Dan Sheridan/INPHO
November Tests

Chances sustain confidence in Cian Healy's 'favourite' Ireland dressing room

The veteran prop feels the mood in the current camp is the best he has experienced.

IRELAND PLAYERS HAVE had ample time together during this elongated Six Nations-turned-Autumn window.

Yet while personnel have not quite gelled to deliver consistent, coherent on-field performances they have at done so off of it. The hope is that one can follow the other.

At 33 and with his 100th Test cap behind him, Cian Healy has taken a seat in Ireland squads of all shapes and sizes over the course of 12 years. This one, he insists, has the best mood about it.

“I would say it’s been the favourite one I’ve been in for mood of players and everyone being on the same page. Obviously, there’s different reasons that would heighten or lower different changing-rooms in different years, but I think we’re on the right track.”

This continuing affirmation of the intangible feelgood factor around a team which is on a run of defeats against England and is now giving sideways glances to Scotland as their closest European rival can’t but create a disconnect between those within and without the bubble.

We watch Ireland play on TV and the sight of empty seats is countered by fake crowd noise that tries to suggest a normality to proceedings. The players, meanwhile, are in an echo chamber striving to ‘create their own atmosphere’. There is nothing to be gained by them shunning any small positive.

There is too much prolonged time in camp to spend any of it wallowing. Days off, time away from camp, have been limited over the past two months and Healy notes that Carton House has had to substitute for home with the workday taking place down the road in Abbottstown.

The prop suggests that has actually made it easier to give the mind some down time each evening. That, and the squad’s organised fun in the form of darts, table tennis and putting competitions. Plus Finlay Bealham apparently tore it up on open mic night.

The coaches are not muted in Maynooth exactly, but once the squad is back in Carton House it’s for the players to lead. Whether it be a walk-through of a play or a time to forget about rugby for a while.

They are not spinning the silver linings out of a pig of a second half against Georgia on Sunday, but each player is singing off the same hymn-sheet. The chorus of voices insists they are very close to getting it right on the field.

cian-healy-on-his-100th-appearance-for-ireland Healy during his 100th Test against France. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s just about getting to that execution of that plan, the final phase.

“A lot of it, we’ve got through quite the amount of work we’ve done and slipped up on that last bit.

“I think that gives us confidence. If we’re not getting through that first part, then it gives us a problem. But we’re getting to the point where there’s half a chance, we just need that half chance turning into a full chance and then take it.

“We’re going in the right direction, to be honest.”

Direction is all well and good, but Healy is also aware that they have to show forward motion when they end the weirdest international year against Scotland.

“We have to leave this in a place where we come back and build on it, not where we come back and we patch up and do a load of repair to get to where we want to go.”

“So I suppose the performance that is expected to come this weekend has to be an all-round culmination of what we’ve done over the last couple of months and be a good standard of rugby.”

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