Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Paul predicts unique occasion

“WHEN I was growing up, the guy I hated to lose to was my brother. That is the way it is now. These guys, (Leinster players), after what we achieved together with Ireland, will be friends for life. But those are the guys you hate to lose to most and I am sure Leinster will be saying the same thing. It’s because we know each other so well and are friends that this is such a big rivalry.”


Munster captain Paul O’Connell is explaining the uniqueness of squaring up to his Irish international colleagues when Munster lock horns with Leinster in Saturday’s mammoth Heineken Cup semi-final clash at Croke Park. The Lions captain is also predicting a unique, GAA-style, atmosphere at Saturday’s big clash.
“The atmosphere at Lansdowne Road for the 2006 semi-final meeting of Munster and Leinster was phenomenal. This weekend will be no different,” O’Connell predicted.
“There might be a bit of a GAA element to the atmosphere as well.
“That will add to it.
“It will be fabulous to play a provincial game in Croke Park.
“It is something neither team has done before. Definitely the atmosphere will be a little bit different to an international.”
O’Connell said it was important in a pressure cooker setting like this weekend’s clash that players have confidence in their own ability.
“You have to be confident in your ability to play. Padraig Harrington said pressure makes you perform better, makes you focus, makes you concentrate. Hopefully, that is what it will do for us,” O’Connell stressed.
“There is a different hype to this game. There is a more intense rivalry. But for the players on the pitch, a big game is a big game. Both sets of players are used to handling the hype.”
Munster skipper O’Connell said he had been hugely impressed with Leinster’s quarter-final win at The Stoop against NEC Harlequins.
“I think Leinster are mentally very strong,” O’Connell stressed.
“They had a fabulous performance against Harlequins in the quarter-finals. I have a lot of respect for the win away from home against a very competent side.
“Their stuff around their breakdown is top class.
“They have five or six guys who are very strong in that area, brilliant at slowing ball, poaching ball and getting penalties. It is something we have to be very aware of.”
Munster have been installed as odds-on favourites to win through to a fifth final this weekend.
Lock O’Connell dismissed the notion that Munster might suffer from any over-confidence.
“We keep a cap on over-confidence because we know we can be as bad as any side in the Magners League or Heineken Cup on any given day if our heads are not right,” he stressed.
“We saw it happen this year against Ulster also against Connacht and Montauban at home.
“We know how bad we can be if the head is not on. We keep reminding ourselves. The papers and media have to tag someone as the favourites and someone as the underdogs. One thing we have been good at is realising that it is about what happens on the day. It is a cup match, knock-out rugby, something we have been raised on.
“We know no matter how much a team is an underdog, how big a team are favourites, how level teams are, it is down to the performance on the day. That is what we have been reminding ourselves.”

Colm Kinsella

‘We need to be braver right from the start’

LIMERICK FC face a tough assignment against an in-form Sporting Fingal when the Super Blues make the unenviable trip to Santry’s Morton Stadium on Friday night.
Although the Liam Buckley-managed side drew on the opening weekend against Waterford and followed that result up with a home defeat at the hands of UCD, Sporting Fingal have won six consecutive games since then. Last Saturday night Sporting Fingal won 3-1 away to Longford Town, but most significantly of all they preceded that trip to Flancare Park with a highly-impressive one-nil win against Shelbourne - Sporting’s Eamon Zayed struck for the winner against Shels and was on the mark once more against Longford and will take some watching on Friday night.


