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Up Front
4 April 2004, 12:26 pm
In times gone by it was a section referred to as the engine room. The occupants were called second-rows and were noted more for their brawn rather than brain.
In times gone by it was a section referred to as the engine room. The occupants were called second-rows and were noted more for their brawn rather than brain. They were fellas it was better advised not to annoy. They were the enforcers, the lads who could take care of themselves. And of those around them, whichever jersey you were wearing. But the advent of the modern game brought with it things like video refs and front-row gurus, back five gurus and kicking coaches. And second-rows became locks, and locks became footballers. They had side-steps. And threw dummies. And appeared in the centre and caught (rugby) balls more often than they spilled them. They were a new breed. And among the brightest of these wunderlocks are the Munster pairing of Donncha O Callaghan and Paul O Connell. O Callaghan from Cork, just turned 25 years of age and O Connell from Limerick, 25 next birthday. O Connell an established Irish international, always one of the first names pencilled in at team selection and O Callaghan, a bench replacement on the Ireland team for the past season. Both are modest, self-effacing young men. Good if different senses of humour. Good company for anyone to share. Off the field, easy-going. On the park, fiercely competitive. They d be good lads to have as friends. They d be great to have as team-mates. O Callaghan is the character, the man of whom, international and Munster colleague John Hayes says, time doesn t drag when you re rooming with Donners on tour. A gas man. Gas man or no, O Callaghan can be as serious as the best when the time arrives to focus on the game ahead. Preparation has gone well for him ahead of Sunday s game. I d be very happy with where I am right now in terms of fitness and all that with regard to Sunday s game. Because I wasn t getting much game time really for the international side, during the World Cup and then the Six Nations I feel pretty fresh. Training has been going well. There s a good buzz and everything had gone basically without a hitch until Wally was forced to drop out. It's really tough on him. I know he was really looking forward to it and like any of us it was a game he didn't want to miss. " I'd have no fear for Stephen (Keogh). He's played with us enough times to know his way around. He'll be grand." There was one other little glitch. The rising star of international rugby was brought down to earth with a bang when he went for a training run last week. He headed over to the Garryduff Sports Centre near Mont Oval, intending to jog around the grounds but the best laid plans .. Well basically I was flung out of the place. I was just about to set off when this guy came up an asked was I a member. I said no but I was just going for a quick run. But he basically like said get outta here, or words to that effect so I had to leg-it. He may not be liked around Garryduff Sports Centre but when Munster had an open day at Musgrave Park, O Callaghan was one of the last to leave, surrounded by hordes of youngster clamouring for his autograph. Looking ahead to Sunday, he believes Munster will have to play , a near perfect game, if we are to have any chance of winning. I ve watched their recent games and they (Wasps) look to be an awesome side. They just blew Gloucester away like and we know how tough a side they were. But Wasps made them look ordinary. Nor does O Callaghan think the English side will be the slightest bit intimidated by the overewhwlming Munster support. I don t think it ll bother them in the slightest. Look at how they handled themselves away in Perpignan. They seem to thrive in that kind of hostile atmosphere. So Lansdowne Road will hold no fears for them. Looks, he says, we will just have to play out of our skins on Sunday. It never gets any easier the further you go in this compettion. Whatever we did before counts for nothing. It will be all about how we conduct ourselves for the 80 odd minutes from 3 o'clock on on Sunday.
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