Six Nations: Eoin Reddan finally master of his own destiny
Ireland scrum-half Eoin Reddan may well have been looking over his shoulder again in training.
Munster’s Tomas O’Leary is coming back to fitness, intent on reclaiming his place behind Ireland’s pack.
Reddan knows all about competition, of course; every week at club level he faces it from former Ulster favourite, Isaac Boss.
For the time being, Reddan is the scrum-half in possession of the blue top of his club and the green shirt of his country, Boss having been held at bay and O’Leary not quite fit to mount a serious challenge just yet.
O’Leary played in the first two Championship matches against Italy and France, having only just been deemed fit for the latter. He lasted 69 minutes against the French, scoring against the defending Grand Slam champions.
But with his back problem continuing, O’Leary missed out against the Scots at Murrayfield where his place went to Reddan who also underlined his case with a try.
Having played 26 times for Ireland without scoring one, his delight at having finally broken that duck was there for all to see.
“I think my emotions maybe got the better of me. I’ve got a lot of texts and a bit of slagging over it. It wouldn’t be like me really but I think when you’re growing up you always want that.
“I’ve probably had a few nights thinking I’d never get one, so I just really enjoyed it. That was a nice part of the day,” he admitted.
The Limerick man who finally scored his first Irish try also got one in the 2007 Heineken Cup final at Twickenham where he played in the colours of London Wasps, who had signed him from Connacht.
And on Saturday the man who was his coach that May afternoon when Wasps – watched by a crowd of 81,076 — beat Leicester Tigers 29-5 was Warren Gatland, who, in his capacity as Welsh supremo, will attempt to plot his former charges’ downfall.
They include Reddan who, before the Irish camp reconvened last Sunday, made his way to Riverview to watch his boyhood neighbour, Conor Niland, Ireland’s top-ranked tennis player, in Davis Cup action against Luxembourg.
The pair grew up alongside one another in Limerick, where they played soccer together. Reddan also lined out against Niland’s brother, Ray, on the rugby pitch.
“We lived next door and were quite good friends when we were growing up. I hadn’t seen him (Conor) play so I met him in Riverview when I heard he was playing (against Luxembourg in the Davis Cup) and I asked him to get me tickets,” Reddan said.
Niland was beaten 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 by Gilles Muller, but Reddan was highly impressed nevertheless.
“I’ll keep a close eye on him. He’s done very well this season and hopefully he can keep climbing those rankings. He’s about 130 now in the world, so it’s pretty impressive.
“Being 130th in the world, most people probably don’t understand how good that is. In rugby terms it’s probably the equivalent of winning the Heineken Cup or something,” Reddan reckoned.
He admires his former neighbour’s physical and mental strength to keep going in an individual sport in which Ireland has no tradition. In Reddan’s opinion, that is much tougher than playing in a team sport in which the Irish do have pedigree.
“I wouldn’t envy individual sportsmen at all. I have unbelievable respect for them, they work incredibly hard. In the good times they’ve nobody to share it with; in bad times — probably even more importantly — they’ve nobody to share that with, either,” Reddan pointed out.
“We can show up in training and there’s people there buzzing and moving things on. But if you don’t have that around you then it’s up to yourself to get everything going, every single day, and that can be a long time when you think about how many of those days you’re going to have over maybe 10 years.”
Now 28, Reddan has known down times in his rugby career and has been grateful to have comrades and mates around at such moments.
But now having scored an international try and been retained in Ireland’s starting line-up, he is in a good place and ready to make the most of it.
Meanwhile, Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones has hailed the durable quality of Ireland's revered second-row partnership of Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell.
Jones and Bradley Davies will go head-to-head with the Munster warriors on Saturday.
And Ospreys forward Jones, a British and Irish Lions colleague of the Ireland pair in South Africa two years ago, anticipates another fierce examination.
He said: “You look at the last five or six years, and they've been the most consistent second-row pairing in northern hemisphere rugby, for Munster and Ireland.
“You look at the performances they've put in, and with O'Connell back now, they will add to the Ireland pack.
“I should imagine they will get back on the horse and go well again.
“Paul has got his match fitness back now. The performances he has been putting in for Ireland, he's almost back to where he was.”