The form of Sporting Fingal, in the wake of Limerick’s poor performance against Waterford last weekend, will make the Dublin outfit red-hot favourites.
Limerick FC manager Pat Scully was as disappointed as anyone by the display of his side at Jackman Park against their Munster rivals: “It was disappointing; we just didn’t play.
“We started the game off completely wrong and we just were not aggressive enough. That’s something we have to get away from. We need to be braver right from the start.
“Stephen Henderson’s Waterford side are a big physical team and we were never aggressive enough against them. They bullied us in a lot of departments. Personally I think it was a big game and the lads froze a little bit. Over the 90 minutes we didn’t deserve to win the game, but we are way better than that.
“Playing against a team like Waterford you have to compete, win the battle and then get the ball down and play. We didn’t do that and it cost us. But I can tell you that no one is more disappointed with the result than the players themselves.”
Pat Scully has been holding the reins in Limerick for four weeks now and even though he acknowledges that the lack of a proper pre-season has cost his side he refuses to blame a lack of fitness for the defeat to Waterford.
“I wouldn’t use a lack of fitness as an excuse,” Pat Scully told Leader Sport this week.
“We’ve a lot of work done with the players and from a fitness point of view we’re definitely improving, but I wouldn’t use that as a reason for the defeat. We didn’t play, we were not aggressive enough and we dropped too deep. We got punished for that and we deserved to get punished.
“We’ve lost three league games now against UCD, Shels and Waterford who are all in the top four. We need to improve on the mental aspect of playing these big teams. We need to realise that we’re good enough to play against and beat these teams. Mentally you have to be brave enough to go after these teams and not be happy when the game is nil-all.”
And, despite the burgeoning reputation of Sporting Fingal Pat Scully believes that his young squad are capable to getting a result this weekend: “Sporting Fingal have good players and they are on a really good league run, but we’ve got players just as good. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and get a result. Fingal have nothing that we should be frightened of - we’ve a group of players who are easily as good as theirs.
“We’ve a good squad, we need to brush up on a few things, Friday night was disappointing, but the lads will learn from the experience.
“The most important thing is that we need to be braver and from the very first whistle we need to go out there and play.”
It is interesting to note the degree to which Fingal County Council have rowed in behind the Sporting Fingal project.
The club was founded as recently as 2007 with the original concept for the club actually created by Fingal County Council as part of a long-term development plan for soccer in that area of Dublin.
It was also recently confirmed that Fingal County Council intend to build a 3,000 all-seater stadium in Lusk along with state of the art training facilities.
That centre will represent the home of Lusk United, but it will also be made available to Sporting Fingal when the facility is completed in 2011.
Imagine a local council committed to providing facilities for a local soccer team? Wonders will never cease.

Brian McDonnell

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

AH the ‘Lunster’! Not yet quite as popular as the term ‘Celtic Tiger’ was in by-gone days, but as we near Saturday’s epic Heineken Cup semi-final showdown between Munster and Leinster at Croke Park it is getting there - for the uninitiated, ‘Lunster’ loosely translates as a Leinster native who opts to support the Munster rugby team.


