Front Row View: Munster: 28 – Edinburgh: 14

Seven-nil down, a penalty in front of their posts, what do you do?  Take the points?  Heck no, take the scrum!  And what a scrum!  The Munster pack marched Edinburgh backwards as Conor Murray shepherded them towards the line before darting in to touch the ball down.  Isn’t it wonderful to have such a weapon at our disposal again?  The front row have been superb since the pre-season friendlies, with John Ryan scooping man of the match last weekend but the full pack have to act in unison to get the push on and dominate their opposite numbers so kudos to all involved.  By the end of the game there were 4 front row forwards on the pitch when Stephen Archer had to come on in place of Dave O’Callaghan. That resulted in some strange line-ups with Archer in the second row and Billy Holland moving to 8 for one scrum and 6 for another but the pack held up well.


Archer packs down in the 2nd row between Billy Holland and Darren O’Shea. Photo by Gayl

Taking well over two hours to get to the final whistle, this was probably the longest rugby game I have attended due to the delay while Jack O’Donoghue was treated and eventually removed from the pitch after a head injury (good to read on Twitter that he was walking around at the end of the game), other injury stoppages and confusion over substitutions and sinbinnings.

Kickoff was counted down from 12-1 on the big screen as the captains of the teams in the league flashed up, finishing off with our own Peter O’Mahony.  Hopefully we will see him take to the pitch in the coming weeks.

The scrum was dominant from the start, winning an early penalty.  A few minutes later Munster won a scrum against the head and CJ broke from the back to put Munster on the front foot. Edinburgh did not bring their international front row so tougher tests lie ahead for our pack but in the 6 games played this season they have been dominant and it bodes well for the future.

After thirteen minutes there was a long delay after a bad injury to Jack O’Donoghue.  The TMO was called on to review the dangerous shoulder charge and it resulted in a sinbinning for Fraser McKenzie.  It was worrying to see Jack require so much attention from the medics but with head injuries every precaution must be taken.  He did raise a hand as he was taken off the pitch and young Conor Oliver who is still in the academy took his place.


Conor Oliver on the charge, with Tyler and Cian in support captured by Daryl Feehely

After an early penalty kick miss by Munster it was Edinburgh who were first onto the scoreboard after twenty-two minutes.  A loose ball popped out and took an unkind deflection off a boot when the home team were on the attack.  Chris Dean took advantage and ran in to score from his own 10m line.  Duncan Weir converted to make it 0-7.

Munster responded well, winning a penalty on the 10m line which they kicked to touch.  Conor Oliver broke from the maul to carry the ball over the gain line.  Edinburgh went offside to concede another penalty, for which they received a warning from referee Whitehouse.  The scrum was called and the sixteenth man raised it’s voice to urge the players to heave.  The pack drove forward and I wonder if the player microphone caught what CJ had to say to Conor Murray after the latter picked the ball up to score from CJ’s feet after he had nursed it to the line.  CJ looked happy with the end result anyway J

A second try just before the break was very welcome.  This time Edinburgh had the put-in to the scrum after a Munster knock-on.  However we could sense their vulnerability on their 5m line and Munster turned the screw.  Edinburgh were driven back over their line and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could not get the ball away.  Instead under pressure he knocked on.  Niall Scannell pounced on the loose ball and popped it up to Murray who burrowed under the defence to score his second try.


Daryl captures the moment of Conor Murray’s 2nd try

The opening minute of the second half lead to more delight when Conor Oliver scored his first senior try for Munster, benefitting from a great offload by Tyler and indecision in defence by Duncan Weir.  Tyler added the conversion to make it 21-7 and the bonus point attempt was on.


Conor Oliver scores his first senior try for Munster as captured by Daryl Feehely

The pack continued to exert pressure particularly in the scrum which resulted in a sinbinning for their replacement prop Dell.  However that led to uncontested scrums which in the context of this game gave the advantage to the penalised side!  Munster kicked to touch instead and mauled towards the line but CJ was held up.

From the subsequent uncontested scrum CJ picked and drove for the line only to knock on when a score seemed a certainty – so he is human!  However, it only delayed the inevitable.  This time it was Dave O’Callaghan who was in the right place to take the offload from Bleyendaal on the 10m line to score the key bonus point try.


Dave O’Callaghan secured the bonus point as captured by Daryl Feehely

Changes made, both tactical and enforced, led to a loss in continuity and when Edinburgh scored their second try after 66 minutes through Hardie, converted by Blair Kinghorn tension levels rose but that was the final score of the game.

Munster: Ian Keatley; Darren Sweetnam, Keith Earls, Cian Bohane, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal (Alex Wootton ’59), Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’59); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’58), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey ’59), John Ryan; Jean Kleyn (Darren O’Shea ’44), Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan (Stephen Archer ’65), Jack O’Donoghue (Conor Oliver ’13), CJ Stander.  Not used: Dan Goggin.

Edinburgh: Glenn Bryce; Damien Hoyland, Michael Allen (Rory Scholes ’72), Chris Dean, Tom Brown; Duncan Weir (Blair Kinghorn ’52), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Sean Kennedy ’64); Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (Neil Cochrane ’59), Kevin Bryce (Allan Dell ’5); Fraser McKenzie (Lewis Carmichael ’68), Ben Toolis; Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson (John Hardie ’25-’33, blood), Cornell Du Preez (Jack Cosgrove ’52) (John Hardie ’59).

CJ seemed to be everywhere so the stats showing 28 carries is not surprising. Billy Holland continues to lead the tackle count – 19 more today. We were a bit bemused when the man of the match was awarded to Edinburgh’s # 6 Magnus Bradbury!  Last week I was concerned about the high penalty count so I was delighted to see in this week’s stats that there was a good improvement with only 6 conceded versus ten last week but the team will be disappointed with the high number of turnovers and unforced errors. Plenty to work on but some good foundations in place with the set pieces working well.


Stats from ESPN

The injuries to Jack, Dave, Jean and other bumps and bruises will need to be evaluated in the coming days. Darren O’Shea and Alex Wootton made their league debuts while Cian Bohane and Conor Oliver gained more experience at this level. It was good to have Keith Earls back and hopefully we will see Peter, Tommy and Simon make their returns next week or at the Aviva the following week.

Reading back through the match thread on Twitter it looks like I missed some classic quotes captured on the player microphone worn by CJ Stander. This clip gives a sense of his enthusiasm, leadership and workrate throughout.

Post game comments from Rassie “I would never have wanted the game to feel like a horror movie, just watching minutes and minutes and minutes as it felt like we weren’t getting there”.

