John Fogarty says Seán O’Brien is "just about there" as he aims to make his playing comeback in this weekend’s interprovincial derby against Connacht at the Sportsground.
The flanker suffered a shoulder injury in a comeback game last February and, save for a 40-minute run against Treviso in April, has not played since.
The Tullow Tank was involved in two training sessions last week – including full contact last Thursday – and is now bidding to be part of Leo Cullen’s match-day squad for the trip to Galway on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm)
Scrum coach Fogarty says the outlook is bright for the 31-year-old.
"He’s just about there," he told RTÉ Sport. "He’s playing his part in the video sessions and review meetings, we just need to get him on the field and keep him there.
"His training load will be increased this week and depending on how he goes, so we will see. If he’s training he’s available for selection."
Fogarty did not dispute that there could be personnel changes in the offing despite the bonus-point win over Edinburgh – "We need to build cohesion into the squad. We’re a couple of games out from Europe so these next three games are big" – and said that the competition for places is really hotting up for the reigning Pro14 and Champions Cup holders.
"It’s good to see that edge is there"
"It’s getting quite tight and tense in training sessions during the week. I think players understand that for them to be in the team on the biggest days they really have to be performing. We have seen an edge develop in training.
"It’s good to see that edge is there."