Cronin: O’Connell getting better

first_img Veteran lock O’Connell will equal Mick Galwey’s record as Ireland’s oldest captain of all time at exactly 35 years and 145 days at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. The Munster talisman will become just the fourth star to hit 100 Tests for Ireland, joining Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and John Hayes in the century club. Press Association Leinster hooker Cronin hailed O’Connell’s “intensity and physicality” as the crux of Ireland’s relentless pursuit of ever-higher standards under taskmaster boss Joe Schmidt. “It’s a phenomenal achievement: I think he’s getting better with it even as the years go on,” said Cronin, as Ireland look to home in on a second Grand Slam in six years this weekend. “But he’s the kind of player that, whenever he’s playing, he nearly makes you play better because that’s the enthusiasm, the passion, the physicality that he brings. “He kind of instils that in the players around him, it’s great to play under him. “He sets the standard and you’ve got to get up there with him. “He’ll demand it off you one way or another, so it’s great to play with a person like that, because it raises your standards as well.” O’Connell will stride past a multitude of milestones in Cardiff this weekend, as he aims to mark his 50th Six Nations performance by setting Ireland a new winning Test run of 11 matches. Wales and Scotland block Ireland’s path to Grand Slam glory and a third career Six Nations crown for O’Connell. As the teams complete preparations in the Millennium Stadium’s bowels this weekend, O’Connell will launch into a trademark tub-thumping team talk. Cronin acknowledged the legend around O’Connell bringing team-mates to tears with his unbridled pre-match passion – but admitted the Munster stalwart’s rhetoric far more fearsome than emotive. “I’ve nipped out a couple of times to dot the eyes during his talks!” joked Cronin of myths O’Connell can invoke raw emotions. “No, but seriously, he scares me more than makes me cry to be honest with you. “He brings a certain level, you see him doing it, his intensity, physicality, attention to detail. “So when you see him doing that, you’re saying to yourself ‘I need to get to that as well’. “If 15 or 23 lads get to that level, we’re hard to beat. “He’s similar to Joe (Schmidt) in some ways. “Paul isn’t going to get to the heights of Test rugby that he has without hard work and accuracy. “He’s got great influence on the squad, the lads buy into that and he’s fantastic to have around.” Evergreen Paul O’Connell can still scale new heights ahead of notching his 100th Ireland cap in Saturday’s pivotal RBS 6 Nations showdown in Wales, according to Sean Cronin.last_img read more

Strong midfield and back-end play carries No. 23 Syracuse over No. 14 St. Joseph’s, 2-1

first_imgChiara Gutsche sensed the pass coming, and began to inch toward midfield. As the clock neared five minutes in overtime, Gutsche crept up from the defensive end and made her move.Moments earlier, fans had called out “Drop Char,” yearning for Charlotte de Vries, SU’s star freshman, to cut off the angle across the field. She didn’t, so the St. Joseph’s defender sent the pass from left to right. Gutsche and de Vries locked eyes, and Gutsche knew she had to step into the passing lane. She intercepted it in stride, and sprinted toward the SJU cage, securing another turnover for SU’s defenders. That sequence ended with Laura Graziosi’s game-winning goal — when she ripped the ball into the back of the cage after a penalty corner insertion — and sealed No. 23 Syracuse’s (4-1) 2-1 overtime win over No. 14 St. Joseph’s (3-1) Friday night. The Orange midfield consistently broke up St. Joseph’s attacks in the middle-third and stifled rushes that neared the crease in the back end. Sometimes, the steal came on the initial pass. Other times, they interrupted the stick-handling that followed. But behind a thorough defensive effort, Syracuse limited tense moments for goalies Syd Taylor and Sarah Sinck, and created enough offensive opportunities to knock off the Hawks.“We just had good pressure from all over the field, everybody was just doing their jobs,” senior Claire Webb, who played for the first time this year, said. “And when everybody does their jobs, we play well as a unit.”It was the complete performance that SU had lacked thus far. During its first four games, offensive dominance and defensive containment had flashed but rarely meshed. Against Vermont and UMass Lowell, SU escaped with wins. Against Lafayette, two early goals allowed by Sarah Sinck overshadowed prominent chances in the Leopards’ end. And against Cornell, those lapses resulted in an upset loss. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHead coach Ange Bradley said Webb’s return brought composure, and the senior replaced freshman Olivia Graham at center back, the defense’s anchor. Bradley also started Taylor for the first time in net, but she never needed to dive to one side or knock away balls with knee pads — the Hawks tallied zero shots in the first half. Junior Sarah Luby, midfielder Claire Cooke and Gutsche spearheaded a middle that swarmed SJU’s passes and chopped balls away, leading to counter-attacks and eliminating lanes for SJU rushes.“We played really together and compact, moved the ball quick and around, always try to open new and more holes,” Carolin Hoffmann said.At times, the turnovers created favorable opportunities in the other end. SJU’s midfielder Cassidy Atchison pushed the ball to the edge of the field and centered a pass into the crease, but Webb sent it in the other direction before another stick could poke it toward the cage. Cooke maintained possession midway through the first quarter, although her long pass intended for Gutsche sailed harmlessly out of bounds and returned control to the Hawks. Had that pass connected, Gutsche would’ve had an odd-man rush at the net.But those plays prevented disaster in the defensive end. With de Vries and her six goals patrolling the offensive zone, a pass on a counter-attack to her stick could end in scoring chances. Leading up to SU’s first goal, Luby poked the ball away to Gutsche and initiated a rush. At the sequence’s end, de Vries backed up St. Joseph’s freshman Kate Blincoe before spinning around and finishing with a reverse hit to give Syracuse a 1-0 lead.“We just kept playing our style of game,” Hoffmann said, “just didn’t even think about what [the Hawks] were doing.”With a one-goal lead, the Orange attempted to slow down the pace early in the second half. When Webb and Graham would corral passes near the crease, they’d simply rotate the ball until an SJU defender pressed hard enough. Then, once the ball progressed into the midfielders’ territory, they too circled it around. First Graham, then to Webb, over to sophomore SJ Quigley, and then back again.Even when St. Joseph’s struck off a penalty corner in the 35th minute, when Emily Peters dropped to the right post and finished in an open net, it wasn’t from a defensive breakdown, Bradley said. Rather, the game-tying tally resulted from the Hawks finding a successful angle off the insert, finding a location where all Taylor could do was watch from the opposite post as the white sphere pounded the back of the cage. “It’s a guessing game,” Bradley said of defending penalty corners. Early in the fourth quarter, still 20 minutes away from when Graziosi took two steps right and rifled the game-winning goal past Hawks goalkeeper Victoria Kammerinke, Graham crouched down at midfield and greeted another St. Joseph’s rush. Fans had started to congregate near the bottom of J.S. Coyne Stadium’s bleachers, awaiting the pivotal rush. Others paced on the top row by the “Game Day” flags whipping in the wind. Graham shuffled to her left and followed until she could poke the ball away. Hoffmann snagged possession and sent an outlet pass to a streaking Luby. Despite an outstretched stick, Luby watched the pass jump past her stick. She shook her head.But Graham wasn’t disheveled at the missed opportunity. The freshman had done her job, similar to her other midfield and back partners the rest of the night. Graham jogged to her right, back toward her normal spot, and grasped her stick with both hands. At one point, another rush would come. Another chance to start a counter-attack. She just had to be ready. Comments Published on September 13, 2019 at 10:48 pm Contact Andrew: | @CraneAndrew Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more