Also worth checking out the post match thoughts of try scorer Conor Oliver

“Nowhere I’d rather be” – so sang Clean Bandit on the radio as I arrived in Limerick and with my front row view from the terrace and the reunion with my friends it was true, especialy as the weather cleared up.  John was surprised to receive so many birthday wishes – who was telling us all John?  Kevin and George were in great voice and started us off with the usual songs a few times throughout the game. In the bar afterwards there was a reunion of the MRSC Dublin social media gurus as Catriona was home from Australia and I met her and the latest curator of the account Michelle there.  I asked Catriona if she enjoys going to rugby matches there and about the different climate there to be told that she has to worry more about sunburn than wet gear there and that she has only been to one game on a rainy day in 2 years!  Still there is nowhere I would rather be and at least the climate had improved dramatically in Limerick to dry up before kick-off and the sun even broke through before the end.


Selfie time for George, featuring Tony, Imelda and I with birthday boy John in the background.

Hopefully it will be dry again next weekend for the visit of Zebre. Considering how the Italians were leading Connacht 22-10 before their third round game was abandoned and then put it up to Cardiff before succumbing 21-23 this week their visit which will not be televised is likely to be a bigger test than their visit to the sunny south east for the pre-season friendly in August (see blog if you missed it in August).

Daryl was at the game – see all his photos here and check out my facebook page.


It looks like Billy almost making the blockdown while CJ tries to make ground. Photos by Daryl





Experience gained: Dragons: 16 – Munster: 20

The withdrawal of Keith Earls with a hamstring niggle left the midfield light on experience, with Colm O’Shea making his Pro12 debut alongside Academy player Dan Goggin on only his third league appearance (none of which show on his official record on the Munster rugby website yet!)  It is also hard to believe that Rory Scannell amassed 26 appearances last season alone.  No wonder his absence was felt this weekend.  When you add in the limited league experience of Tyler Bleyendaal playing for the first time I believe alongside Conor Murray – who himself would not be fully match fit on his first game of the season, – my optimism pre-game was misfounded.  It will be interesting to see how Jaco Taute settles into Munster and the experience he will bring to the team.


Dan Goggin on the charge with Cian Bohane in support. Photo by Daryl Feehely

A win is a win is a win, they say.  We’ll take the points and get back to home comforts next weekend.  The team certainly made us sweat for the four points and the cheer at the final whistle was mainly relief.  It had all started more positively with a great cheer when the first Munster scrum of the game completely dominated the Dragons to win a penalty after about 5 minutes.  That was followed in quick succession by a maul and another strong scrum in the 9th minute which drove Dragons back to win Munster a penalty in front of the posts.  Tyler Bleyendaal put it over the posts to take a 0-3 lead.  However a penalty against Munster for not releasing gave Dragons the opportunity to level the score and Angus O’Brien did exactly that to make it 3-3 after 13 minutes.

Jean Kleyn made his debut and scored his first try in the red jersey.  That move started from a lineout he secured in the 18th minute.  A maul helped move play closer to the Munster 10m line before it was passed out wide where Conway and O’Mahony combined well before going to ground.  John Ryan made some hard yards before Dan Goggin brought play into the Dragons 22.  Munster probed one side then the other before quick hands from CJ Stander gave Jean Kleyn a gap to charge through and he just had the scrumhalf Pretorius to batter aside before touching down beside the posts.


Jean Kleyn about to score his first try for Munster. Photo by Daryl

Tyler Bleyndaal added the conversion to make it 3-10 and all seemed well with the world but the floodgates never opened.  Indeed it was Dragons who scored next off an intercept.  Hallam Amos picked off the pass from Colm O’Shea and sprinted in to score the try, converted by O’Brien to tie the scores again after half an hour.  Cian Bohane came on for O’Shea as a HIA replacement.

Niall Scannell was unlucky not to score a few minutes later when a kick ahead by Murray was almost gathered by Ronan O’Mahony but the referee checked with the TMO and ruled Ronan had knocked it on so Niall’s touchdown did not count.


Niall Scannell’s effort was disallowed after review by the TMO. Photo by Daryl

There was a great outburst of applause on 37″ as a tribute to someone (Player or supporter?) but I could not catch the details on Sky.  Maybe one of you can fill me in?  There seemed to be a good crowd there but according to Twitter the attendance was less than four thousand.

James Cronin stripped a ball to claim a turnover when Dragons were pressing for a score at the start of the second half.  The sun could have been to blame for Goggin dropping the restart which had given Dragons the field position to put on that pressure.

Penalties were exchanged to make it 13-10, 13 all, 16-13, 16 all and there was a real stop-start feel to the game that given the excellent weather conditions was a disappointment as I had hoped for more running rugby.

A shrill blast of the whistle indicated that Andrew Conway was in trouble after a heavy collision with the Dragons lock Nick Crosswell.  Both players were taken off for head injury assessments; it was good to see Conway indicating he was OK via  a thumbs up as he was replaced by Ian Keatley.

A Munster scrum led to the best backline move of the game.  Murray looped well with Bleyendaal before putting O’Mahony into the gap with a reverse pass.  O’Mahony got the pass to Darren Sweetnam on the wing and we were almost celebrating his try before we realised he had not grounded the ball!   When Felix Jones said, ‘if Sweetnam gets the ball all the other players have to expect an off-load‘ – according to Andrew Conway in the Indo, – I don’t think he meant it quite the way it transpired for Cian Bohane.  Sweetnam’s inexperience also showed perhaps as his eagerness to make the conversion easier could have backfired totally when Amos managed to get to him after he had crossed the line but before he had grounded the ball.  Fortunately the referee adjudged that the ball had been knocked backwards and hence Bohane’s supporting run and grounding of the ball gave him his first league points also.

The conversion made it a 4 point game so a penalty or drop-goal would not suffice for Dragons but both team had time to close out the game.  Kilcoyne made some great charges with the ball; Conor Oliver got a few minutes experience at 7; Dan Goggin made 11 runs as did CJ Stander according to ESPN stats, available here which also show that Billy, Jack and Donncha led the tackle count with Tyler making 12.  Jack made one memorable tackle to single-handedly drive a Dragons player into touch.  The final minutes were tense as Dragons had a lineout deep in Munster territory and attempted to maul over the line. Thankfully the defence held firm until the Dragons knocked on to loud cheers of relief in the River Bar.


John Ryn barges through with Jean Kleyn in support. Photo by Daryl

John Ryan won Man of the Match – not just for his excellent scrummaging but he made some great ball-carrying breaks and tackles also.  The post match interview with Rassie Erasmus left us bemused and looking for subtitles!  It was hard to hear over the noise in the pub, especially as he was speaking so quickly.

So three games into the new league season and there is plenty to work on, not least the penalties given away too cheaply.  Munster conceded 10 penalties in Newport and will be keen to reduce that number, especially around the breakdown area, where they were frequently pinged for not rolling away or for going off their feet.  With two home games at Thomond to come starting with the visit of Edinburgh next weekend followed by Zebre hopefully we will build some confidence and momentum before the annual trip to the Aviva followed by the start of the European campaign.

