Time the new generation got used to life on the road
“When I was there we always concentrated on getting set- piece right, do all the little things that you have to do, just concentrate on them and bring an intensity to it. Hopefully that will carry you through because you can’t be trying to force anything.”
Flannery is not one for bull. You saw it in the manner he played and now, in retirement, in the way he speaks about the game and his beloved former team.
“The Thomond factor is a big thing and it draws big performances out of people. You could have stuck any of the lads in the squad in and I think you would have got it out of them.
“Look at the Munster All Blacks game from a few years ago. I just feel if we can stay alive in the competition we’ll keep improving month on month.
“The lads stood up to it, clearly they have bought into the Munster standards, because if they weren’t up to it we’d suddenly be in a bad place. People, supporters, would start to question the game plan then and these young players, who haven’t had time to really bed down in the team, would be getting their abilities questioned as well. It was real reaffirming last weekend.”
It is a revenge mission now for Saracens. An English team littered with Springboks and English internationals that were made look decidedly average in Limerick. That is, until the last 15 minutes.
“It did seem a bit surreal at the end when Saracens were applauding and walking off the field with a real sense of confidence. I know from fellas who have been at Saracens there is a very different culture or mentality than there would be at Munster. It is a very relaxed, jokey, fun place to be and I suppose in Munster we always feel you should play with a bit of bitterness, that attitude all the time. Maybe they don’t have that as much.
“I think you have to keep an open mind. Maybe they don’t feel embarrassed going back having lost as they are so confident in their own abilities coming into this weekend.”
Flannery then makes a huge leap; Munster, this Munster, can win the tournament.
“Sometimes people look at the young guys and think they don’t have the pedigree to win but that’s because they don’t know the players.
“Barry Murphy made a really good point to me recently. If you go back to 2005/’06 team that won the Heineken Cup, I don’t know if that was the best team in Europe. We played the Dragons back to back and very nearly lost in Thomond Park.
Odds are stacked
“We didn’t have any world beaters but players grow as the tournament goes on. You see it happening with Dave O’Callaghan, Dave Kilcoyne and Mike Sherry. I know that Munster could win a Heineken Cup, I know these boys could do it. The odds are stacked heavily against them but they could do it. I know just how good these players could be.”
For now, all they must do is survive on the road. Because the road is life.
“I’m still going to back Munster but it is going to be a real test. If they can do this they will have made a massive step up, equivalent to Ulster beating us last year in Thomond Park . The belief levels for the young lads will go through the roof.”