Unlucky O’Donnell aiming to finish season on a high with Munster
Scarlets the perfect test for Van Graan’s squad with big tie against Toulon looming
Tommy O’Donnell: “They [Scarlets] can score from anywhere as we’ve seen with the two games with them last season, we’ll have to be on the ball. .” Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Injury denied Munster flanker Tommy O’Donnell the chance to be a Grand Slam hero with Ireland but he hopes that he can end the season with some silverware for his province.
Given the absence of Chris Cloete, O’Donnell looks set for a major role with Munster in the weeks ahead after his recovery from a shoulder injury. The latter hopes that Saturday’s opponents, Scarlets, who beat them in last season’s PRO14 final, can help show them the way past Toulon in the Champions Cup quarter-final.
On Saturday week the French giants visit Thomond Park but, after plotting their way past Toulon in the pool stages, O’Donnell thinks Scarlets are the perfect opponent this weekend.
“Scarlets have played Toulon twice this season in two very good games, especially their last home game,” said O’Donnell.
“They kind of gave a kind of blueprint of how you need to go out and play against Toulon and we’ll get a good idea of what it takes to beat Toulon if we play well against Scarlets.
“I know it’s easy to look forward to a quarter-final but when you’re looking at such a good team like Scarlets in front of you, you have to deal with them first and you have to approach them with every bit of sincerity and due diligence because they are such a good team.
“They can score from anywhere as we’ve seen with the two games with them last season, we’ll have to be on the ball and worry about them, and then worry about next week when it becomes next Monday.
“The cherry is that if you get a good performance this week, you’re building into a very important game next week which tees up your whole season.”
O’Donnell was a replacement last Friday night as Munster joined Leinster and Ulster in recent defeats to an in-form Edinburgh. It was a scattered display from Johann van Graan’s side in a game that originally fell foul to the recent wintery conditions and had to be rescheduled.
And while time is running out for Munster to secure second place in Conference A and thus home advantage in the PRO14 quarter-finals, O’Donnell knows they have to improve their away form home to have any hope.
“When you look back on it, it was frustrating because you see some of the opportunities that you mightn’t have seen originally. It was frustrating to see sometimes when we did have opportunities that we weren’t clinical and we didn’t take them.
“I read an article there, I’m not sure what paper it was in. It talked about Alex Ferguson and he used to say: ‘you have all your details and all your plans and then you need a little bit of luck as well’.
“Last year you could say that sometimes we got drop goals away from home where if the ball dropped differently, we wouldn’t have got those drop goals.
“Yes, our away form hasn’t been as good this season, we just need to improve on that I suppose. Game management and being more clinical, taking those chances when we can, we have to keep improving on that, keep working on that for the run-in to the season and the last away games. We’ll have to take maximum points out of them.”