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Donnacha Prepares for Welford Road

6th April 2003 By Munster Rugby

Donnacha Prepares for Welford Road

If you were to look for similarities between Donncha O’Callaghan and Martin Johnson you’d be hard pressed to find many (any?) other than the fact that they both play second-row.

If you were to look for similarities between Donncha O’Callaghan and Martin Johnson you’d be hard pressed to find many (any?) other than the fact that they both play second-row.

If you were to look for similarities between Donncha O’Callaghan and Martin Johnson you’d be hard pressed to find many (any?) other than the fact that they both play second-row.

For most Irish rugby followers the abiding memory of Johnson will be his antics prior to the international at Lansdowne Road, the role of the bullish enforcer one the Leicester captain seems to relish. Maybe that’s just his nature. And that’s another difference for if Johnson is impudent, O’Callaghan is impish, whereas Johnson favours a growl, O’Callaghan tends towards a grin and if Johnson stomps O’Callaghan swings from the hip. O’Callaghan, just turned 24, has played international level at every level, won his first senior cap as a replacement against Wales, a first small step on what promises to be a long career.

But on Sunday next he’ll come face to face with Mr Johnson in the cauldron that is Welford Road when O’Callghan will find out that Johnson’s bite (in the fairest sense) is just as bad as his bark. It’s a challenge and an occasion that the Cork Con man is looking forward to. "Well I’m hoping that the gaffer picks me first of all. With Micko there and now Paul (O’Connell) back, the competition for the second row is very keen. With the second rows we have, you really have to be playing on the top of your form, the best you can play, or you could be out on your ear. When you play for Munster at either four or five, the pressure is off the bench.

You really have to perform because the players you’re holding off are good enough to play instead of you. But hopefully I’ll make it and yeah I am really looking to it. It’s what it’s all about really. Testing yourself against the best, the likes of Johnson like, and yer man Kay, he’s not too bad either." It’s his first season as a regular in the first team." The chance came with Gaillimh taking a sorta backseat and things have gone really well. There was the win in the Celtic League and then making it through to this stage. That game against Gloucester was such a fantastic effort and that win gave us the crack at this quarter final. " And another crack at Leicester after the disappointment of last year’s final ? "Well the game against Leicester, it’s just huge, especially with it being at Welford Road, so it’ll be all hands to the pump and we’d really be grand with that kind of stuff.

This is the game that everyone is talking about and with the English game going the way it did I think everyone has focussed in on this one as a chance to get some pay-back for that result. Then there was the Neil back situation and I think people read a lot more into it than the players would. For us what went on last year won’t be a factor at all." I was subbing for the semi-final and came on in that game but I wasn’t in the 22 for the final, but sure no harm." The preparation is going well. The game against Connacht on Friday night went well it was a good win and very useful exercise we started getting back into our structures a bit better.

Everybody got the feel of being back with Munster and they’re happy about that. It’s never any problem really. As soon as you throw on the jersey you’re right in the head. Everybody just glad to be back and looking forward to the match. " Other than saying that he was delighted with his senior cap and that it gave him "the taste for the type of rugby you want to play ." the only thing that any further inquiry about the international scene – in particular the World Cup, will draw from O’Callaghan is laughter. "Ah would you come on now. The World Cup squad? Look I played for about ten minutes and that was as a sub with Paul and Gary Longwell injured like. "Like," he says laughing, " why don’t you ask me about the Lions. Ah no seriously, the only game on my mind is the one next Sunday against Leicester."

The week ahead will be fairly hectic and the O’Callaghan family will be there in force if Donncha can "scam a few tickets somewhere" In the days running up to a game O’Callaghan will try and be as relaxed as possible. "I don’t like to get bogged down with it, to think too much about it. I tune out of it as much as I can. Until say, we get on the bus and you have the build up to the game or else you could overshoot it. Two years ago, the game in Lille, I played that game about twenty times leading up to it and that was wrong. I didn’t play particularly well. The night before a game, I’d have no problem sleeping. I’d head off to bed early enough. The thing is that the bigger the game the earlier I tend to wake and the first thing that comes into my head is the game. I’m tuned in straight away.

As is normal the players share rooms but O’Callaghan as yet doesn’t know who he’ll share with in Cardiff. " For the last few times, I’ve been rooming with John Hayes which has been great because I’ve being driving him nuts but before that I was rooming with Marcus Horan who sorta tends to read a lot of books, like I mean a lot of books."

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