‘Ireland focused only on what can happen’ insists Tommy O’Donnell

Tommy Bowe and Pat Stewart
Tommy Bowe and Pat Stewart

Ireland cannot afford to base their RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam bid on the “past glories” of the 2009 clean sweep, according to Tommy O’Donnell.

O’Donnell watched Ireland’s Grand Slam triumph six years ago from between his fingers in his living room as a raw 21-year-old still emerging with Munster.

The eight-cap back-rower admitted willing Ronan O’Gara to drop the winning goal at the death, that secured a 17-15 victory over Wales in Cardiff and Ireland’s first Grand Slam since 1948.

Ireland must see off Wales in Cardiff on March 14 to keep their Grand Slam tilt alive – but O’Donnell warned Joe Schmidt’s men not to draw too heavily on history.

The squad were stepping their preparations up another level for the Millennium Stadium showdown at an open session at the Kingspan Stadium, home of Ulster Rugby, on Thursday.

Schmidt put the squad through their paces in front of 5,000 fans, while the players took on Ulster Academy members during what was an intense training morning.

Drawing on the memory of 2009, O’Donnell said: “I think it’s a bit different: you can’t go over there on past glories, you don’t make a tackle on last year’s game,” said O’Donnell of drawing on the memory of 2009.

“You have to be there in the moment, keep going through it with the next tackle, next ruck and keep working to the best of your ability. That’s what wins games.

“I remember sitting on my couch, screaming, willing the ball to go over from O’Gara (in 2009).

“It was this incredibly tight, tense game and when you thought we were away, the Welsh came back and they nearly had the chance at the end. It’s a fantastic memory.”