Heineken hangover robs Leinster and Munster of intensity needed for Pro 12 contests
Alan Quinlan believes players let what had happened the previous week interfere with preparations
But that’s your job. You have to get yourself up for it. It’s not the crowd’s job to be up for every game; it’s yours. And if you haven’t worked hard enough mentally in the days beforehand, it will show.
Any player can fool themselves into thinking it will be okay. I’d be amazed if any of the Munster or Leinster players went into last weekend without at some stage realising the potential for it all to go wrong.
You know going into a league game the week after a Heineken Cup quarter-final that the challenge is going to be very different but it’s so easy to think that just by being aware of the problem, you’ve done enough to solve it.
You can fall into the trap of assuming things will be okay. Some Leinster players would have been banking on a reaction to the Toulon defeat. Some of the Munster players would have been quietly confident the win over Toulouse meant everything was going in the right direction. All it takes is for a small number of players to be a small bit off and suddenly you’re in trouble.
People stand back. They wait for things to happen. All of a sudden, they find that it’s the other team who are bringing the intensity. It’s the other team who are dominating physically, who are winning the competition at the breakdown and getting off the floor to make the next tackle.
These things are measured in half-seconds, so it might take a while to realise it. But by the time you do, the opposition have their tails up and you’re in trouble.
A prime example of it happened to Munster the week after we beat Gloucester in the Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2008. In fact it was six years ago to the day last Saturday.
We’d beaten Gloucester 16-3 on their home patch and we were absolutely buzzing, really starting to feel like another Heineken Cup was ours for the taking. Then we went to the RDS the next week and got our asses handed to us by Leinster.
They blew us away with pure ferocity and intensity. It sounds stupid now but I remember being on the pitch and actually being surprised by how up for it they were. Or at least surprised at how much more up for it they were than us. They won 21-12 in a game where both sides only scored penalties, but they deserved to win by more.
We underperformed. Mentally and physically, we weren’t up for it. We could feel the sense of envy they had at us being in a Heineken Cup semi-final whereas they had come third in their pool, well behind Toulouse and Leicester. We didn’t match their pace or energy and we had no excuse for it.
I remember being so disappointed and frustrated in myself. I wasn’t at the level required that day. I went into the game feeling great after the previous weekend and when I thought about it afterwards, it was clear some part of me just expected things to keep going well off the back of the Gloucester win.
So when James Coughlan said after the Glasgow game that Munster had fallen in love with themselves after beating Toulouse, I could totally see where he was coming from. It doesn’t take very much for it to happen. You convince yourself you’re properly prepared and part of you thinks even if you’re a bit below par, someone else will step up. Sure didn’t you do your part last week?