Thursday 14 December 2017

'No-one wants to hang around with someone who's feeling sorry for themselves' - Donnacha Ryan's positive attitude is refreshing

‘If you say you’re playing well, you are setting yourself up for a big fall’

Donnacha Ryan is hoping to bring his Munster form to the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnacha Ryan is hoping to bring his Munster form to the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There is an added edge to Donnacha Ryan this week - and there's an air of inevitability about it.

Ryan has been chomping at the bit for the last two weeks and the first Italian player that crosses his path tomorrow is likely to feel the full brunt of his frustration.

Not that Ryan is letting on he was annoyed by Joe Schmidt's decision to leave him out of the match-day squad against Scotland, but there is enough to suggest from our conversation that he has a chip on his shoulder.

And who could blame him? Ryan has been the form second-row in the country this season but Schmidt decided last week that there was too much "uncertainty" around a "niggling medial ligament" for him to be included in his 23-man squad.

Yet Ryan was brought to Murrayfield as the 24th man which poses the next question; if he was fit enough to travel and provide cover, why wasn't he fit enough to start the game?

"I suppose we'll never know now," comes Ryan's diplomatic response.

"It doesn't really matter. It was just the way it is. Joe probably felt that with the way it was going, he probably felt I could offer the best cover as 24th man. That's what I was asked to do.

"At the end of the day, from my point of view this week, just get on with it. I'm in great shape so luckily I got the nod this week. Hopefully I can put in a good performance."

Ryan watched on as Ireland's lineout faltered and the maul never really got going. Indeed, two areas of strength in the Munster lock's game, particularly this season.


"That's the nature of playing, you can just get knocked out one week and someone else is in the next," he says.

"I was going well with Dev (Toner). I'm more of a realist now. When you've been dropped so many times, at this stage you're not really ... I am disappointed but you're not as sour or, you know, you can be miserable about it, miserable around your family or you can be 'what's the next positive thing I can do?'

"No one wants to hang around with someone who's feeling sorry for themselves. My point of view is to keep a positive outlook, keep training and keep getting better. I know from the other end, you've got to be ready to get in there."

Ryan turns 34 later this year yet, his form this season has been up there with the best of his career.

But for CJ Stander's astounding level of performances in red, Ryan would have a few man of the match vases of his own at home. In particular, the Tipperary native's performance in Paris when Munster destroyed Racing 92 was a throwback to yesteryear.

Ask Ryan about his own form however, and he doesn't necessarily agree.

"Jeez, I don't know about that," he shrugs. "I'm happy out. I wouldn't agree with you there, that's a matter of opinion. Ah look, I'm enjoying playing at the moment. It's great. Munster have had an interesting year to say the least. Look, it's been good. I'm enjoying it, injury free.

"Ever since I've been trying to get back to that level of fitness after being out for a while, I'm just getting it back this year. It's been going okay so far.

"It is great to get up in the morning and be in a job where you have to try and be better than you were yesterday. It is a great job to have. That's the challenge.

"That's why I really enjoy it at the moment. I know I will never get everything right. But, when you get a few miles on the clock, you realise you don't have to beat yourself up or persecute yourself like you would have done a lot before.

"I am enjoying it but if you say you're playing well, you are setting yourself up for a big fall."

Publicly at least, Ryan has kept his emotions in check but one wonders what has been going through his head since Schmidt told him that he would be travelling as 24th man.


"At the end of the day, if you're relying on emotions week-to-week, you wouldn't be in a healthy state of mind," he adds.

"You realise, never get too high, never get too low. When you are brought in, you can't be going around bull-headed on the pitch.

"You still have a professional level of processes that you have to do when you hit the pitch and not let the emotional side of things override that."

Ryan's performances this season speak for themselves but when he takes to the Stadio Olimpico pitch tomorrow, deep down he will feel that he has a point to prove to Schmidt.

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