Daryl’s photos can be seen here.  Please check out to my facebook page / follow me on Twitter @WTView or sign up to receive my game day blogs by email🙂.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Colm O’Shea, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Donnacha Ryan; Billy Holland Capt., Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, Dave Kilcoyne, Brian Scott, Dave O’Callaghan, Conor Oliver, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley,  Cian Bohane.

DRAGONS: Carl Meyer, Pat Howard, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon (Adam Warren 77′), Hallam Amos, Angus O’Brien, Sarel Pretorius (Charlie Davies 68′), Sam Hobbs (Thomas Davies 52′), Rhys Buckley, Brok Harris (Craig Mitchell 52′), Nick Crosswell (Cory Hill 55′), Rynard Landman, Lewis Evans (captain), Ollie Griffiths (Nic Cudd 58′), Ed Jackson (James Thomas 71′).  Replacements not used: Darran Harris.


Love this photo of CJ by Daryl.

Interesting read if you did not see it on Friday – Tommy O’Donnell’s diary in the Indo about dealing with the return to play protocols and the need to avoid tv, reading, phones etc.

As mentioned I was bridesmaid at a wedding last weekend and while most of the attendees were Leinster residents I got in a few plugs for the blog as you never know who they might meet who would be interested.  A man was chatting to the other bridesmaid Caroline and myself after the meal.  As he had already mentioned Lansdowne a few times in the conversation when he asked me what I did I replied that I was a rugby blogger!  We had a great chat then as it turned out he was Mick Quinn who played outhalf for Ireland in the 70s.  He was full of anecdotes about beating England in Twickenham and his great friend and team-mate at Lansdowne Moss Keane.  Mick also spoke passionately about his work with the IRFU Charitable Trust for injured players and their fundraising trip to Chicago to co-incide with the Ireland v New Zealand game there in November.  I hope it goes well for them and for the injured players they are supporting.


The Munster emblem in City Hall – spotted during my Culture Night visit – photo by Gayl


Work in Progress: Munster 23 – Cardiff Blues: 24


First scrum after CJ’s arrival. Photo by Gayl

After the high of last weeks victory there was a reality check when Cardiff Blues inflicted a narrow home defeat in the second round of the Pro12 campaign this weekend.  In truth Cardiff could have won by more, but it does not mean that the result in Llanelli was a false dawn.  Rather the team fell short of the benchmark set last week.  Maybe the physical effort of that win with the short turnaround were factors.  Cardiff certainly cut through the defence with a lot more ease than Scarlets had done to score three tries on the night.  Munster scored two tries and came close another time or two only to concede a penalty when they were piling on the pressure.  However the players and management will learn a lot from those defensive frailties.  The lovely offloading displayed by the visitors negated engaging in as much hand-to-hand combat as had suited Munster the previous week.   With Earls, Murray and Peter O’Mahony to return soon and the addition of new short-term signing Jaco Taute there are grounds for optimism.  It is also worth reading the comments post game of Erasmus about needing to give the younger players “a proper chance, give them experience, let them learn from their mistakes, don’t crucify them when they make mistakes. That’s why we put them in there, its the only place they will learn.”


Andrew Conway races in to score Munster’s first try/ Photo by Robbie Ambrose

Due to being a bridesmaid for Amanda on Sunday I don’t have as much time as usual to write-up my blog so trying something different – picking out my favourite (glass half full naturally) memories from the game.  Normal service will be resumed next week when I will be watching the game with the MRSC Dublin folks again.  In Cork I watched the game in the company of Michelle who has taken over managing the MRSC Dublin facebook and twitter pages from me after 2 years so good luck to her with her new responsibilities🙂.

  1. The reception for Johnny Holland as he was interviewed pitchside pre-game was heart-warming.  As I wrote last week we were all disappointed for him when we heard of his pre-mature retirement.  After going through a difficult rehab the fact that he played so well towards the end of last season only for the injury to flare up again seemed cruel.  Johnny was also interviewed by Marcus Horan for TG4 and you can see that at 16 minutes into their program here
  2. Darren Sweetnam continues to shine in attack and defence and is cool under the high ball also.  His workrate is impressive, he never gives up the chase which continues to pay dividends.  His strength in the tackle has also improved since we first saw him play, now you often see him dragging the attacking player into touch.  The highlights video below includes his work in the build-up to Conway’s try as it was an incredible piece of skill and after securing the ball from a clever Keatley kick, surrounded by three of the Blues he had no right to get the pass away but he did.  In the photo link below there is also a series of photos from that play.

    Super footballing skills from the former hurling star Darren Sweetnam – photo by Robbie Ambrose

    • See also the TG4 player (9.5 minutes on match clock or 37 minutes into the playback here
  3. Andrew Conway also showed impressive skills, not least collecting a box kick that landed in his arms over his shoulder, (i.e. he had his back to the ball as he retreated to gather it) before he launched a garryowen and soared into the air to try to secure the ball against Nick Williams.  That feat drew great cheers and roars of encouragement from the terrace acknowledging his bravery, aerial athleticism and exciting counter-attack after about 15 minutes of play.  At 89kgs to Williams 130, that particular challenge did seem a bit David and Goliath and it was great when he managed to wrestle the ball free for Jack O’Donoghue to gather.
  4. Another strong memory was the roar of the 16th man when Cardiff were looking for a try just after the half hour mark as we urged on the players to keep them out.  Cardiff did manage to cross the line but the try was disallowed by the TMO as Gethin Jenkins had taken John Ryan out of the defensive line so obstructed him.  Unfortunately the Blues did score through Tom James shortly afterwards in an excellent move straight off the lineout into midfield where quick offloads from Lee-Lo put James away.
  5. Kudos also to John Ryan who has really made the number three shirt his own.  He got plenty of claps on the back from his team mates when the scrum won key penalties in the second half.  Brian Scott is also getting valuable experience also from the bench which will benefit his development.


    John Ryan on the charge with CJ, Billy and A N Other in support. Photo by Robbie Ambrose

  6. The rest of the front row are also worthy of mention – James Cronin and Dave Kilcoyne were both in barn-storming form while Niall Scannell put in another good performance and it is great to see Duncan Casey back, especially with the bad news of fresh injury woes for their colleagues Mike Sherry and Kevin O’Byrne.
  7. The scrum is back!  Another strong scrummaging performance especially in the second half – the penalty won by the first scrum after CJ arrived early in the second half showed great control and intensity.  Ten minutes later the scrum won another penalty to raucous acclaim which Keatley kicked to make it 13-17.
  8. Last weeks lineout woes were put to bed and there was a 100% return from goal kicks also.
  9. Around the 50 minute mark there was excellent interplay between Dan Goggin and Andrew Conway which had us roaring again.   Another of Robbie’s good photos shows how close Andrew and Dan came but the pass was just forward
    forwardpass_photobyrobbieambrose So near and yet so forward.. Photo by Robbie Ambrose
  • The Red Shed was heaving, the blue skies which appeared about 6 after a horribly wet day encouraged some extra folks along and the stand was almost full also.  It was nice to be recognised by Claire through the blog.  I am sure she and the other Waterford folks reading were delighted by the huge victory of their U21s in the All Ireland hurling final.  The WTView community continues to grow with contact this weekend from Robbie with the link to his photos which are featured here.  You can see all 64 of his pictures at his Flickr page here

James Cronin charges forward – photo by Robbie Ambrose

The key downsides beside the loss were the injuries to Tommy, Dave and Rory.  Hopefully none are too serious.  Rassie Erasmus post match seemed to indicate that Rory and Tommy were HIA / concussion concerns which Dave Foley looked to be in pain as he left the pitch protecting his elbow.

