A disappointing season finale and the poor season start with those two home defeats bookended a season of ups and downs. We can wallow in gloom or look forward to building on our first final appearance since 2011, scoring the most tries in the Pro 12 and finishing as the best Irish team over the season. In Europe we were pitted against a semi-finalist and finalist from last season (who went on to achieve similar heights this season). While the performance in London left a lot to be desired it really was a pool of death.
Paul O’Connell is truly irreplaceable but if we can keep our two Premier County locks at full strength next season Dave and Donnacha will do a great job at putting the fear of God into the opposition.
Jack O’Donoghue made a big impression both captaining the A team and with limited opportunities in the Pro12 and will be certain to have an impact especially during the world cup disruption. CJ Stander was deservedly player of the year and is still developing himself. John Ryan is another who stepped up and will push James Cronin and Dave Kilcoyne if he remains on the loosehead side. Our hooker injuries are hopefully behind us with Mike Sherry set to return while Duncan Casey has established himself as a senior player despite winning the Young Player accolade this season!
Our backline will be strengthened by the arrival of Francis Saili while Tyler Bleyendaal will be rarin’ to go after his injury impacted season and after seeing him play in Naas with the As I am looking forward to seeing more of him. Rory Scannell is another Academy player who made a good impression for the As and in a few Pro12 opportunities also and has earned a call up to Emerging Ireland on the back of that and his form for Dolphins in the AIL.
Glasgow deserved to win the Pro12 league, if our best players had been available we would have run them closer and who knows what might have been but that opportunity is gone so we can only look forward.
We shall soon be able to start planning for next season with the draw for the European Cup to be made on June 17th
In the meantime we can get our rugby fix from the Under 20s world cup, the 7s series and the Emerging Ireland tour.
Under 20s – while Tomas Quinlan rightly got a lot of attention for his superb penalty to clinch victory over Argentina I was impressed by his admission that he had been the one to give away the previous penalty which had allowed Argentina to take the lead so he was glad to have the opportunity to make amends! The highlights below show that but don’t include some of the highlights of Munster winger Stephen Fitzgerald whose superb take of a cross-field kick almost led to an Irish try while his own touch-down was called back for a forward pass.
Ireland U20s v Scotland gave a second opportunity to see our new Academy flanker Conor Oliver (also seen playing for the As in Naas recently) – he scored Ireland’s second try (and was sin-binned in the 70th minute) but looks to be a good addition to the Academy.
On Wednesday evening they take on New Zealand who were run close by Argentina so here’s hoping they can emulate the women’s team from last summer!
Highlights from the first weekend of the GB7s competition where Ireland came 4th can be viewed here and from that this Diarmuid McCarthy solo effort caught the eye:
A strong 7s team also went to Bosnia where they won the European 7s Division C to qualify for the Division B competition held on the weekend of June 20th in Croatia. They went on to win Division B and will play in the European Olympic Repechage tournament which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal on July 18-19. The dream of securing the final qualifying spot for Rio 2016 is on track.
Emerging Ireland participates at the Tbilisi Cup, and the squad included 6 Munster representatives – Stephen Archer, Andrew Conway, James Cronin, Billy Holland, JJ Hanrahan and Rory Scannell.
Saturday 13th June 17:00 (14:00 GMT): Emerging Italy v EMERGING IRELAND– won 0-26
Wednesday 17th June 17:00 (14:00 GMT): Uruguay v EMERGING IRELAND- won 7-33
Sunday 21st June 19:00 (16:00 GMT): Georgia v EMERGING IRELAND – won 12-45
The pre-season friendlies will feature games against Grenoble, Connacht and London Irish:
- Munster v Grenoble, Thomond Park, August 14th with BBQ afterwards
- Connacht v Munster has been moved to Thomond to take place after the 7s on August 21st (kick off 7.45)
- Munster v London Irish, Irish Independent Park, August 28th
Limerick 7s will again be hosted at Thomond Park (Fri & Sat Aug 21/22) and is to feature teams from all four Irish Provinces as well as International teams so interprovincial rivalry should add to the event and attendance. Munster are in Pool B along with San Francisco, Canadian Maples and Wellington.
Before you know it the Pro12 will kick off again the weekend of September 5th while the European Cup will start in mid November due to the Rugby World Cup. Kick off dates and times for the initial rounds to be confirmed week of July 13.
Updated June 17 – Munster drew Stade Francais who beat Clermont and Toulon to win the Top14 plus Leicester and Treviso
Virtual becomes reality and vice versa
Readership of the blog increased 54% since last year so thanks to all for their interest and for being part of the “community” . It was great to meet some “virtual friends” at games this year – from #RugbyUnited, Twitter and from Munsterfans – and even to be recognised at the local (Dublin) cinema by Joe! Others met along the way like Ian Heaslip became followers of the blog – and even added to the community with his comment advising that his grandson had been skinned by Woody’s son in the minis at the Leinster game! – while Charlie gave the blog a ringing endorsement at Lyon airport without realising why he was asked about it by his friend who was sitting beside me! A mention of Qatar usually triggers a comment from long time follower Luke while it was like the story of the prodigal “son” last weekend when Peter returned to commenting after missing out on most of the season’s editions due to issues with his email/twitter accounts. Meanwhile Tony worked hard to over-take Peter’s lead in the most comments table! The regular retweets and shares on Facebook and by word of mouth are much appreciated especially from the regulars – as I had noticed Peter’s absence I would also miss your “tweet” of approval!
I was delighted to get 58 responses to the poll in last week’s blog, thanks for taking the time. Overall there was plenty of positive feedback with people liking my optimism and attempts to capture the atmosphere, and where else would you get a connection to a letter from JJ Bowles from 1913!
- 49% view mainly via a phone
- 39% usually view after clicking a link via Twitter (although in fact the biggest source of views overall is from MunsterFans,com
- Only 9% voted that the blog is too long, with a further 19% saying it was sometimes too long.
- However 79% said not to change a thing while 12% said to include more about rugby and 9% said to focus more on the social side. Two commented “if it ain’t broke..!”
- I was surprised that 40% said they are more likely to read it a few days after the game as overall I get most views in the first 36 hours.
- 52% of the respondents had been to 11+ games last season with only 5% not getting to any games (Qatar is a good excuse 🙂 ).
So, encouraged to continue the blog for another season I wish you a great summer.