It may be unlucky for some but not for Sherwin and Munster
MUNSTER ACADEMY:EYEBROWS WERE undoubtedly raised in Munster when it was revealed their provincial academy only had 13 players this season, in contrast to the 19 in Leinster, all the more so as it came on top of Leinster’s more numerous representation at underage level last season.
The Munster Academy could cater for more if they so desired, but the academy manager, Ian Sherwin, maintains the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. “We actually have room for 21 but Munster have never had more than 15 in its academy.
“It’s very much selected on a needs basis,” he explains. “We brought in a prop, a hooker and a centre this year, which are areas of need with the succession plan in mind. We’re very conscious of not just bringing in fellas for the sake of it. What determines our recruitment policy is that we get exactly what we need and our through-put is quite successful.”
In any event, you mention the breakdown of the Junior World Cup squad and Sherwin chuckles wearily. “I am constantly reminded about this, and if you look further down you’ll notice that in the Irish Youths (club) Under-18 squad there was only one Munster player in it,” he reveals, adding: “and it would be something we are very mindful of.”
Sherwin, who has been Munster academy manager for 18 months, thinks the balance will begin shifting this season but accepts that the Leinster cycle has been stronger of late, and that their inroads into the conditioning of players from 15 or 16 is more developed.
The IRFU’s national talent programme is beginning to change that. The biggest challenge for Sherwin and the Munster Academy looking ahead, he says, is “to make sure that we develop these players technically so that they come to us at a higher training age, which means we’re not concentrating so much time in the gym. Instead, we would be working on their skills development and their rugby knowledge. They are the key areas.
“This year we had 107 players in who were born in 1994 or 1995, so some of them were 15 this year, and we had them in three times a week over the summer, making sure that we’re screening the next bunch of players so that we’re working to a five-year plan.”
In Munster, the crossover between clubs and schools is, perhaps, a little more blurred. For example, Danny Barnes would have spent most of his developmental years at Clonmel, yet spent his last school year at Rockwell. Kieran Essex learned and played virtually all his under-age rugby in Bandon but went to school in Christians.
“There’s no doubt we’re heavily reliant on the schools. There are eight A schools in Munster, or stronger schools, and that is where the majority of players continue to come out of.”
Against that, this summer the training camps contained 12 players from Kerry, so Munster set up a centre there. The players emanated from Dingle, Listowel, Killarney, Killorglin and one of the best prospects (JJ Hanrahan) emanates from Currow and Castleisland RFC, who played in Rockwell.
Sherwin maintains that they are not trying to compete with gaelic games. “We arranged training so that it didn’t compete with their club training. We had been training on a Wednesday, but for Kerry we trained on a Tuesday and a Thursday because football under-16s in Kerry took place on a Wednesday. We’re not trying to compete, because we’ll lose that.
“We’re trying to offer them another sport, so that they can do that as well.”
One would imagine that one of the biggest spin-offs from Munster reaching the Heineken Cup successes is that more and more youngsters in the province are taking up the game, and from previously un-chartered territory.
“There’s no doubt that the work being done with the Youth Development Officers in those areas is remarkable,” admits Sherwin.
Munster Academy 2009-2010
Third year, 21, prop.
Product of CBC who has moved to Con from UCC. Not many 6ft 2in, 112kg tight-heads.
First year, 19, centre.
Product of Tralee RFC and Munster Youths who played final year at St Munchin’s. Broke into UCC team last season, drafted into Junior World Cup squad, now with Dolphin and has featured on the Munster wing this season.
Second year, 20, outhalf.
Crescent-schooled, has had injury problems but debuted for Munster last season. Featured in pre-season and was a member of the Ireland Under-20 squad at the Junior World Cup.
Third year, 20, outhalf/centre.
Out of Pres Cork, and the most mystifying exclusion from Ireland Under-20s, in Academy manager Ian Sherwin’s mind. Versatility/goalkicking and all-round footballing ability promoted him to bench last night.
Third year, 21, lock/backrow.
CBC Cork product, from Bandon, and now with UL/Bohs. Starting number eight in Junior World Cup last year and a real athlete in a very competitive area.
Second year, 21, lock.
Clonmel RFC/Youths product, 6ft 6in UL Bohs lock with Munster doggedness who made massive strides in first year in Academy and Sherwin has high hopes for this clever, ultra-professional player.
Second year, 21, openside.
From Clonmel and Rockwell. Very dynamic openside who played for Ireland Sevens in World Cup and shone in AIL final for Shannon.
Has had his golf handicap as low as three.
Second year, 20, scrumhalf
From Patrickswell, schooled in St Munchin’s, studies in UL and plays with Garryowen. Member of Ireland Under-20 Junior World Cup squad. Versatile, goal-kicking number nine and sometime 10.
Second year, 20, lock.
From Buttevant, went to school in Glenstal and has joined Con from UCC. A clone of Dave Foley, with whom he played Ireland Under-19s. Went to Junior World Cup as a six, finished as first-choice number four.
Second year, 19, back-row.
Pres Cork product now with Cork Con. Irish Under-20 captain in Six Nations and Junior World Cup. Indeed, has captained pretty much all his sides. Has no problem motivating himself, or others.
First year, 21, prop.
6ft 3in prop played with Barnes on Tralee RFC under-18 team. Now with UL Bohs. A block of a young man in a problem position, and thus a longer-term prospect.
Third year, 21, scrumhalf.
St Munchin’s product now with UL Bohs. Missed much of last two years with injuries, but back now, very good technically and exceptionally strong for a scrumhalf.
First year, 20, hooker.
Ard Scoil Rís and now Garryowen. Stand-by for 2008 World Cup and played for Garryowen throughout last season. Technically good hooker with try-scoring knack.