Thursday 19 September 2019

From Kellie Harrington to Ruby Walsh and Christy Moore: How Ireland are relaxing off the pitch

Christy Moore and Kellie Harrington have visited the Ireland rugby team
Christy Moore and Kellie Harrington have visited the Ireland rugby team
Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Even for the most experienced players, who have seen it all before, there is nothing quite like a visit from various Irish sporting legends to stir the emotions ahead of the squad's departure for the World Cup.

'The bubble', as Joe Schmidt likes to refer to it, is rarely breached by anyone outside the inner sanctum, but exceptions are made for exceptional people.

On Thursday night, the Ireland players' social media accounts were awash with videos of Christy Moore entertaining the squad - thankfully Jacob Stockdale knew who the legendary singer was this time.

"It was good craic, he was slagging off a few of the lads," said Robbie Henshaw, who is renowned for his musical talents.


"But it was good craic, even the songs he was singing. Lads who never sing were singing along with him. That eases the pressure valve a little, helps us to switch off.

"Tadhg Furlong actually was good, he surprised us by knowing the words! Four years ago, he played bodhrán and I played a couple of tunes on the box. It was a surprise last night so I didn't go up."

Away from the entertainment value this week, there were also inspirational visits from the likes of Paul O'Connell, Henry Shefflin, Ruby Walsh and Kellie Harrington.

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Coming from different sporting backgrounds, they each passed on a wealth of knowledge, with which Henshaw was hugely impressed.

"We had Henry Shefflin in and Ruby Walsh. They were class. Kellie Harrington as well. She was class. Just to get their side of dealing with pressure and dealing with big games. They came around to different tables so we had a one-on-one chat like this.

"We had Henry Shefflin in before. He just spoke about the emotion the boys had in the shirt and what they would do for each other to win those All-Irelands.

"Literally, the pride they had in the jersey. It was a simple message that showed how Kilkenny play. It was interesting to get different opinions, different voices into camp."

After a testing pre-season in which he missed the first three warm-up games, Henshaw will get his overdue, first run-out against Wales tomorrow.

Having watched the likes of Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell get their chance to impress, Henshaw knows it is up to him now to seize his opportunity before the World Cup opener against Scotland.


"I've come back after a few lay-offs and been able to settle in when needed," reflected the Athlone man.

"A lot of work is done behind with the medical staff that gets you to that level.

"The speed of the game when you get to finals rugby is a step up again, but the work they put in definitely stands to you.

"It's vital for us that we get a good bit of confidence out of this game and put in a good performance.

"The performance is key, that we build momentum and that we're getting on the plane with a good, positive mindset and with that confidence going into the competition. So it's vital for us that we lay down a marker this weekend."

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