Monday, November 29, 2010

O’Connell well on the way to making a full recovery

A DECISION on whether the next step in Paul O’Connell’s comeback from long-term injury is with his club side Young Munster or with Magners League leaders Munster this Saturday is due to be made early this week.

O’Connell played in his first competitive fixture for 250 days when featuring as a half-time replacement in Young Munster’s 17-18 AIL Division 1A defeat to Shannon before an estimated 3,000 supporters at Thomond Park on Friday night.
While the Munster skipper reported no ill effects after his 40-minute comeback, O’Connell, who had not played competitively since sustaining a groin injury in Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland last March, admitted his fitness levels needed to improve significantly.
The 31-year-old said further game time in the coming weeks would help him achieve this.
The Lions captain could get his next taste of competitive action either for Young Munster in their crucial AIL tie with Dolphin at Clifford Park this Saturday at 2.30pm or for Munster in their crunch Magners League tie with the third-placed Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park later that same evening (7.30pm).
Paul O’Connell said: “My plan now is to play as many games as I can, be it with Young Munster, Munster A or Munster, whatever I can, in order to improve my match fitness.
“Tony McGahan will decide where I go from here. It will probably be during the week when any decision is taken.
“I would have struggled with 80 minutes (against Shannon), but I felt better than I thought I would.”
While Munster’s lead at the top of the Magners League has been cut to two points by a combination of the defeat to the Dragons on Friday night and the Scarlets’ bonus-point win over Glasgow the following day, Tony McGahan’s men recorded two victories from their three League fixtures during the autumn international window.
Munster were without the services of up to 20 senior players at different stages in late October and throughout November as a result of a combination of international commitments, injuries and suspensions.
The Irish international stars are set to return to the squad this week in the wake of the timely 29-9 victory over Argentina in the fourth and final autumn international at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
Munster captain Paul O’Connell said the province’s younger players deserved great credit for the manner in which they had performed in the absence of so many seasoned internationals.
“We have a lot of young guys in that squad who have enjoyed a great run of performances in the past few weeks,” Paul O’Connell enthused.
“They have won three out of four when the internationals have been on, including a victory over Australia.
“It is a great run for us. These periods in the year are really what build your squad.
Munster coach Tony McGahan said the decision the management team would make in terms of the next step in Paul O’Connell’s comeback would be in the ‘best interests of the team and obviously in the best interests of Paul (O’Connell)’.
Meanwhile, on the club front, the three Limerick sides in Division 1A of the AIL are now separated by mere points’ difference at the foot of the table.
Shannon remain bottom, although the nine-time AIL winners now trail seventh-placed Young Munster and sixth-placed Garryowen by virtue of an inferior points difference.
Garryowen secured a dramatic late draw with the second-placed Cork Constitution at Dooradoyle on Saturday thanks to Declan Cusack’s late penalty goal.
All three Limerick sides now have ten league points each, but with just three points separating the bottom five sides in 1A the local sides will be hoping to jump up into the top half of the table following this Saturday’s final round of league fixtures before the Christmas and New Year’s break.
In Division 1B Bruff’s excellent run continued on Saturday when the Kilballyowen side recorded an impressive home victory over Dungannon to move third in the table.
UL-Bohs remain sixth after their disappointing run of results continued with a fourth defeat of the campaign, this time away to UCC.
In Division 2 Thomond jumped into 13th place in the table after the Fitzgerald Park side recorded a vital 32-21 bonus-point victory over basement side Clonakilty.
Thomond’s first win of the campaign saw the ‘royal blues’ leapfrog DLSP and Old Crescent in the table. Old Crescent’s scheduled clash with UCD was postponed as a result of an unplayable pitch at the Belfield Bowl.



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