Saturday, game day. Thank god, it's finally arrived. These last few days are among the longest few days I have ever had to endure but thankfully the time has come. We are greeted at breakfast with some mixed news - Brian (O'Driscoll) is fit to play but unfortunately John 'the Bull' Hayes is out due to a virus he was unable to shake off.
Matchdays and particularly the morning of, are among the hardest times we endure as professional sports people.
The boredom is something cruel (I can hear you think, 'what simple troubles we have?' and you'd be right). They're filled with box sets, gossip, movies, walks, coffee, eating, drinking and even more coffee!
The build-up usually starts with a final review meeting...a recap on the referee, weather conditions and a last look at tactics. Then we go for a walk. We usually play a little game, backs v forwards of course! Let's just leave it at that!
Then the forwards walk through lineouts, as the backs do what backs do best...nothing! They chat, gossip, fix each other's hair and whatever else they get up to! After more eating and final preparation, we meet for a final talk with Deccie (Kidney). Then it's iPods at the ready as we head to ground.
After this each player will get into his own personal routine. Walking on the pitch, strapping, stretching, eating (props again) etc, etc. I find this personally a very enjoyable time as the anticipation and nerves start to kick in, even though most players find this the hardest part as they are generally eager to get on with it at this stage.
We were met with a loud roar as we ran onto the pitch for the warm-up and I was surprised at the number of Irish present.
The warm-up was quick and snappy and before I noticed we were back in dressing room again. I was lucky enough to earn my first two cap on last summer's tour to Canada and the USA and without sounding disrespectful - as it's something I will treasure for the rest of my life - in my eyes this, to me, felt like my first cap!
When I reached for my jersey with 'New Zealand 12/06/10' embroidered on it, I got an instant rush of adrenline, I couldn't wait to get going. I must admit I really enjoyed facing the Haka and it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life.
After that there isn't too much of the match worth talking about! We had a horrendous start, Rob Kearney letting the ball slip out of his grasp, Jamie (Heaslip) getting sent off, Ronan (O'Gara) getting sin-binned and then when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I break my forearm.
I don't remember too much (about the incident), just that I went to smash one of their lads and he ducked into it and I caught him flush on the head. I knew instantly that I had broken my forearm and my tour was over.
Unfortunately, we conceded in next few phases and as Doc (Eanna Falvey) came over to me, I told him my arm was broken. He squeezed my arm and ask me to twist my wrist, the shooting pains came instantly and he diagnosed it immediately.
As I walked off the pitch, I knew my tour was over and the I'd be out for a few months. This is by far the hardest thing to deal with as a pro athlete (don't mind what i said earlier - I'd do boredom a million times over to have an intact radius!).
Injury is part and parcel of sport but it is a hugely frustrating time. It's kind of ironic that injury helped to get me this chance and now robbed it from me too! As I waited in the ambulance, I managed to ring home to inform them I was alright and I'd see them sooner than expected!
I was moved to New Plymouth Hospital and had my X-rays. They informed me that I would require an operation and that they had sorted Bruce Twaddle, one of the top surgeons in country, to do it in Auckland on Monday.
He works with the New Zealand squad and manages all their breaks so I knew I was in good hands. I would sincerely like to thank all the staff in both hospitals who looked after me so well and especially the A&E nurses who picked me up when I was absolutelyy gutted on arrival and also the night nurses in New Plymouth who kept a constant flow of morphine to me when I was in pain (I ain't as tough as you think!).
This will be my last diary entry as I'll be leaving New Zealand in the coming days and heading home. It reminds me a lot of the video 'Living with the Lions' back in 1997, on their succesful tour of South Africia, when Doddy Weir took a cruel blow to the knee that ended his tour and he had to go home early (coincidently, I had just taken up rugby and got this as a present and it got me rugby mad!). I know now how he felt that day he realised his tour was over.
But I'm on the road to recovery and I'm looking forward to my couple of weeks off on holidays. I've had a great experience, some ups and some downs.
As I said, injury is part and parcel of sport, but I managed to get a man-of-the-match award against the Barbarians, got to travel to New Zealand and Australia (well, New Zealand anyway!), wore an eye patch for two days (forgot that in earlier diary piece - from a scrape on my cornea from the Baabaas game), got picked to play against the All Blacks, faced the Haka, might have got stitches in my head and broke my arm but the most importantly thing is I've had a great experience and I didn't get any complaints from my role in running the cinema club!
John Muldoon's diary is reproduced with kind permission from Connacht Rugby.
Related Links -