The third Blues try was made by two of their substitutes (Morgan and Williams) and their lively centre Lee-Lo to be finished well by Dan Fish.  With 12 minutes left Munster could only manage a penalty to reduce the gap to 1 point.  So more work to be done to improve handling skills and decision-making and bed in the new defence systems hence the title this week of work in progress.  Ospreys and Glasgow have set the early pace with Ulster and Cardiff making up the top 4 and Munster lying in 5th place.  Plenty to work on in the coming week before the visit to Rodney Parade in Newport!

Stats on the ESPN site are here and I was particularly interested in the kicking stats which you can see below.  Tomas O’Leary in the post match interview on TG4 spoke of the lack of control to make the kicks more contestable and the need to improve their exit strategy.  The back three are well capable of competing in the air when the kick is well executed.


Kicking away hard won possession stopped nster building momentum at time. Full stats on ESPN

MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell (Cian Bohane ‘HT), Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Tomás O’Leary ’66); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’55), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey ’66), John Ryan (Brian Scott ’73); Dave Foley (Donnacha Ryan ’52), Billy Holland (captain); Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell (CJ Stander ’45), Jack O’Donoghue.  Replacement not used: Stephen Fitzgerald.

CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James (Matthew Morgan ’67); Gareth Anscombe (Steve Shingler ’67), Tomos Williams (Lloyd Williams ’53); Gethin Jenkins (captain) (Rhys Gill ’49), Kristian Dacey (Matthew Rees ’59), Taufa-ao Filise (Scott Andrews ’49); George Earle (Josh Turnbull ’63), Macauley Cook; Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams (Sam Warburton ’49).


“A new dawn, a new day…”: Scarlets: 13 – Munster: 23

“Thou shalt not pass”!!  The Munster defence was impressive throughout, pushing the attack back again and again, while their superior scrummaging and terrorising of the Scarlets lineout especially in the crucial final quarter of the game were the cornerstones of this “unexpected” victory.  Munster had failed to win in Llanelli since April 2011; there were 11 internationals included in the home team and when you factored in that the weather was dreadful I was more hopeful than confident of a victory.  A losing bonus point would realistically have been an “ok” result.  After watching the pre-season friendlies I was optimistic that the team would put in a solid performance to build on for the coming season and they duly delivered.

In the opening quarter Munster hardly had their hands on the ball, the stats flashed up by Sky showed 88% possession to Scarlets in the opening 5 minutes.  By 16 minutes Munster had made 42 tackles to Scarlets 2.  That physical effort would be expected to take its toll as the game went on but the tough pre-season paid dividends with the players looking fit while the bench contributed also, bringing on fresh legs when necessary.


Billy, Ian, Niall, Rory, Tommy and Ronan – Photo by Daryl Feehely

On Friday some of you might have heard me on the “Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show” kick-starting the nation.  (I put the audio link on my WTView facebook page)  My pitch was that I wanted to kick start the new rugby season and of course it was an opportunity to promote my blog to his audience.  The song I choose for its optimistic message was Nina Simone’s “Feeling good” – it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day… As you know I take a glass half full approach and of course it is early days yet but after going along to both pre-season friendlies and watching the game today it is great to see the team step-up.  Of course there are things to work on but credit where it is due to the players and management and best of luck to all for the coming season.

The wet weather in Dublin did not deter a decent crowd from making their way to the River Bar in the city centre to watch the game with MRSC Dublin.  The atmosphere and the banter were great and all were delighted with the performance and the win, plus the bonus of the players doggedness in denying Scarlets a losing bonus point at the end.  It is always a bit confusing to watch Munster play a team wearing red – leading to some banter when someone in error would cheer a steal by a player in red – which all added to the craic.

Scarlets had the vast majority of possession in the opening quarter but the scramble defence worked well while the wet conditions also made the ball somewhat of a liability. Scarlets nearly scored the opening try through #11 Steff Evans in the fifth minute but Simon and Rory managed to get back just in time to ensure he could not ground the kick-ahead and the line was not breached.  Simon took a knock to the ribs but managed to play on till the 17th minute when he took another knock to the same area.  Ian Keatley came on as full back in his place.

Scarlets had missed an early penalty kick and as the first quarter came towards a close it was Munster who finally managed to string some phases together to score the first points of the game.  From a lineout Dave Foley secured possession and the maul was deployed.  It was not able to make any ground so Duncan Williams made a break.  Jack O’Donoghue picked and went, then James Cronin injected pace with his great pass to Dave Foley on the charge who made vital ground.  Dave O’Callaghan and Billy Holland were next to take it on, then John Ryan before Duncan switched the point of attack to the other side for James Cronin and Niall Scannell to charge over the line, grounding the ball against the post padding.  It was a great try by the pack, not just those mentioned as ball-carriers but also those who cleared out the rucks to ensure Munster kept possession and got quick ball.  The TMO had a look before the try was awarded.  Scarlets must have wondered what hit them as to that stage they had enjoyed over 80% possession!  The conversion straight in front of the posts was converted by Tyler Bleyendaal.


James Cronin is under the pile of bodies with the ball! – photo by Daryl Feehely

Munster continued to be in the faces of the Scarlets players, harrying and hounding them, chasing them down and getting up to do it all over again.  Duncan Williams almost got away for an intercept but the referee had indicated advantage for Scarlets so Rhys Patchell had another opportunity and this time he converted the penalty to make it 3-7 after 26 minutes.

A crooked Scarlets lineout gave Munster a scrum which in turn led to a free kick.  Jack charged forward.  When he was tackled Ronan O’Mahony, realising that there were no defence pillars in front of him broke through from the 10m line to score a wonderful opportunistic try.  A simple conversion made it 3-14 approaching the half hour mark to our delight.


Ronan is through the gap – photo by Daryl Feehely

We were not so happy a few minutes later.  Rory Scannell collided with the Scarlets #8 Josh MacLeod in the air and while we were wondering if there would be any repercussions such as a card their scrum half Gareth Davies took the penalty quickly and raced from his own half to score in the corner.  Jack O’Donoghue had seemed to get to him in time to get underneath the ball but the TMO was happy with the grounding and it was 10-14 when Patchell converted the try.  A penalty to Munster before the break was kicked between the posts by Tyler to re-establish their 7 point lead.

