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Donncha O'Callaghan in training in UL yesterday
Billy Stickland/Inpho
O'Callaghan's Ricoh Return.
4 April 2008, 11:54 am
Donncha O'Callaghan will be hoping to see his name listed among the 22 when Declan Kidney announces his side tomorrow for the return to the Ricoh Stadium for the Heineken Cup clash with Alan Gaffney's Saracens on Sunday.
He is the 10th member of the current squad to play in over 50 Heineken Cup games and he spoke to munsterrugby.ie about the challenges presented by the Saracens challenge.

Looking forward to Sunday's game. "Of course I am, absolutely. These are the type of games that make it all worthwhile. If you couldn't get excited for these sort of games you shouldn't be playing. I think it's going to be a great occasion, two good sides, a full house. Can't wait."

At the start of the season, had you been offered the position you're in now would you have taken it ? ? Chalk it down we would. I think when you look at what we had to come through to get to this stage then we have to be happy with ourselves as a squad but that said it's the nature of sport that if we don't progress beyond the next stage, Sunday's semi final then that satisfaction goes out the window. And I'm sure it will be the same for the Saracens lads as well.?

The performance against Gloucester must have left you in good heart for the semi ? ?Well it did because it means we get to play in the semi but that was two games ago and we need to improve on that game in Kingsholm and the subsequent ones against Leinster and Ospreys.?

You didn't appear overly happy with the performance against Gloucester ? ? Well I was delighted with the result obviously. To beat a quality side like Gloucester on their own patch is a great achievement. But I think there were aspects to our performance that day that needed to be recognised and dealt with. I mean one of them was the penalty count which really comes down to things like concentration. We were given a few let-offs by their kicker and if we hadn't, who knows, the game might have been different. It's often easy maybe to look back after a win like that and clap yourself on the back but you just have to be hard on yourself as well. Gloucester will probably feel that a few things didn't go right for them when they were on top ? like those missed penalties ? while things did for us. And maybe they're right. But I think we need to up our performance from that game to have any hope on Sunday .?

And from the Leinster performance ? ?Ah well, on Sunday if we play like we did in Dublin, we'll be beat out the gate, simple as that."

What went wrong that day ? ? Well I can only speak for myself and I just didn't give the sort of performance that was needed in the circumstances.As a team we didn't play to our potential, and Leinster made us pay. But you have to give them credit for their performance too. They were the better side on the day, fair play to them.?

How much of a factor will it be facing a side coached by Alan Gaffney. ? Well first off, Saracens are a very good side. You don't look at their recent form, you look at some of the sides they beaten to know how good. They hammered Biarritz in London and were desperately unlucky not to win out there. Lost by a point with a late penalty. Then look what they did to Ospreys in the semi final. In many way their recent form mirrors ours. Good against Ospreys not so good in their recent League games. We were good against Gloucester not so hot since then. I suppose on recent League form neither of us should be in the Heineken semi-final.
In relation to Alan, I would have huge respect for him. We all would. He is a top class coach and as such having spent three years with us he is best positioned to know exactly what our strengths and weaknesses are. Of course things have changed since he was here but it makes this game even trickier with Saracens having him there.?

?How do you handle the expectation of your supporters ? ?The same way as we ever do. It's not a new thing, it's there all the time. We try to harness it in a positive way. Try to buy into it because, as a squad we have expectations of ourselves. We expect ourselves not to let them down. And if we can manage that then we're keeping up our end. And if we can do that on Sunday we have a good chance."

And how important are those supporters ? " Huge. In many ways. Like there's not much fear of us (players) getting above ourselves because when you're walking around, be it Cork or Tipperary or Limerick, anywhere, they'll come up to you and let you know how they think you played no matter if you win or lose. But it's usually fair. Then there's the support they give at the matches. It's just massive. Never mind the Heineken Cup atmosphere at Thomond Park. We kinda expect that. At the away games you tend to notice it more. They were unbelievable in Kingsholm. I hope they'll give us more of the same on Sunday."

What's it like being the bookie's favourites ? ? I really wasn't aware we are. I'm not a great one for the bookies and whether we are or not doesn't bother me. That fact will have no bearing on how I prepare for the game. It'll have no bearing on how we as a squad prepare or how the management go about their business in the run up. It wont bother Saracens one bit. And it will mean absolutely nothing from 3pm on Sunday until the final whistle goes.?


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