BACK ON TOUR Gavin Duffy (centre) will be in the thick of the action again this month as he is part of the Ireland squad touring New Zealand and Australia. Pic: Sportsfile
Getting up for going Down Under
FOR rugby players the month of June usually means weddings. It’s the only month when the professional season slows down a little so it’s also the time when a lot of guys in our profession try to pencil in their big day. This summer was always going to be hectic for me with a few of my old team-mates at Harlequins getting married.
But things just got a whole lot busier!
I honestly thought Ireland would only be bringing 26 players on the tour to New Zealand and Australia so I wasn’t hopeful to be honest. But with Gordon D’Arcy and Andrew Trimble being injured and 33 being brought, a place opened up for me. I got a telephone call to tell me the news, then a letter arrived in the post, and I was in.
This is always an uncertain time of year for players anyway. You’re waiting for all the different squads to be announced and it’s not possible to make any definite plans until that’s all done and dusted. If I hadn’t made got on the squad for New Zealand and Australia I could have been going to America and Canada with the ‘A’ squad. It’s hard for wives and girlfriends too because they can’t make any plans either!
I’m delighted to be back in the squad. You always think your form is okay and that you’re doing alright but I know I could be playing better. Sometimes, in the past, I’ve played well and not got into squads. Now I know I have room for improvement and am involved so it’s important that I make the most of any chance that I get.
It’s kind of strange to have Michael Bradley around the place in charge of Ireland at the moment but nice at the same time. I’ve built up a good understanding with him at Connacht and quite a lot of us have played under him in the Ireland A squad as well so we know each at this stage.
My plan for New Zealand and Australia is to take it as it comes. I don’t have any definite plans or goals but if I get a chance I intend to make the most of it. We play New Zealand next Saturday and Australia a week later so there won’t be much time for sight-seeing.
When I get back the countdown will actually be on to my own wedding! August is approaching fast, the pre-marriage course has been done, and I’ve just left for the other side of the world. But I have a feeling I’ll be talking to my fiancee Sara quite a lot before I get home!
TRYING TO TAME THE BARBARIANS
THE adventure began last week and initially, I was the 23rd man for the Barbarians game at Kingsholm. Des Ryan, our fitness advisor with Connacht, is involved with the Irish squad at the moment and was taking a few of us to the gym the day before the game to do some weights.
Usually that would consist of squats, leg weights, upper body work... The funny thing was, I’d been in the position of being the 23rd man before and got in at the last minute so I didn’t want to take any chances this time either. Just in case!
So I asked Des if we could leave the leg weights and, lo and behold, I got the call at 12 o’clock the following day that I was playing. Brian O’Driscoll had to fly back to Dublin so I was in. Straight away my stomach was in knots. A million thoughts go through your mind. ‘Am I prepared?’ ‘How would I fare out playing in a position that I wasn’t used to?’
But I headed down stairs straight away and watched videos of some of my opponents. I went out with the attitude that I would do the basics right, go forward with any ball that I got, and make my tackles.
Unfortunately, I missed a few tackles during the match. I spoke to our defensive coach afterwards and he said that it was more down to my technique than anything else. We agreed that I’d work on that in training but, as he said, the encouraging thing was that I was in the right place to make the tackles in the first place!
The game itself was incredible to play in. It might have been an ‘exhibition match’ of sorts but as Shane Horgan said to us before the game, ‘The crest on your jersey is the Irish one and you’re still representing your country’.
It was a pity that Jerry Collins from New Zealand didn’t actually play with the Barbarians because I was looking forward to getting a crack at him! But I did get to chat to quite a few of them afterwards, including the Australian Morgan Turinuri.
We recognised each other from schoolboys rugby, back when he was Australian captain and I was Irish captain and we played each other in 2000. It was nice to catch up with him again, and likewise with Andy Gomersall who I used to play with at Harlequins.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND TRAINING BEST MEN
THE Munster lads arrived at our hotel just outside London last Wednesday night and, understandably, were on a high. I didn’t actually get to see much of the final against Toulouse because I was trying to get organised for my flight from Galway to Dublin to link up with the Irish squad. I heard the last fifteen minutes on the radio and it sounded incredibly dramatic.
And speaking of drama, I did get to see the Champions League Final but I can’t really say that I enjoyed it. I’m a Man Utd fan but over the last few years have got to see less and less of their matches because of training, matches and travelling.
I settled down in front of the TV to watch it but found myself getting more and more nervous as the match wore on. I knew that someone was going to be the culprit and, I suppose when you play sport for a living, you can empathise with that.
I’ve also been doing some personal training recently with two very important men in my life, Cian Begley and Brian McCann. They are two of my oldest friends from school in Roscrea and last month I took them out for some early morning runs around Galway.
Cian is the captain of the Salthill-Knocknacarra football team this year and Brian is one of Corinthians’ RFC’s key men. They’re both in fairly good shape but not quite where I need them to be for their ultimate test in August. Yes, you’ve probably guessed it... They’re my best men. And the countdown is on to our big day!