Friday 19 January 2018

Training camp should have us chirping for rest of season

Player Diary

Duncan Casey goes through his stretching routine
Duncan Casey goes through his stretching routine

Duncan Casey

You might be wondering why Conor Murray's face is absent from this week's player diary. Unfortunately due to his Ireland commitments, you are going to have to do without Conor's ramblings for the next few weeks and put up with mine instead.

Hopefully I'll be able to provide you with a different insight into what life is like in Munster while Conor is away with Ireland.

This week, we were fortunate enough to spend six days in training camp in La Santa, Lanzarote. Club La Santa is best described as an active holiday resort. It caters for professional athletes as well as amateur fitness enthusiasts of all ages.

The facilities are, for the most part, state of the art and I would struggle to think of any sport that doesn't have significant square footage devoted to it.

The number of people wandering the complex in national athletics tracksuits from all over Europe gave an indication of how highly the facility must be rated around the continent.

We all had visions of stepping out of the airport and being blasted with delightfully scorching heat. Instead, we were greeted with a cloudy horizon and an uncomfortable breeze. I regret to say that this didn't change for the majority of the week. However, this didn't dampen our spirits.

Welcome

It was certainly a welcome change to train in double-digit temperatures for the first time in several weeks. Constantly reminding ourselves of just how cold it is in Ireland at the moment meant there was never any danger of anyone complaining - except Killer of course, he never stops.

After taking the first evening to settle in, we got to work early the next morning with a short, intense session that set the tone for the week.

There's no denying that going abroad for a camp like this brings a relaxed, excited atmosphere to the group. But training camps certainly aren't holidays and this wasn't treated as such.

As our squad is split between two centres, six days of training together gives us with a great opportunity to iron out any lack of familiarity we may have. This could mean with one another, with certain elements of the game-plan or specific roles in attack or defence.

The week together gave us an indication of what life might be like when the single centre in UL is ready. We can all be very encouraged and excited by what such an environment will do for Munster.

Aidan and PJ, the S&C coaches who travelled with us, got their piece of the pie too. We were in the gym five times this week for snappy but gruelling sessions.

We trained in the public gym alongside people and physiques of all shapes and sizes. People might assume that training next to strangers is an inconvenience. I couldn't disagree more. When I was in the academy, we regularly trained in the public gym in UL Arena and I always enjoyed it.

There's something unique about the atmosphere in a gym full of people doing their own thing. Looking around at the different lifts and training styles on show and seeing everyone striding (or crawling) towards their individual goals is something I've always liked.

One element which was directed by Aidan was the team competitions. We were split into six sides, and competed in tasks ranging from swimming to volleyball. Unfortunately the 100 metre swimming task proved too much for some. PJ came very close to (actually) drowning as he thrashed his way up and down the Olympic size pool. What started as a hilarious sight soon turned to one of genuine worry. He got there in the end!

Obviously, you can't train all day and all night. One thing that can be quite difficult in a training camp is finding entertaining ways of passing the considerable amount of free time you have. Fortunately, we were in the Canary Islands, which meant this wasn't difficult.

I'm a sucker for a nice bit of scenery, so I moseyed on down to the beautiful beach nearby on more than one occasion. It's hard to beat the sound of the waves on a quiet beach when I'm looking for a way to spend an evening.

After going for dinner in the town of La Santa on Monday evening, we were given Tuesday morning off to explore the surroundings.

Eight of us decided to spend a few hours kayaking and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters. This was an enjoyable way to explore the area and meet some of the stunning marine life that Lanzarote boasts.

Sean Dougall struggled with the physics of navigating a kayak for a while before eventually mastering it.

The highlight of my excursion was having a close encounter with a stingray on the seabed. Images of Steve Irwin quickly came to mind as I panicked and tried desperately to swim the other way.

I'm not a bird watcher but my girlfriend Sorcha was extremely jealous when I told her about the number of kestrels and ospreys that were casually flying around. If you're into wildlife, Lanzarote seems to have a lot to offer.

It was a very productive week for preparation and morale. We are now facing into a very tough run of games. The week will help us in reaping the maximum reward out of what is a make or break period.

I'm certainly looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you over the coming weeks. Have a good weekend!

Irish Independent

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