The penalty kick to extend the lead further after the break was off target while Patchell did convert his opportunity to bring it back to a 4 point game but that was to be their final score of the game in the 46th minute.  Tyler made no mistake with his next penalty in the 54th minute while Ian put in a great kick to make it a 10 point lead when a penalty was reversed after foul play at 66 minutes.  Tyler was injured in that phase and was replaced by Cian Bohane, with Ian moving to outhalf and Ronan to full back.  Hopefully it is nothing serious.

Scarlets needed to score twice to win and we knew they had the players to do that so every tackle, turnover, break or lineout stolen was greeted with cheers.  The fatigue from all the tackles did not become an issue, being able to launch internationals like Dave Kilcoyne and Donnacha Ryan from the bench along with new signing Jean Kleyn gave the pack some fresh legs.  As the clock ticked down we knew the chances that Scarlets could score twice were diminishing. Patchell had a last penalty kick to secure a losing bonus point but it drifted wide. The final whistle was greeted with cheers and there were plenty of smiles and positive tweets around.


MOTM Tommy O’Donnell with John Ryan in support. Photo by Daryl Feehely

During the game Mark Robson kept mentioning Tommy missing the June tour due to his wedding so they had to ask him about that in his MOTM post match interview    As I read during the week they had booked the hotel 18 months before the wedding thinking the tour would start and finish a week earlier!  If he keeps up this form he will surely be in consideration for the November internationals and Lions selection.  It is great to see so much backrow talent in Munster like the good old days!  (When Tommy won MOTM -and it must have been a tough decision -Declan and I wondered if it was a good omen for Tipperary in the All Ireland hurling final the following day and so it proved to be!  On the pitch celebrating after the game I spotted Denis Leamy involved in the backroom team for Tipp hurling while Ian Dowling is physio for the Tipp football team!)

The highlights video:

Daryl was at the game and has posted all his photos  on Flickr.  Thanks Daryl for the use of some here.


Dan Goggin – photo by Daryl Feehely

I remember watching Dan Goggin play in the 2014 JWC where he played alongside Garry Ringrose in the team captained by Jack O’Donoghue.  Since then he has played for the Ireland Mens 7s team and it was great to see him making his Pro12 debut for the senior Munster team now.  Alex Wootton was also on those U20s and 7s teams and will be hoping to make his mark also.  It is great (and essential) that the Academy provides as many players as possible given the higher wages available in England and France.

Match stats are available here and show that while Scarlets decreased from their opening 88% possession they still retained the majority of the ball but could not convert it into scores in the face of Munster’s obstinate defence.


From ESPN.com

The spirit of Munster was alive and well in Llanelli today and I’m “feelin’ good”

It is worth checking out this blog detailing the tweaks to the rules for this season so we are up to date and not incorrectly giving out about some refereeing decisions!  I heard Ben Whitehouse at the Leinster game advising a player not to be patting the opposition player on the head for conceding a penalty and I think it is good to drive out unsportsman-like behavior and “diving” as mentioned in the new laws.

Munster: Simon Zebo (Keatley 17); Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal (Bohane 66), Duncan Williams (O’Leary 62); James Cronin (Kilcoyne 55), Niall Scannell (O’Byrne 77), John Ryan (Scott 77); Dave Foley (D Ryan 48), Billy Holland Capt.; Dave O’Callaghan (Kleyn 69), Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.  Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Brian Scott, Jean Kleyn, Donnacha Ryan, Tomás O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Cian Bohane.

Scarlets:  Liam Williams, DTH van der Merwe, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies, Dylan Evans, Ken Owens [c], Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, Lewis Rawlins,  Aaron Shingler, John Barclay, Josh Macleod.  Replacements; Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Peter Edwards, David Bulbring, Tadhg Beirne, Jonathan Evans, Dan Jones, Jonathan Davies



Sport can bring you to the heights of jubilation and to the depths of despair.  As supporters we are used to players being injured and we wish them well, sending encouraging messages that they will be back better than ever, but many of us have no clue what they are going through, emotionally and physically.  Nor can we comprehend what pain barriers they are willing to push themselves through to get back to playing the sport they love at the highest levels.

That level of commitment and single-minded determination to succeed is a feature of many of our sportstars, (amateur and professional), a trait which sets them apart.  Even if they don’t have to contend with injury they still have that attitude to drive them on, to “pull like a dog” through the pain barrier, to practice and practice to prove practice makes perfect.  We have seen players have to retire before their time before and probably will do more frequently as the contact nature of rugby exposes players to significant g-forces.  I remember reading of Ian Dowling wanting to get his hip replaced and continue his rugby career.  Jerry Flannery and before him Keith Wood did everything possible to get their bodies right for their World Cup campaigns.  Many players have had to retire too soon, including Felix Jones whose retirement I wrote about 10 months ago, Barry Murphy, Denis Leamy…

I was in Cork at the B&I Cup game in November 2014 when Johnny Holland was injured.  We did not know at the time the extent of his injury or of the long road to recovery that he would travel.  It was so disappointing to learn that after coming back from that horrendous injury and finishing out last season in possession of the #10 jersey that he had to accept the medical advice to retire.  Thanks Johnny for helping Munster secure 6th place in the Pro12 to qualify for the European Cup.  Your performances lit up the end of last season, lifting some of the gloom and doom that had set in.  Best of luck for your future.



A Kind of Homecoming: Munster: 52 – Worcester: 21

A unique evening in Cork for the second and final pre-season friendly as local legend Donncha O’Callaghan came home, to line out with his team Worcester Warriors against some of his old team mates.  Since he had slipped away without a fuss last year it was great for the supporters to have an opportunity to show their respect and appreciation for the Munster legend.  I wrote a tribute blog when his departure was announced last September in which I described him as “one of a kind,” not just for his infamous red underwear and joking pranks but also for his wonderful way with supporters.  According to his post match interview in the Irish Examiner he found the experience emotional and humbling.


Donncha claims a lineout – photo by Gayl

The cheer when his name was called out over the PA system as both teams were announced before the game was fantastic but completely over-shadowed by the cheers and standing ovation when he departed the field in the second half.  It is rare for a player on the visiting team to experience such a warm welcome and appreciation but after his performances for Munster over 17 seasons it was well deserved.

Earlier, while the Worcester players waited on the pitch for the arrival of Munster several of his current team mates went over to give the big man a hug.  Many of us there probably wished we could do the same.  Putting the emotion of the evening to one side Donncha threw himself into the game with his usual passion, charging after the kick-off and challenging for the ball throughout.  I am sure he and his family appreciated the warm welcome and appreciation for one of our own true warriors and legends, plus some inevitable slagging about his flowing locks.


