thus, while the snow and ice has ruined Munster's preparations for tomorrow's Heineken Cup showdown in Treviso, in that the province's strongest XV has not played together since they destroyed Perpignan, O'Callaghan chooses to view the disruption in a positive light.
"We are fresh after a bit of a break, because it was quite tough with the Autumn Internationals, which were hugely physical games," he said. "Come the end against Perpignan, we were playing with an awful lot of knocks and bangs, but now we are fully recovered, fully refreshed. You can see that by your scores in the gym and stuff like that. So, sometimes a rest can push you on and help you to play a bit better.
"The flip side of it is that you are not match sharp, you can't go as full on as you would like in training, as you can in games, but we know that we are really fresh going into it and that's the positive that I take out of it."
There is a general belief Munster will cruise to a bonus-point win in Treviso tomorrow, but the Italians have beaten Perpignan and performed creditably, if unsuccessfully, against Munster and Northampton and O'Callaghan is taking the challenge seriously. "You might have thought it was a handy four or five points but we would never disrespect any team by thinking like that," he stressed.
"I think they have been the best performing Italian team in the competition since it started. We know it's a hugely physical game, it always is when we play the Italian teams."
O'Callaghan is sanguine about the criticism the squad received when they were going through a difficult patch in the first part of the season and says morale in the camp never wavered.
"It doesn't help if everyone is having pops off you, but that isn't the case. We know Munster supporters are really loyal to the team. We have to be harsh on ourselves as well and we were underperforming in some of our plays.
"We knew we would come out the back end of it. No there was definitely no-one gunning to stick it up anyone or anything like that. It was just that we knew, going to Perpignan, it was a huge match, just like this Saturday.
"It's a happy squad and I think things like that you don't even have to justify by talking about...I think it's a family club and something you should be really proud to be involved in."