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Dan is desperate to lift trophy

Ireland international can't handle the thought of losing third final in a row

By Niall Crozier

In 2012, the Irish international lock was a member of the Ulster side which went down 42-14 to Leinster in the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham.

Twelve months ago Ulster lost 24-18 against the same opponents, this time in the RaboDirect PRO12 final at the RDS.

Although it will not be confirmed until after tonight's completion of the regular season fixtures, everything points to another big date with Leinster at their Dublin 4 home a week hence, this one in the semi-final of the 2014 PRO12, with the victors then facing either Glasgow Warriors or Munster in the May 31 shoot-out for the trophy.

"It looks like we'll be playing Leinster in the semi-finals and if we beat them it will be Glasgow or Munster away," Tuohy said.

"I couldn't choose who I'd rather play. Whoever it is, it will be at their ground and none of those are easy. So it's three very tough matches if we're to win this.

"But I really, really want to because I don't think I can handle losing three finals in three years. I can't do it, I can't. We have to get something out of this season because this cycle of players is too good to finish up empty-handed."

Tonight he returns to the Limerick fortress where on Easter Sunday, 2012, Ulster beat Munster in what was a magnificent performance in the Heineken Cup quarter-final. These are very different circumstances, however, a fact Tuohy acknowledges.

"There's not a lot riding on the outcome so there's no point lying in saying that there is. But it's still an inter-pro and there are places on tours and in squads for the semi-finals up for grabs so that makes it a meaty enough game," Tuohy said.

He has worked hard to get back for the run-in. No sooner had he recovered from the broken arm he suffered while on Ireland duty against Wales on February 8 than he then sustained a hand injury in Ulster's PRO12 date with Cardiff on March 28.

"I managed to get back in five and a half weeks after surgery on this," he said, turning his right forearm to reveal a nine-inch scar.

"It was stitched internally so I don't know how many stitches there are. But there are nine screws and a plate in there.

"I played for 20 minutes in the Edinburgh game, started against Cardiff and then played against Saracens, although I broke my hand in Cardiff the week before. Well, I stretched the ligament and then broke the [little finger, left hand] carpal in the Saracens game so I had to have surgery after that – three screws in there. Fortunately, I got back after three weeks."

For a man not accustomed to injury-enforced time out, this unfortunate run has been hard to take.

"While I've been lucky in terms of recovery times it's been frustrating with it being a case of one after the other," he said.

"I really haven't played a great deal of rugby since I came off against Wales in the Six Nations. It's been a real stop-start period for me, which has coincided with the [Ulster] team's form. That's been a bit stop-start, too."

With his 29th birthday looming on June 18, recovery takes a little longer now.

"A couple of years ago it would have been a bit quicker," he said. N"You don't forget the plays or the line-outs or anything like that; it's just your body is coping with the load of training you have to put in, so your hips are sore and your knees are sore.

"But where you really notice it when you've not been playing is in your speed of thought and your ability to process things. If you have six weeks off it really would take two or three before you feel you're really back to being yourself.

"Unfortunately you don't have two or three weeks – you have to get back quicker than that. So that's been tough. But I can't complain, some of the lads have had much more serious injuries than me. And because both of my injuries were upper-limb I was able to continue running, so I really didn't have to struggle too much with my lungs."

While the norm for modern-day players is to insist they are not looking beyond the next game, Tuohy breaks with convention.

"Hopefully we still have three games to go until the end of the season and hopefully I might just be able to squeeze myself on to Ireland's [Argentina] tour.

"I'm really glad we're in the semis for if last week's run from the bench against Leinster and this game against Munster were all I'd had, I don't think that would have been enough to give me a chance of making it.

"So this week and next week are two big games for me."

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