Donncha tries to defend a strong Munster maul led by new comer and birthday boy Jean Kleyn. Photo by Gayl

The game itself was an entertaining affair with ten trys, of which seven were scored by Munster.  The three conceded in the final quarter (albeit after many substitutions were made) will ensure that the players have plenty to focus on as they ramp up in preparation for the Pro12 first round game, away in Wales next Saturday against Scarlets.  There were plenty of positives to enjoy.  The weather conditions were much better than the previous week, suitable for running rugby.  The sun just went behind the clouds and then the stand as the game started so we were not squinting into it!

There was an encouraging improvement in intensity levels and handling skills, a positive attitude and strong defence.  The mass substitutions around the 50 and 60 minute marks had an impact but it is good to see the talent coming through the Academy system as evidenced when Alex Wootton won the turnover, setting up Conor Oliver who made an excellent break leading to the 6th Munster try finished off by Cian Bohane.  With the internationals including Earls, Murray and Stander unavailable for selection apparently until round 3 of the Pro12 there will be an opportunity for some of the up and coming players to take this opportunity to stake a claim for inclusion before the European squads have to be submitted, as Rory Scannell did last season.


Ian Keatley restarts the game in the last quarter with Cian Bohane, Stephen Fitzgerald, Conor Oliver, Brian Scott and Alex Wootton all on the pitch. Photo by Gayl

Worcester started strongly, testing the Munster defence.  An early lineout did not go to hand but overall the Munster lineout, maul and scrum were potent.  An excellent kick set up field position for Munster inside the opposition 22.  Niall Scannell lurking at the back of the lineout claimed the loose ball and charged for the line.  While he was held up short Munster retained possession and it was James Cronin who scored the first try of the evening.  A Worcester player was injured in the build-up and play was stopped while he was attended to before eventually the stretcher was summoned.  Every precaution was taken before removing him from the field to applause from the crowd, conveying to him our best wishes for a speedy recovery.  The conversion was successfully taken by Tyler Bleyendall, book-marking his contribution to the score.  It was great to see Tyler back in action after two fairly horrendous injury-raven seasons.  Last time we saw him play was the Christmas game against Leinster when he could hardly kick the ball on a miserable night for the team and supporters.  Hopefully we will see a lot more of him this season.  Shortly afterwards Tyler had an easy penalty to convert from in front of the posts to make it 10-0.


Tyler Bleyendaal kicks an easy penalty. Photo by Gayl

A lineout secured by Billy set up an early maul from which Niall Scannell popped the ball up for Duncan Williams to make a break.  While that move broke down it was encouraging to see the players so comfortable with the ball in hand throughout the game.

A warning from the referee to Worcester meant that the next offender could be in trouble and so it proved to be with a yellow card shown to their prop after conceding a penalty. Munster’s scrum had been solid so with the man advantage they opted for the scrum. After several resets due to repeated Worcester infringements as Munster turned the screw, the referee awarded a penalty try to bring the score to 17-0 after just 25 minutes.


The pack pile on the pressure, forcing a penalty try. Photo by Gayl

The third try came after more dominance by the forwards who secured their lineout in the Worcester 22 before setting up the maul around debutant and birthday boy Jean Kleyn. Good work by captain Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue and Tommy O’Donnell all helped keep the pressure on Worcester before the ball was moved out to the backs and it was Simon Zebo who scored just after the half hour mark.

Then the backs grabbed the spotlight in style – a chip over the top by Tyler was gathered by Simon and offloaded to Rory Scannell whose pass to his midfield partner Dan Goggin continued the attack.  For the second week in a row Dan’s pass to Darren resulted in a try as he rounded the defence to touchdown nearer to the posts.  Again the try was converted and a half-time score of 31-0 was good reward for the efforts of the team.


Excellent action shot taken by MRSC Junior photographer Conor Price of Darren accelerating down the wing after receiving the pass from Dan Goggin.

Earlier in the half, Ronan O’Mahony chasing a box kick collided heavily with their fullback Jackson Willison right in front of us near the halfway line.  Thankfully, after treatment, both players were deemed fit to play on.

There were very few faults to be found in the first half so the mood was positive during the interval.  There was real intent and purpose about the team and while the opposition was not at the standard of many teams to be faced this season it was a major improvement over the performance at the same stage last season when Munster lost to both Connacht and Grenoble before beating London Irish in the three friendlies.

In the second half, Ronan O’Mahony (the eventual man of the match) showing no ill effects from his earlier collision finished off the attack set-up by another good Munster maul after the first raft of replacements took to the field, Ian Keatley and Tomas O’Leary both being involved in that score.


Ronan O’Mahony scores. Photo taken by Junior MRSC member Conor Price.

The clean sheet of the season (after last weekends 17-0 win) lasted until the 60th minute when Worcester stretched the defence and Josh Adams broke through down the west side of the pitch.  Ryan Lamb converted to make it 38-7.  The second batch of mass substitutions followed and gave Munster the perfect response through the Bohane try to make it 45-7.


Cian Bohane moved too quickly for me to focus!

Worcester again broke through down the west side to reduce the deficit, this time scored by GJ Van Velze . Another excellent conversion by Lamb made it 45-14.  However, just 2 minutes later, Ian Keatley showed his pace and a clean pair of heels to run in under the posts after intercepting a Worcester pass inside his own 22.  He then maintaining the 100% kicking record of both teams as he also converted his try.


Ian Keatley breaks over the half way line on his way to score the final Munster try. Photo by Gayl

In the final play of the game Perry Humphreys scored the third for Worcester, again successfully converted by Lamb to bring the evening to a close.  People went home in good mood, pleased with the performances and daring to be optimistic about the coming season.  It was great to see some of my Thomond Park west terrace friends there, albeit we are east terrace folks in Cork!  Ian came over to say hello and to wish me all the best with the blog this season while the mascot Oscar did his best to mess up my hair while giving me a hug!  Next weekend I will be catching up with the MRSC Dublin gang to watch the match against Scarlets.  Hopefully Munster will kick off their league campaign in style but it will be a step up again in intensity.  The dress rehearsals are over, a good start will set the team up well for the season and build momentum before the European adventure kicks off in October.

Munster XV: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland – capt., Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements from: Duncan Casey, Peter McCabe, John Andress, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, Dave Foley, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland, Tomás O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Alex Wootton, Cian Bohane, Colm O’Shea, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Worcester Warriors: Jackson Willison; Dean Hammond, Wynand Olivier, Max Stelling, Cooper Vuna; Tom Heathcote, Jonny Arr; Val Rapava Ruskin, Niall Annett, James Johnston; Donncha O’Callaghan, Darren Barry; Alafoti Faosiliva, Carl Kirwan, GJ van Velze (c)

Replacements used: Marco Mama, Na’ama Leleimalefaga, Mike Daniels, Jaba Bregvadze, Tevita Cavubati, Josh Adams, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Ryan Lamb, Phil Dowson, Luke Baldwin, Perry Humphreys, Jamie Shillcock.

