Looking forward / Virtual becomes Reality

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.

Most tries scored and only one more try conceded than Ospreys

Most tries scored and only one more try conceded than Ospreys

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:

The following weekend they won their pool and came 3rd overall, highlights can be seen here while their 3rd weekend they moved up to 2nd!

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.

Tweet from Irish Rugby to confirm victory!

Tweet from Irish Rugby to confirm victory!

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

Billy Holland raises the Tbilisi Cup aloft.

Billy Holland raises the Tbilisi Cup aloft. Taken from twitter.

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.


17 comments on “Looking forward / Virtual becomes Reality

  1. Hi Gayl; Congrats whow 32,346 Blog hits. In ERCC draw we should avoid Saracens & Clermont as we finished 2nd in Pro12. However I would fancy our chances if drawn in a pool with Bordeaux or Oyonnax, Bath & Treviso. Your video clip shows a great try for Diarmaid McCarthy (Young Munster) Ire 7’s. He is a great prospect, I hope he gets into Munster A\Academy setup. Now Munster without O’Connell & O’Gara starts a new era & I wish them the best of luck (more new signings needed) for next season and it reminds me of the Irish gaelic proverb “Níor dúnadh doras riamh nár osclaíodh ceann eile” (A door was never closed without another one being opened)

  2. Well. It wasn’t such a bad season after all. Next one will be a challenge with all the squad changes and, yes, POC will leave a big hole to fill. BUT, Munster is ready to push on to bigger and better things. You too, Gayl. This blog of yours is now a requirement of the match day experience. Roll on next season. The West Terrace is beckoning and there is so much in store for the diehard supporter.

    • Thanks Imelda, that is what I love about sport, there’s always next time, new opportunities and new stars to break through. I thought that after a season or 2 I would have nothing new left to write about but each game has it’s own energy, incidents and drama so thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Well done on a fine effort. Imelda is right, your blog is like a postscript to the matchday programme

  4. From Twitter:
    Donal: Thanks for the blog pieces this season Gayl, looking forward to enjoying them again next year.
    Joe: nice one Gayl. Looking forward to next season already
    Kate: excellent view as usual
    Oisin: Always enjoy reading your blog and the end-of-year wrap up was no exception!

  5. Gayl thanks ever so much for the comments and excepting my pitiful excuse of not being able to see Munster in action lol. Lets hope OSN get the rights for it next year so I don’t have to go through endless panic attacks of trying to find a decent stream online. Believe it or not OSN here show the under 20’s World cup so watched the Ireland match against Scotland the other night and they also show all the southern hemisphere games so have been keeping an eye on Francy saili. I will be venturing home for Xmas with the family so hopefully there will be a match on over that period ( last year was the big derby match ) and I can bring my wife to her first ever Munster match. Best go as the temperature is rising here , we were training in 45 degree heat last night !!!! cant see what all the fuss is about the world cup when us Rugby Vets are still playing out in the sun ……… then again this is not soccer 🙂

  6. Great to read blogs covering U20RWC. Now end of season and it’s the time to thank our unsung heroes.

    To all referees and especially Nigel Owen who add an extra sparkle to match day experiences. Watch him in action and look out for Paulie & ROG in this video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXoBNFOxlQM He probably will get RWC Final if All Blacks play Ireland.

    To all MRSC committee members and Jennifer Kiernan http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/my-job-in-munster-jennifer-kiernan-mrsc-ticketing-operations-manager-30967553.html , not forgetting Oscar & other volunteers for their Trojan work. Hoping the MRSC Munster Flags will be a wee bit larger in size next year to match those of the Glasgow warriors

    But most of all Thank You Gayl for all those match reports, analysis with great statistics and west terrace stories.

  7. Hi Gayl: I would agree with Bruce take 2nd Tier & avoid Toulon. Hope we get Treviso (4thTier) – trip to Italy long overdue! Go n-éirí an t-ádh “Best of luck” Munster, wonder if MRSC’s Bar will be open for live Pool Draw. With Webb Ellis cup arriving at Thomond Park June 21st, & LK v Tipp next door in Pairc Na nGael, there should be a great fanfare colour atmosphere & I’m hoping to be there on the day. RWC Final Countdown started only100 Days to go

  8. Bonjour Stade Francais, Hello Leicester, Buongiorno Treviso. We’ll see you in the pool. I expect 2 teams from Pool 4 to qualify for ¼F . All we need now is “Belief” “ciao”. Munster Abú

  9. Limerick Born & Red #ThanksPaulie. Nearly crashed when I saw Limerick’s O’Connell St., O’Connell big banner http://www.the42.ie/paul-oconnell-poster-limerick-2191128-Jul2015/ but got the laugh from gift grub video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxF9_C5cVZc

  10. Looking forward lord of the rings terrain in NZ http://www.lionsrugby.com/mobile/news/13765.php

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