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'My 1st year in the academy we finished bottom': Buckley eager after missing Connacht's finest hour

The westerners were in Sale yesterday for training session with added intensity.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

CONNACHT PROP DENIS Buckley is fully fit and ready to lead Connacht in to the tough season opener against Glasgow Warriors in eight days’ time (Saturday, 17.15).

The Roscommon man suffered an ankle injury at the worst possible time last season, the ailment forcing him out of the last two regular season games, Pro12 semi-final win over Glasgow and, of course, the momentous final victory over Leinster in Edinburgh.

“It was disappointing. Having been part of the Connacht setup for the last six or seven years and where they’ve been to,” Buckley told The42 today, three months on from his surgery.

“My first year in the academy we finished bottom. So I’d been on the journey the whole way from there to winning. Then to be injured before the final having contributed a bit during the year was obviously a bit disappointing.

“But look, you have to take those injuries on the chin. It’s part of the job description. It happens every now and then. You need to deal with the adversity and use it as a tool to come back stronger.

It was very frustrating not to be able to contribute in the end. I had a procedure in December on my ankle, but before that I wouldn’t have had a significant injury for a couple of seasons, so it’s pretty harsh.

“It happens. You deal with it and move on. I’m just thankful that the lads were able to go and do a job.”

Buckley was part of the Connacht squad who flew over to meet Sale for an intense training session yesterday to fill the void left by their lack of pre-season fixtures.

“Contact training sessions, if you like,” the 26-year-old described the day in England. Scores weren’t kept, attacking and defensive setups were evenly shared.

“An opportunity to run a couple of plays against full opposition, who didn’t know the calls and plays, then swap around and we’d defend play against good opposition who we weren’t familiar with.

“It was a good opportunity to implement some of the structures we worked on in pre-season into a match environment.”

Kieran Marmion Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Kieran Marmion was not on the trip to England and won’t feature for his province next weekend as he was part of the summer tour to South Africa with Ireland.

Marmion describes the tour as a good experience, but with only three minutes against the Springboks to his name, it was undoubtedly a frustrating one too.

“It was a good experience to play over there. They’re pretty passionate about rugby. Then again it was disappointing not to get much game-time. I would have liked to have played a bit against them. But that’s how it is, I just have to keep working and try to get more involvement,” says Marmion, who along with Buckley and John Muldoon, helped launch Mazda’s Connacht Rugby clinic today.

For the next two months though, it’s all eyes on the provinces again and the champions kick off their title defence with the extremely difficult task of facing a Glasgow side still smarting from their back-to-back defeats in Galway in May.

They’re going to be coming after us, we’re looking to get a third win in a row over them.  We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.

“This being our first game, we have to just go out there and give everything we can.

“We talked about how this season’s probably going to be an even bigger challenge than last season. People are expecting a lot of us and we want to go and do as well as we can.

“Obviously we want to win it again, but so do the other teams and we just have to go through the process of looking back on what we did last year and take it to a new level.”

Mazda and brand ambassadors Denis Buckley, John Muldoon and Kieran Marmion will again lead the Connacht Rugby Clinic in Carton House on Sunday 9 October. Go to mazda.ie/rugbyclinic or the Mazda Facebook page for more details.

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Sean Farrell

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