Check out all the excellent photos taken by Conor Price, junior club photographer of the day here – hopefully Conor is happy for me to use 2 of his great shots!


It is a week of homecomings as the Olympic athletes returned to Ireland. I went out to Dun Laoghaire to welcome home Annalise Murphy, the men’s and women’s 49ers sailors, the irrepressible badminton player Scott Evans and 4 members of the Irish hockey team.  You can see some of my photos of that evening on my facebook page.  The homecoming in Skibbereen / Lisheen should be amazing too, especially as Paul O’Donovan added the World Championship gold medal to his CV in Rotterdam this weekend.  What an inspiration they have been!   Indeed our Olympians have been great ambassadors for their sports and Ireland should reap the rewards in the future generations of rowers, sailors etc.  As I wrote in my pre-season blog I would love to see the O’Donovans (and Irish hurdling record setter Thomas Barr) introduced to the supporters at a Munster game so we can show them our appreciation also.

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A clean sheet, sweet! Munster: 17 – Zebre: 0


John Madigan prepared to jump in the lineout. Photo by Gayl

A good way to start a new season – establishing a 100% win record and keeping a clean sheet!  Three tries scored by the wingers on a blustery wet evening in the sunny south-east made the trip worthwhile.  It was a pity that the weather was so miserable as when they had played a friendly in Waterford 2 years ago a larger crowd had gathered.  The crowd of over 2,300 who came along were glad of the shelter provided by the two stands.

Local hero Jack O’Donoghue got the loudest reception as the players were announced with young Stephen McMahon, another Deise man also being well received.  It had been a great week for the county and city of Waterford with Thomas Barr of Ferrybank AC – who like the Munster squad trains in UL – setting a new Irish record and coming an impressive – if agonisingly so close and yet so far from a medal – 4th place in the 400m hurdles final at the Olympics. Last week I wrote about the inspiration from the rowers of Lisheen, and it is great to see the next generation of Irish athletes coming of age on the world stage.  This pre-season friendly provided an opportunity for some of the next generation of Munster players to show what they have to offer also and despite the inclement conditions there were plenty of green shoots to give us hope for the coming seasons.


Billy Holland secures the lineout in the driving rain. Photo by Gayl

Zebre had the wind advantage in the first half so any penalty conceded saw Munster pushed back deep into their own half. The driving rain lightened at times, or even stopped but it was never far away, making it a difficult night for handling and for kickers.  However, it was perfect for kicks and chips to turn the defence and test the handling skills and while it took a while to get the first score it was a beauty.

Darren Sweetnam whose workrate and speed had impressed last season was the man of the match and it was those two attributes which lead to the first score after 27 minutes. Keatley’s kick was gathered by centre Colm O’Shea who broke up field.  He made good ground but when he was tackled the ball was recycled quickly for Keatley to put through another kick.  That one was chased by Sweetnam and full back Stephen Fitzgerald. When the defender failed to secure the ball Sweetnam was over to score the first try of the new season.  The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and it remained 5-0 for the rest of the half.


Dave and Stephen checking with the ref as Niall dries the ball. Photo by Gayl

Zebre had attempted a penalty kick shortly before the Munster score but had not managed to put it between the posts. They seemed to have the advantage in the scrum and forced a couple of penalties during the game but could not finish off their attacking moves thanks to the dogged Munster defence and some handling errors letting Munster off the hook.


The referee had a word after a punch was thrown, no cards were shown. Photo by Gayl

In the second half Brian Scott made his debut at tighthead and put in a good shift in the scrum.  He also displayed some nice handling skills when he made a break and gave a super offload to the supporting O’Donoghue.


Brian Scott makes way for John Andress in the second half. Photo by Gayl

While that attack petered out, another of Keatley’s grubbers after a solid Munster scrum was eagerly chased and secured by Ronan O’Mahony to put Munster 12-0 ahead when Keatley added the conversion after 54 minutes.

The third score was again finished off by Darren Sweetnam after a good break this time by Dan Goggin.  Dan was a regular in the Ireland 7s team in their efforts to qualify for Rio and it will be good to see how that experience aids his progression through the ranks at Munster.  There was a lot of speculation about the centres with the news of Francis Saili requiring surgery and therefore not being available for the next few months.  Cian Bohane who suffered a bad injury at the same ground 2 years ago was in good form as was O’Shea and Goggin.  Hopefully the conditions in the coming weeks will give them further opportunities to stake a claim for that position.

Another to put his hand up was Conor Oliver in the #7 shirt who also put in a good shift, running good support lines and making his tackles.  That is a position we needed more depth in last season with Jack O’Donoghue being moved across the backrow where needed so it was good to look at the options for depth there.

Twelve players made their debuts including the afore-mentioned Brian Scott and Dan Goggin.  Another set of brothers have now appeared for Munster in recent seasons with Conor Fitzgerald making his debut at 10 as he and Stephen join the Scannells, Johnstons and O’Mahonys lining out for Munster.


The young guns wait to be launched into the action – #10 is Conor Fitzgerald, #9 is John Poland and #23 is Steven McMahon. Photo by Gayl

After the 7 changes above Zebre enjoyed a period of possession deep in the Munster half where they laid seige to the line.  It looked like it would be just a matter of time before they breached the line, especially when they won a penalty and opted for a scrum but fair dues to the youngsters they dug deep and kept their shape, eventually winning the turnover to relieve the pressure.  Then they went on the attack themselves, often the best form of defense!  Unfortunately they could not find the elusive score but they can take a lot of credit from their time on the pitch. Maybe that was what Erasmus was referring to when he is quoted in the Examiner saying: Overall, I was happy, particularly (happy) with the defence when called upon”


Munster pushing hard for a fourth try at the end as Poland looks to set up the next attack. Photo by Gayl

MUNSTER: Stephen Fitzgerald (Calvin Nash ’72); Darren Sweetnam (Steven McMahon ’72, Cian Bohane (Shane Daly ’72), Colm O’Shea (Dan Goggin ’51), Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley (Conor Fitzgerald ’72), Duncan Williams (John Poland ’72); John Ryan (Peter McCabe ’65), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’65), Stephen Archer (Brian Scott ‘HT (John Andress ’65 (Brian Scott ’80))); John Madigan (Dave Foley ‘HT (Dave O’Callaghan ’76)), Billy Holland (captain); Dave O’Callaghan (Darren O’Shea ’51), Conor Oliver (Ollie Lyons ’72), Jack O’Donoghue (Gavin Coombes ’72).

