INJURIES ARE PERHAPS the most frustrating factor in being a professional sportsperson, but oftentimes stints on the sideline can result in an improved player.
Naturally, there is an adaptation process involved in rediscovering one’s best form, but injuries can allow rugby players to add new strings to their bow, both athletically and in terms of their skill base.
O’Halloran gets a good laugh from teammate Robbie Henshaw. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran has provided a strong case study in recent weeks, having returned from a long-term knee problem to serve Irish rugby with an impressive reminder of his ability.
The 24-year-old seemed destined for great things when he first burst onto the scene out west, even training with Declan Kidney’s Ireland in 2012, but repeated injuries have stunted him since.
His first appearance this season only came in February, but O’Halloran is certainly making up for lost time. As Pat Lam’s squad prepare for Saturday’s immensely important Guinness Pro12 clash with Ulster, the wing/fullback is eager for more.
“It was a frustrating year for me personally with injury, I missed quite a big chunk of the season,” says the Galway man. “I suppose when I got back into it, it was just about training well and nearly taking each training session at a time, not getting too far ahead of myself.
“I take a lot of confidence from that and it’s another massive opportunity this weekend, so I’m looking forward to keeping that progression going.”
With his knee issue alleviated, O’Halloran explains that he’s feeling as fast and as powerful as he ever has, the ironic thing being that a long-term injury allowed him to improve his overall physical ability.
Additional gym sessions, the correction of minor weaknesses in his athletic make-up and hard work at rehabbing other old injuries means he looks a much-improved athlete compared to the youngster who nailed down a first-time spot in 2011.
O’Halloran looks like a more rounded player than ever. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Away from the physical side of things, O’Halloran also used his time on the sidelines proactively from a skills point of view. A superb jackal turnover penalty last weekend against Gloucester stood out, while he has been making fine reads in defence too.
“While I was injured, I did a lot of analysis work,” explains O’Halloran. “You’ve a lot more time to get to watch a lot of rugby I suppose. We’ve got a ‘return-to-perform’ protocol here, which is very beneficial to injured players.
“You do individual work with our skills coach and that’s great. You work on things like jackaling, things you might not have time to do on a normal week when you’re training fully, but when you’re injured you have time to do that.