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Q&A Interview With Richie Sweeney

Q&A Interview With Richie Sweeney

St. Mary’s College hooker and captain Richie Sweeney took time out to preview Saturday’s Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup final with reporter Cóilín Duffy. The Dubliners face Cork Constitution in the televised clash at Templeville Road (kick-off 12.05pm).

IrishRugby.ie: Firstly Richie, nice to have the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final on home soil at Templeville Road this Saturday?

Richie Sweeney: Absolutely, it’s going to be a very special day, regardless of whether it was at Templeville Road or down in Cork Con. It’s definitely a slight advantage for us going into it having it at home, so I’m delighted with that.

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IR: Competitions like the Bateman Cup are a great breeding ground for players. There’s a real passion involved with playing in this competition also?

RS: Yes, absolutely there is. You can look throughout all of the AIL teams and I think you will find lads who have either progressed to the ‘A’ level with their respective provinces or gone on to get full contracts and that is a credit to the AIL in general.

The standard is just being pushed higher and higher, and deservedly so lads are getting the chance at a higher level after that then.

IR: You were Ulster Bank League Division 1A champions last year and there’s a real winning mentality in the club over the last couple of years, with Leinster League success also while the Under-20s have also recently captured silverware. The club, as a whole, is going reasonably well over the last couple of years?

RS: Over the last six or seven years we have pushed to try and change the ethos in the club and push to become like Shannon or Cork Con – that type of team.

Through a lot of hard work with Smythy (Peter Smyth) and other lads I think that was achieved. Obviously winning the league last year was a culmination of all of that coming together. The club is really in a good place at the moment.

IR: This season was really a stark turnaround, finishing eighth in the league. You are thankful to have the Bateman Cup final coming up, because league wise it hasn’t been a great year?

RS: As a squad we have been very disappointed with the results that we have got and we don’t think that we have played to our potential. Before Christmas we worked hard and got to a Leinster Senior Cup final and managed to win that.

We started the league well after Christmas and for whatever reason we just didn’t get a run of results. It’s really hard to gain momentum in the league and if you don’t you are really going to struggle against any team. Credit to the lads for getting to this final and we have a chance to make this season special again and win two trophies.

IR: Back in February you recorded a 30-12 win over Saturday’s final opponents Cork Constitution in the league, but prior to that you suffered a 22-13 defeat to them at Templeville Road. An indicator that little has separated the sides so far this season?

RS: To be honest I wouldn’t really look too much into past results this season. They came up here and they beat us and we beat them down there. It doesn’t really matter – it’s cup rugby, it’s a different type of game and it is who turns up and who wants it more on the day to be honest.

IR: You were watching on from the sidelines for that win in February. It’s likely that there will be some changes in both squads in terms of personnel for this final?

RS: I’d imagine so. I don’t know injury wise how Con have been throughout the season or how they are, but definitely for us there has been different changes constantly.

Thankfully we have had that depth in the squad. There’s definitely lads pushing to get back, everyone wants to get back and try and get their name on the teamsheet for that final, so I’m sure there will be a few changes from that team last time.

IR: The semi-final win (30-22) over Galwegians back in January was a tough encounter. Galwegians were hoping for a first ever final appearance. There was great passion shown by both sides that afternoon…

RS: To go down to Galwegians we always knew it was going to be tough. I think they possibly were underrated and massive credit has to go to them for reaching the semi-final.

They are obviously a good side if they are getting to that level. I was delighted we pulled through, but unfortunately I was injured again that day so I can’t really comment too much on it. But certainly credit must go to the lads for churning out the result.

IR: Things are starting to come good for yourself towards the tail end of the season now?

RS: Fingers crossed I can stay fit. Personally it has been a very frustrating year for me. I haven’t played too many games this season due to injury, but please God I can stay fit for the final.

IR: There are some big players in this club. You are a great unit and there’s great history on the walls of the club. Just to pull on the St. Mary’s jersey every time you go out must be a proud moment for all concerned?

RS: Yeah, it is really special. Before games you get texts from lads that may have played 10, 15, even 20 years ago and ex-Presidents and ex-captains and that’s special.

I can’t comment on other clubs, but I know what is here at St. Mary’s is very much like a family. Everyone knows everyone and everyone gets in behind all the teams, regardless, throughout the club and that really is special.

IR: What area do you think Cork Constitution pose the biggest threat, because much like yourselves they have great talent all over the pitch?

RS: Con want to try and play rugby and they want to play fast, quick rugby. They have the players to do that, but having said that they have a strong pack and no doubt they will try to back themselves to try and get in amongst us.

All throughout the years we have had great battles with Con. They are usually quite high-scoring games, but in cup rugby you don’t know what will happen. I have no doubt that they are going to try and come up here and play though. We’ve just got to be on our ‘A’ game and get ourselves right. That’s the most important thing.

Saturday’s Bateman Cup decider kicks off at Templeville Road at 12.05pm. The match is being broadcast live on RTÉ Two Television/RTÉ website (worldwide), hosted by Joanne Cantwell.