ZEBRE: Carlo Canna (Carlo Engelbrecht ’53); Giovanbattista Venditti (Tommasso Boni ’68), Tommasso Boni (Giulio Bisegni ’53), Tommasso Castello, Gabriele di Giulio; Edoardo Padovani, Gugliemo Palazzani; Andrea Lovotti (Andrea de Marchi ’65), Oliviero Fabiani (Tommaso D’Apice ’57), Pietro Ceccarelli (Dario Chistolini, ’53); Gideon Koegelenberg, Federico Ruzza (Quintin Geldenhuys HIA ’43 to ’50 (Guillermo Roan ’63)); Jacopo Sarto (captain) (Giovanni Pettinelli ’57), Maxime Mbanda, Derick Minnie.

There was no big screen at the game to help see what was happening so I have included link to  match report from The42.ie (plus the Examiner link above) and the highlights video shared by Munster rugby:

There are some excellent photos from Sportsfile here.  Hopefully Dave Foley who had to go off due to a back spasm will be fit for action again soon.

The management were sitting a few rows behind me in the stand along with some of the reserves as there was not enough room for all of them in the shelters by the pitch given the use of the extended squad for the friendly. I wish Felix Jones all the best in his new role, the blog I wrote when he was forced to retire last October was one of my most read and it is great that he is still involved with the team.

After the summer break it was great to see some familiar faces again, I sat beside Paul, also from Tipperary, first met on the trip to Glasgow for the Pro12 semi-final May, 2014, so after congratulating him on becoming a Dad during the summer we had a few words about Tipp’s chances in the football semi-final on Sunday.  At the end I enjoyed a few words with the brothers from Waterford, first met traveling home from the Sale game in October 2014.  Like myself, they are amongst the regular early arrivals on the west terrace so I am sure they appreciated the shorter commute to this game.  I also met Patrick who had travelled from Clare – one of my first twitter supporters (thanks for the countless RTs) – with Jennifer.  I expect to see a few more familiar faces in Cork next Friday, not least our own legend, Donncha lining out with his team Worchester!  Hopefully we’ll have better weather and a great crowd in the Red Shed to welcome him home!

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Inspiration from Lisheen

RioLisheen, a small village in west Cork provides inspiration as the O’Donovan brothers – students and rowers – entertained and thrilled the nation over the past week.  Their interviews – free from the usual cliches – delighted us.  Some turns of phrase captured the imagination and even became tee-shirt slogans.  The instant classic “Pull like a dog” epitomised their grit as they dug deep and gave it their all in the final 500m.  “I kept thinking if we keep rowing well and pulling hard we can win a medal,” Gary remembered. “And even if we don’t, we did everything we could to give ourselves the best opportunity.”   Read the full article in the Irish Times

Former Olympian Neville Maxwell in the RTE studio was very emotional post-race about the significance of their success for sailing.  Pre-race he had spoken about the build-up of lactic acid and it’s impact on the rowers.  We saw how they pulled through the pain barrier to win silver as they had learnt from their coach in Skibbereen (from the Irish Times):

Paul tells a story of how, when they were learning to row, Dominic told them nothing of lactate build-up. The pain in your legs and arms is because you’re not doing it right, he would say. So they drove through the agony – and when they discovered it was a physical thing they were already used to it.

However it is only when viewing this footage of their post race recovery as Gary struggled to get over to Paul that you see the full impact of that build-up and how they had nothing left in the tank.

While we were enthralled by their personalities in the build up to and after their final heroics, it was also clear from their words how much they love their sport and their pride and delight in being part of the Olympics team and representing Lisheen, Skibbereen and Ireland on the world stage.  It is also clear that their success was built on hard work, determination and that never say die attitude that drove them to this medal and will continue to drive them on to further success.

It is their type of attitude, dedication and winning mentality that I hope to see replicated in Munster for the new season.


Anticipation is building and I am looking forward to my trip to Waterford next Friday night for the pre-season game against Zebre before the trip to Cork the following weekend to see Donncha and Worchester.  The new season brings the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, park last season’s disappointments and to look forward to seeing Peter O’Mahony back on the pitch, the visit of the Maoris in November and the return of Ronan O’Gara albeit in the visitors changing room when we welcome Racing Metro to Thomond. A return of the fortress Munster mentaltity on and off the pitch will also be welcome as the home defeats proved costly in the past two European Cup seasons.  The lads at ThreeRedKings have some great initiatives to help with the contribution from the terraces. You can see details here

While there is a lot of attention on the new Director of rugby (worth listening to his interview from Newstalk) the new defence coach Jacques Nienaber intereviewed in the Irish Examiner spoke about the attitiude of the players and “their refusal to be defeated

Equally encouraging was the interview with Conor Murrary who spoke in the Irish Times about the “new philosophy, a new voice. There’s a lot of emphasis on physicality and dominating your opposition, which is very South African.”

Time will tell, and we will remember that new systems take time to settle in and that Joe Schmidt was not an instant success at Leinster but it was encouraging to read from a recent interview with Rassie:

I think I would be naive to think that if we don’t show massive, massive improvements from last year, I don’t think people will accept us saying that, ‘We are trying hard, we’re improving slowly and we’ll get there’,” he insists….

“I don’t want to have the standard answer of saying, ‘Here, we are inheriting a squad’. I don’t want to say that.”

Some final thoughts about the inspiration from Lisheen.  I  hope that we will see the brothers at a Munster game to give them the reception they deserve as we had the opportunity to applaud David Rodisha after the 2012 Olympics and boxer Andy Lee with his World Champioship belt (Dec 2014)  And maybe instead of yelling “heave” when the maul is formed we could shout at the lads to “pull like a dog”!


An instant catchphrase, immortalised on a tee shirt by the Hairy Baby company

In the below video where the O’Donovan brothers met the Kearneys Paul also shows his ruthless competitive nature – that brotherly bonds will not be a consideration if an alternative rowing partner would give him a better chance of success.  That strive for excellence will drive both rowers onwards and I look forward to following their progress and seeing the impact of their success on funding for and participation in the sport they love.  Kudos also to the ladies pair of Sinead Lynch / Claire Lambe and single skulls Sanita Puspure whose efforts contributed to an excellent return for the Irish rowing team in Rio.

I enjoyed these articles from the Huffington Post who wrote that the brothers deserve gold for this hilarious interview while the Southern Star listed 10 of their favourite quotes (to date!)  

In the coming week another excellent athlete whose dedication and hard work deserves medal success is Annalise Murphy who is well placed heading into the medal race on Monday when she hopes to improve on her 4th place finish from London 2012.  (Congrats on the silver medal!)

Similarly hopes are high for Rob Heffernan while I am sure some other Irish Olympians will delight us in the coming week and we will become couch experts in badminton, sailing, diving, etc!  It is so disappointing for the boxers who also put in great efforts only to fall foul of the judges. 

Finally the rugby 7s seemed to be a great success in the Olympics and hopefully both Irish 7s teams will build on their development this season to qualify for Tokyo 2020.