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O’Connor: Confidence Is Coming Back

O’Connor: Confidence Is Coming Back

Viewing the Leinster match video on Monday, the Connacht players were a very happy bunch as they looked back on a job well done. Johnny O’Connor, as ever, was in the thick of the action and he feels the westerners can build on their Sunday night heroics.

Openside flanker O’Connor was part of the grizzled Connacht pack which turned the tables on their Leinster counterparts during last weekend’s gripping 19-18 Magners League win.

What made their efforts all the more inspirational was the fact that from the 46th minute onwards, they had to play without sent-off second row Mike McCarthy.

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With the coaching staff and players under a great deal of pressure after the record 58-0 league defeat to Cardiff, this was a very timely win for Connacht and ended their run of 13 successive losses in interprovincial clashes.

Reflecting on what the win means to the squad, O’Connor told RTE Radio 1: “We’ve got to get more confidence in ourselves, going into games. We’ll take something from the game.

“For us as a side, we’re not together all the time and our squad changes quite a bit. In that respect, we’re still growing as a side. That game just gives a young side confidence.

“We’ve alway targeted our home games. I think we were close to theother provinces last season.

“Particularly (against Leinster on Sunday), I thought we played with a lot of commitment.

“Having to finish out the last 30 minutes with 14 men, that just shows the commitment of the lads. The tackling going in at the end showed exactly the level of commitment we need in competitions like this.”

The passion and quality of play exhibited by the Connacht players certainly rubbished the oft-trotted out line that the westerners are Irish rugby’s ‘development province’.

Playing to their ability, they can more than live with the Leinsters, Munsters and Ulsters of this world, even if the odds – in terms of resources and squad strength – are against them most of the time.

One result does not make a season but Connacht may just have turned a corner, and with promising players of the calibre of Ian Keatley (man-of-the-match against Leinster) and Fionn Carr (Player of the Month for September) beginning to make their mark, O’Connor is remaining positive.

“That’s the hand you’ve been dealt and you’ve just got to get on with it. We could sit down and complain and go ‘we haven’t got this and we haven’t got that.’

“But, at the end of the day, this is the situation we’re in and it’s not going to change from week to week.

“So we’re just got to keep on playing, keep the heads down and hopefully achieve more wins like (last week’s).”

O’Connor’s own international career may have stalled. The Galway man’s last outing for Ireland was in the Triple Crown victory over England in March 2006.

But while he was pleased to put in a good night’s work at the Sportsground in front of watching Ireland coach Declan Kidney, he admits that international recognition is not on his mind.

“It’s been a while (since my last Ireland cap), I’ve had a few injuries and been out of the game. I suppose I haven’t been thinking about it.

“I’m just thinking about enjoying my rugby and that’s the most important thing. Like most rugby players, the enjoyment is key and anything after that is a bonus.”

A more pressing concern is Friday’s European Challenge Cup opener away to Dax and O’Connor is quietly confident, given Connacht’s record on French soil.

“It’s a short turnaround (from last week). Dax are a good side, they’ve beaten the likes of Biarritz and Castres at home this season, so it’s a difficult place to go.

“But we seem to go quite well in France for some reason, so we’re looking forward to it.”