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18th Sep 2022

Damian de Allende has one of the most laid-back pre-match routines in rugby

Patrick McCarry

de Allende

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that lad is just sideways’. Then he goes out and he’s the best player on the pitch.”

Pre-match routines and superstitions come hand-in-hand with many of your favourite athletes. Damian de Allende certainly has a quite laid-back way of going about some pre-match prep.

While some players visit the toilets, to heave or push, others have an order of putting their gear on, have songs to get them in the zone, wear favourite or lucky underwear or, in the case of England prop Ellis Genge, lie in a bath-tub [if there is one available] in complete silence.

“The mind is such a weapon and such a weakness,” former Ireland outhalf Ronan O’Gara told us, a few years back. “Ah, it torments ya. You’d be driven demented.”

“I could have two [kicking] tees the exact same but if I kick with this tee during the week then, all of a sudden, realise on game day it’s, ‘Holy Jesus, ring Jess and tell her this tee needs to get to Thomond Park!’

“Laugh all you want but I’d be thinking that one tee could be a tiny bit higher. It plays wicked games with you.”

Perhaps the likes of Damian de Allende and Colm Cooper battled such mental demons before big days but, according to Andrew Conway and Paul Galvin, you may never know it from looking at them.

Damian de Allende of Munster takes a selfie with supporters after a victory over Exeter Chiefs. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

Damian de Allende ‘just panned out in a seat’

At the recent United Rugby Championship season launch, we asked Munster winger Andrew Conway for some of the more peculiar pre-match superstitions and routines of his teammates.

“Everyone has got their own thing, and you leave people to do whatever they need themselves, particularly on match-day,” said Conway. “You certainly don’t judge what different people are up to.

“I remember Damian de Allende literally being asleep five minutes before we went out to a big match, last year.

“He had a jumper over his head and was just panned out in a seat. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that lad is just sideways’. Then he goes out and he’s the best player on the pitch.”

De Allende, who was one of South Africa’s stand-outs in their weekend win over Argentina, moved on from Munster, this summer, and will now be having his pre-match snoozes in Japan, with Saitama Wild Knights.

Conway’s recollection of de Allende catching some shut-eye before a big game had us thinking about a great Paul Galvin story. The former Kerry footballer told us, a few years back”

“I came back to the room around 1 o’clock. Gooch had disappeared,” Galvin began, as he recalled rooming with Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper before the 2007 All-Ireland Final.

“The game was at 3:30pm and this was about 1:15pm. So he would have been up for breakfast, physio, lunch and then he disappeared. We had about an hour to kill so I headed back to the room and I see this little tuft of red hair under the duvet, and there’s not a stir out of him.

“So I go, ‘It’s time to go. We have to get on the bus and we have a team meeting’.

“I was getting the bag ready and there’s still no life out of Gooch. Next thing, I pick up my bag and drop it. He grunts… ‘What time is it?’

‘It’s quarter past one Gooch.’

‘Oh Jaysus… I’m going to stay in bed’.

“I said, ‘We’ve a game there about 3:30, if you wouldn’t mind joining us’. Gooch just stretches. ‘Ah, we’ve a few minutes yet’.

“It was like he hit the snooze button. Back asleep for five minutes. Rolled out of bed. Hit 1-5 that day.”

Colm Cooper, Kerry, celebrates with manager Pat O’Shea at the end of the 2007 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. (Credit: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE)

Another Munster teammate of Andrew Conway that is so laid-back, before games, that he is practically horizontal, is Tadhg Beirne.

“Tadhg Beirne plays Angry Birds, or a similar game like that, just before games,” said Conway. “He’s so relaxed and, again, just turns it on to be one of the best players in the world.

“Different people are up to different things, but we’re trying to be more chilled, actually. You get the music playing and get chatting. I just love having Simon Zebo about the place because he’s just fun company. We sit near each other and I can get a bit antsy, sometimes, so he’s great for taking the edge off me.”

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