|Barker in action (#51) - photo by Ash O'Flanagan (http://www.ashoflanagan.tumblr.com)|
DC: What are your reflections on the SBC season?
DB: It's hard to judge how the season has gone, last year we finished 6-2 and so this year we set our sights firmly on improving that record and while we didn't manage any extra wins we did win our division for the first time. Obviously that was our goal from the start so it's definitely something to be proud of but I think we still look back and think we could have improved on our season. While the season has been hugely disjointed with two teams dropping out I think that heightened the sense of competition rather than the other way around. Playing UL and UCD a combined 5 times has meant that we have had absolutely no easy games and has hopefully hardened us enough to be ready for the playoffs.
DC: In a very broken SBC South season how have you kept your players focussed?
DB: I think of all teams we are very familiar with this problem, we're used to having exams rip through our training and playing schedules so we have to prepare for players switching focus mid way through the season. This year has obviously been quite difficult though with the amount of cancelled and rescheduled games but I think playing college teams does help, everyone gets involved in the rivalries and it probably helped all the teams in the division to stay focused. More than anything though its been our team goals that have kept us focused. We wanted to win our division and really announce ourselves on the playoff stage and that has kept us going all season.
DC: How do you feel about Trinity playing competitively across two competitions? Do you not see the Atlantic Cup as a distraction from the SBC playoff Semi-Final against the Dublin Rebels next week?
DB: Normally I would probably agree with you but this year has really forced us to change approach. We've only played 5 games this year and we've only gotten to see two different opponents. With our last game over a month ago now we just felt that if we wanted to come into the playoffs and really make a go of it we would have to be match sharp. We knew we'd be playing either the Rebels or the Knights and that they would have played a wildcard match up a few weeks before the semi and would definitely be battle hardened for our game, not to mention that these are two of the most experienced and successful sides in the country. We really just wanted the opportunity to get our intensity back up to game level and to get some form going into the playoffs. That's all ignoring the fact that we had the chance to play in a competition against some of Europe's best teams and to test ourselves on that stage, we are an ambitious team and it would always have been hard to turn down that opportunity.
DC: Have you had much chance to scout your opponents, the Brussels Tigers?
DB: We'll hopefully get our hands on some tape this week but to be honest we haven't been able to do a lot of scouting. We're going to focus on ourselves and our game and try and impose ourselves, hopefully they won't know much about us either!
DC: How tough is it going to be playing two games in two days and then another the week after? What steps have you taken to help your players deal with the strains?
DB: It's going to be very tough but that's what you have to expect going into this end of the season. This is what we did all the conditioning work before Christmas for. We're just going to have to prepare really thoroughly the week leading up to the game, eat the right kinds of food, exercise, stretch. It's going to be a tough weekend no doubt but we're all looking forward to it. We're a young team and should recover fast duting the week and hopefully we'll be in good shape to take on the Rebels.
DC: The last game you played was over a month ago and it was a tough loss to your rivals. Has the lay off helped your team regroup?
DB: Yes and no. I think physically we probably needed a break, we had a lot of injuries, and I think we also needed time to freshen up our playbooks. We played the same two teams five times so I think I lot of what we did got quite stale by the end of the year. The month off definitely helped us to take another look at our game planning and to put together some ideas for the playoffs. That being said, we lost to UCD and lost bad. They really put us to the sword. There wasn't one thing we did well in that game and it left us all feeling very frustrated. A month is a long time to stew over a loss like that and I think we all wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible to exorcise some of those demons. I expect us to harness that feeling over the coming weeks though and use it to our advantage.
DC: Who do you see as your key players to lead you on the field against European opponents?
DB: Offensively, I think we have some of the best skill players to play in this league and I'm sure everybody knows who they are at this stage but I think the key to us having a good June/July relies on our offensive line. They were as good as I've ever seen them in the first half of this year and they gave our offense the platform to really excel. We have guys like Kieran Couglan and Dave Kane who can control the interior of the line and give us a serious chance to beat any team with the skill players we have.Defensively, we need to play as a unit and communicate a lot better than we did in the latter half of the regular season but if we have a definite playmaker in our safety Andrew Redmond. His turnovers can be the difference in a game as we know that if we can give our offense a few extra possessions they can really do damage.