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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 19 September, 2014

O’Connor can see ‘merit’ in handing Leinster’s 12 shirt to Ian Madigan

Mike McCarthy may return from a calf injury, as the head coach gets set for tough calls in the back row, front row and halfbacks.

Madigan crosses to score against Ulster in the semi-final.
Madigan crosses to score against Ulster in the semi-final.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MATT O’CONNOR ADMITS there would be sense in playing Ian Madigan alongside Jimmy Gopperth for Leinster’s RaboDirect Pro12 final against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday evening.

However, the Australian head coach hinted that the 25-year-old’s versatility may be better suited to a substitute role. Madigan was man of the match in the semi-final victory against Ulster, having come off the bench to play 30 excellent minutes at inside centre.

O’Connor faces a number of tough selection calls this week, with Martin Moore and Mike Ross vying for the number three shirt, Sean O’Brien straining at the leash after being used as a replacement against Ulster, and Madigan offering an alternative to Gopperth at 10, amongst other possibilities.

Gordon D’Arcy’s importance to the Leinster defence makes it difficult to imagine the 34-year-old not starting, but O’Connor says he can see why some are arguing for Madigan’s inclusion in the centre.

It’s probably got merit off the back of what Ian gave us off the bench last week [sic]. We just need to make sure that we get the balance of that right in relation to blokes who start and the change-up that we’ve got relative to the circumstances inside the game.”

“The back row is a big one [selection call], the halves is a big one, the front row is a big one. That’s not a surprise to anyone, that’s where we’ve got very good depth. We’ve got to make sure that we get the fittest blokes on the field and we get the best combination to do the job.”

There will be a further decision to be made in the second row, where the unexpectedly swift recovery rate of Mike McCarthy’s calf means he may become available after missing the semi-final.

Mike McCarthy

The return of Mike McCarthy would be a boost for Leinster.

Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“[He's] close, a lot closer than we would have thought,” says O’Connor. “Today he trained well and we’re pretty positive that he’ll be there or thereabouts. We’ve just got to do a pretty good risk assessment of how long he’ll last and how good he is to take his place.”

Sean Cronin is “as good as gold” after being substituted off late in the victory over Ulster with what O’Connor termed “a bit of fatigue and a bang on the shoulder,” but Luke Fitzgerald will not make a surprise return this weekend.

Brian O’Driscoll and Fergus McFadden are back to full health, according to O’Connor, having been replaced in the semi-final after sustaining head injuries.

Were the pair concussed by their respective blows?

I don’t even know, to be honest, the label that was attached to it,” replies O’Connor. “But they’re as good as gold, they’ve done the protocols and trained all week. They haven’t got any side effects at all.

“There’s varying degrees of it and he [McFadden] was pretty mild, as was Brian. They’ve recovered fully and trained well. They were running around in the middle of last week… they’re fine.”

What Leinster team would you like to see O’Connor select for Saturday’s final?

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