Fit-again Seán Cronin focuses on power and speed
Leinster hooker has adopted a new attitude after been out of action for six months with injuries
Seán Cronin at a Leinster squad training session at Rosemount, UCD, Dublin. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Seán Cronin admitted to feeling a little bit nervous sitting on the bench prior to his introduction for a 40-minute blowout in last weekend’s pre-season game against Bath at Donnybrook.
After six months on the sideline with hamstring and neck issues a certain anxiety was understandable but he emerged unscathed and will play in Leinster’s opening Guinness Pro14 game against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday (3.15).
The disappointment of his enforced sabbatical from rugby was offset by the birth of twin boys, Cillian and Finn, during Christmas week last year, providing an outlet for his energy.
He explained: “It was a frustrating end to the year, a frustrating last six months really. I had the hamstring injury, got back, was feeling really good and then just had that neck problem.
“It was touch and go whether I went on the (Irish) tour and then got a bit of advice to give myself a rest and get a big pre-season, just so I didn’t get a recurrence of it (the injury). It was the first time in my career where I had a couple of prolonged injuries back to back.
“When you could see the improvements like that, it kind of gives you a good spur on that ‘I’m on the right direction here’, it’s only going to benefit me in terms of my scrum and stuff, and that always makes it a bit better for you in your mindset that it’s going to benefit me in the long run.
It offered an opportunity to recalibrate his attitude to the mental and physical sides of the sport. “You can definitely see that once you get by 30 you have to starting looking after yourself, really, really well. That doesn’t just mean staying off the drink, obviously that’s part and parcel of it, it’s in the gym.
“I’ve gone away from a massive strength focus. I am just trying to get my power and my speed up, trying and cut down a few kilos so I can move a bit better; just stuff like that, that you have to adapt. I remember seeing it with Paul O’Connell when he was with Ireland. He changed his whole focus to try and keep him going and prolong his career.
“It probably does make you a bit selfish in terms of what you are doing to prep yourself, get yourself ready for games and stay fit.
“To stay in the mix up in here (Leinster), it’s tough enough to stay in the 23 so it is a big focus for me.
“There is such competition for places in the hooking spot as well. I am really looking forward to getting going again, getting back into playing, being with the lads and seeing if I can try and nail down a spot here.”
A quick glance at the hookers on the Leinster roster emphasises his point, Irish internationals, Richardt Strauss and James Tracy as well as Bryan Byrne, Sean McNulty and Ronan Kelleher; the latter three all having played in the pre-season matches.
For Cronin Saturday’s match can’t come quickly enough.