Glasgow captain Al Kellock focused on winning

WHETHER they win this evening or not, one Warrior deserves a medal of some sort for longevity and perseverance, blood, sweat and plenty of tears, Glasgow’s skipper of eight years standing Al Kellock.

Al Kellock (right) and Leinster counterpart Leo Cullen with the RaboDirect PRO12 Trophy. Picture: SNS
Al Kellock (right) and Leinster counterpart Leo Cullen with the RaboDirect PRO12 Trophy. Picture: SNS

To say that the big man has been a Glasgow stalwart does not begin to do justice to the influence he has had on this club since Sean Lineen prised him away from Edinburgh all those years ago.

As a proud Alan Glens’ man, Kellock was coming home, although he must have pondered the wisdom of his move at times.

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Kellock admitted yesterday that the only league success he has tasted throughout his long career came in the old Premier Two with Stirling Country more years ago than he can count.

“That was incredibly special,” he says of the division two triumph, “so you can imagine how I feel about this [final].”

Kellock has led his band of warriors from the front for so long that it is difficult to remember a time when he wasn’t first on to the pitch and, despite a strong challenge from Tim Swinson, he will be in harness again this evening. What will be his call to arms ahead of the biggest game in the club’s history?

“I will get a feel for how the changing room is; whether it needs a gee-up, which I very much doubt, or whether it is more what we always talk about in narrowing the focus,” says the skipper. “I will wait until I get a feeling for what Gregor has said and other players. I won’t go over things that don’t need going over and will bring it down to a few key elements.

“I can say that in the captain’s run we have already spoken about how against Munster we had to go to some really, really dark places, some incredible effort was needed. I feel we are a stronger team because of that. To come through that and do what it takes to beat Munster puts us in a good place. We have learned the lessons and there will be an element of that. This is not anything new, we know how to win games, we have won nine in a row.

“It is not getting carried away with the emotion of the day or the fact that it is a final. Go out and do what we can do to the best of our ability and we have shown in the past it is good enough. Going into this game we are in a better place than we have been and you get that better performance out of that best place and I believe that our best performance will win the game.”

Kellock is probably right and he declined to adopt the “underdogs” tag when offered it a little later. If Glasgow can maintain their defensive discipline and restrict Leinster’s shots at goal to a minimum, the Warriors’ attack should have the wherewithal to do some damage in Dublin, especially when the twin Fijian threats of Niko Matawalu and Leone Nakarawa are unleashed as the game breaks up.

The big man isn’t going to play down his international career, which may yet have another chapter or two, but to taste success with the side he has led for so long would clearly mean the world to him and his family. “To be captain here for eight years, this has been my life, my family’s life,” said the long lock.

“This would be enormous but not just for me, that’s the thing, but enormous for the 23 guys who get the opportunity, the guys who are sitting in the stand and everybody involved in the club, everybody who works for the club and for rugby in Glasgow and Scotland.

“I just think there is the interest and the level that we are at is something I have never experienced. So if we can bring that trophy home it would take it to a level we have not seen before. I’ve been stopped in the street, the phone is already buzzing with good luck messages. It is great these are the big, big games you want to be involved in.”

They don’t come any bigger.