Luke McGrath: ‘We have put ourselves in a great position but hard work will be needed’

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Luke McGrath: ‘We have put ourselves in a great position but hard work will be needed’

Luke McGrath


Ciarán Frawley, pictured scoring his side’s third try last week. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciarán Frawley, pictured scoring his side’s third try last week. Photo: Sportsfile

It’s hard to look back on the last block of games since my last diary without starting with that game against Ulster in the Aviva Stadium. First of all, what an occasion to be involved in. A sold-out Aviva, not a seat to be had, and then the interprovincial rivalry certainly made it a special occasion.

Both teams gave everything out on the pitch and that is exactly what one would want. It was a great advert for Irish rugby which hopefully bodes well for what is to come at end of the year.

Credit to Ulster, they played very well and put us under a lot of pressure. We weren’t at our best but I felt we showed great fight to get the job done in the end.

It is often easier to fall away when it’s not going with you but I think we have shown over the last few seasons that there is a fight in this squad and there have been examples of it all season, right from the first weekend away to Cardiff.

Loud

As for the atmosphere, again it was loud, and it never let up and probably because both teams brought their best off the field as well it drove both teams to perform with the intensity that they did. For us, obviously the Leinster fans were immense, as always, and on behalf of the squad, we can’t thank them enough for their continued support.

The overall feeling after the game? I think plenty have spoken about the relief but ultimately it is a great feeling being back in a semi-final again and having a lot to look forward to. So you have to take the positives from it.

On the other hand, the mood definitely wasn’t helped at all once people got back to the dressing-room and heard about Dan Leavy.

It was very sad to see Dan being carried off on a stretcher but you always hold out hope that maybe it’s not as bad as it might look when someone does get taken off like that.

Unfortunately, when we got back inside we got a sense off Leo and the medical team that the news wasn’t good for Dan. I was gutted for him. I went over to his house the next day to watch Liverpool against Spurs.

He was, as you would expect, quite down. He was lying on his couch with his leg elevated not showing much emotion until Mo Salah scored the winner… he was delighted. He is a big Liverpool fan so that brought some welcome distraction for him.

He spoke about the time out of rugby that lies ahead of him. He is in a difficult position but it is vital, as a squad, that we help him as much as we can.

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We have to be positive with him and encourage him through his rehab. He is a very popular guy in the squad so I have no doubt he will have great support.

With Europe to one side it was time to refocus on the PRO14 and firstly, it was a great opportunity to be able to captain Leinster again against Benetton Rugby.

I have supported this team since I was a kid so to be given a chance to captain them will always be something I am very proud of.

I always remember Isa Nacewa talking about his favourite moment in a Leinster jersey. And he never answered about the trophies or the winning or anything like that.

It was every time he got to lead Leinster out on to the pitch as captain. That was his favourite moment. He got to live that moment quite a bit and I am starting to see why he loved it so much.

Benetton was a difficult game. I thought they played very well. We knew they were going to be a serious test. They have a great squad, full of internationals, and are well coached. They won a lot of the gain-line battle which caused us to be on the back foot, especially in the first half.

We grew into the game though, after defending a lot, and controlled the ball better. We did well to fight back and be seven points up with a few minutes to go but unfortunately couldn’t keep them out.

We were far from our best and it is never nice dropping points at home but on the plus side, I thought it was a great experience for a young squad.

‘Frawls’ (Ciarán Frawley) came on early and had a great game, Scott Penny’s work-rate was top-class and Max Deegan was everywhere and deserved the man-of-the-match award.

We reviewed the game on Monday and we know that many improvements have to be made.

Therefore, as always, we headed out to training trying to be the best squad we could be. It was great to head out to training though in front of our season-ticket holders.

It was unusual on a match week but ahead of our last home game this regular season in the RDS it was something we wanted to do as a thank you for the support all season. It was a pity about the rain but huge credit to all those who braved the elements!

Flair

Looking forward to Glasgow now, it is yet another great challenge. I watched Glasgow against Ulster last Friday and thought they were very impressive. They have a very physical pack and pace out wide. They are not too dissimilar to Toulouse in the way they play – quick tempo, offloading and great flair when given the time so it is a great match to play the week before a semi-final.

It is now at the business end of the season, we have put ourselves in a great position but we understand how hard we have to work if we want to achieve our goals. We have to put our heads down and we are really looking forward to the challenges that await us over the coming weeks.

Irish Independent


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