Munster need to go back to their roots
Let’s face it, Munster’s demise has been coming and could be seen a long way off. The only thing that kept the naysayers a little more muted than usual was the fact it was the great red machine they were talking down.
There was always a niggling feeling that no matter how evident it was that Munster’s star was on the wane, they were still capable of confounding us all one more time before the end came.
Not this time. That’s it. The juggernaut ran out of juice at the Stade Felix Mayol yesterday, stuttering to a halt in the face of the type of mullering it used to dish out to poor unfortunate has-beens.
It’s too much to ask the likes of John Hayes, David Wallace, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer to keep that sort of momentum up and, unlike Leinster, they have not done enough to produce the back-up to those key players over recent years.
Looking at Munster’s squad, they have wasted a generation of talent because they have relied too heavily on their stalwarts. Those who are now considered the future are themselves getting on a bit.
Niall Ronan? 28. Damien Varley? 27. Donnacha Ryan? 27. James Coughlan? 30.
Ian Nagle, for instance, might not be long-term answer, but at least the 22-year-old has a career ahead of him and time to improve, unlike Mick O’Driscoll. He put his hand-up with a man-of-the-match performance against Australia in the autumn and has barely featured since.
The ‘golden generation’ of Irish players were so known, not because they were protected from top flight rugby at an early age, but because they were given a taste and trusted to perform, while being allowed to make mistakes.
That is what Leinster have done with Cian Healy, Jonathan Sexton and Seán O’Brien and it is what they are beginning to do with Ian Madigan, Andrew Conway and Dominic Ryan.
Some might argue that Munster are top of the Magners League and their Heineken Cup pool was as tough as they come, but they performed on all fronts before, mainly because of the superhuman efforts of younger men. They cannot count on that anymore, because those players have given enough to the cause. Some of them have given everything to the cause.
Dropping O’Connell into a game like that after such a long lay-off was an act of desperation.
If rumours of Munster signing Ma Nonu after the World Cup are anywhere near the truth, the hole they have dug themselves will only deepen. Tony McGahan and his team need to rediscover what it was that made Munster great and then go about recreating it.
Their game needs to evolve too but a return to their roots and the Academy must be the base.