It’s a clever term and the subject of why Leinster-born rugby supporters opt to sign up to the beliefs of the Red Army has fascinated thousands this week through contributions to dozens of internet message boards and discussion sites.
A whopping 16 pages of contributions had been received on the subject on the always lively forum section of the munsterfans.com website alone.
Mind you, the debate has also been fuelled by a number of fascinating newspaper articles on the subject too.
The key question is why would a Leinster-born rugby fan opt not to support Leinster. There is a major divergence of opinion on the subject.
One of the well-balanced explanations on the subject came from ‘RugbyBug’: “I am from Dublin (D12 (Dublin 12)- Southside), but I am a Munster supporter.
“Firstly I only got into rugby about seven years ago after meeting my other half who is from Limerick and who has been a life long supporter of club, Munster and Ireland rugby.
“After being introduced to the game itself, the culture and having attended Munster games and having craic with the fans and so on I gained a better understanding of the whole phenomenon. Consequently it has me ruined!
“I work in the heart of D4 (Dublin 4) and proudly display my Munster paraphernalia (some have referred to it as a shrine) on my work station. Some of my colleagues describe themselves as Leinster supporters yet they won’t go up the road to the grounds or attend a match at the RDS! They only go to a Leinster match that they view as ‘significant’ such as the upcoming semi final. Last Sunday I got a text off one of them straight after the Leinster vs. Harlequins match saying it looks like Munster will be at the final again as they will hammer Leinster.
“Now I know that this is more than a distinct possibility but I was struck by how as a so called supporter he had given up on his team already. A real supporter sticks with their team come what may.
“Unfortunately, I have had one or two Munster supporters give me hassle about being from Leinster and supporting Munster. One man in particular gave me a load of grief in O’Neill’s in Cardiff after a match. I asked him did he support soccer and he confirmed he did.
“I asked him what team did he support and he told me Manchester United. I pointed out that wasn’t from Manchester so what’s the difference? He backed down. On the whole, Munster supporters are welcoming and friendly bunch who don’t really care where you are from as long as you are supporting Munster.
“Munster Rugby is unique. There is an honesty and camaraderie that you just don’t get with other teams in terms of both supporters and players. Going to a Munster rugby match is an experience rather than simply attending a match.”
Another contributor, ‘Mack 05’, said supporters from outside the province were drawn to support the Munster team because it is such an integral part of the community.
“I think the era of professional rugby the Munster ‘Phenomenon’ caught on far quicker then the Leinster support. Obviously success has a lot to do with it. The journey Munster took to get to a Heineken cup took in a lot of neutral fans from Leinster/Connaught.
“GAA supporters from Counties outside Dublin, some tend to support Munster as they probably feel a stronger connection to the Munster team. The Munster team is a lot like a GAA team in ways, except on a larger scale. Its such an integral part of a community, a large community at that. I feel now all counties in Munster play a vital role in the team.
“While the support base is growing in Leinster, it’s still known as D4 (Dublin 4) and the stereotype that goes with that. I don’t think that’s true anymore, but I believe at lot of fans look at Leinster still like that. Fans from outside Dublin just don’t feel the same connection to the team as fans around Munster do.
“Success is a huge factor too.”
But just to show that there are many who remain ‘true blues’, here’s what ‘Point’ had to say on the subject.
“I just cannot fathom the ‘Lunster’ psyche. I’m a Dub living and working in Limerick with wife and teenage daughters born, bred, educated in Limerick etc etc.
“But I will be Leinster (in a head-to head with Munster) until I shuffle off my mortal coil, no matter how often or how badly we get stuffed.”
Roll on Saturday!

Three years on
THREE years can certainly be a long time in the life of a professional rugby player. When Munster defeated Leinster in the 2006 Heineken Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road, the Leinster replacements’ bench that day included two current Munster players.
Centre Kieran Lewis, who lined out for Garryowen in their AIL semi-final defeat by Shannon last weekend, and flanker Niall Ronan, were both included in Leinster’s Match Day 22.
Twenty eight-year-old Lewis made seven appearances for Leinster in their 2005/’06 Heineken Cup campaign.
Lewis scored a try in the Lions 33-20 away win over Glasgow warriors in the pool stages of the competition.
Niall Ronan, likely to be on the Munster bench for Saturday’s big Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Leinster at Croke Park made one appearance for Michael Cheika’s side in their European campaign three season ago. Twenty six-year-old Ronan was introduced as a replacement in the 46-22 home win over the Warriors.
Interestingly, two players who were members of Munster’s squad at the time of the clash with Leinster three years ago are now members of Leinster’s extended squad.
Stephen Keogh was included in Munster’s Match Day 22 for the game, while Trevor Hogan was also a member of Declan Kidney’s squad.

Quinlan cousins
IT certainly was a terrific few days for the Quinlan cousins last week.
Munster star Alan was selected on the Lions squad to tour South Africa, while Shannon club captain David led his side to a thrilling AIL Division 1 semi-final win over old rivals Garryowen at Coonagh. Following the win, number eight David Quinlan paid tribute to his cousin’s resilience.
“I am delighted for Alan,” David Quinlan said.
“In fairness to the guy, he has had a lot of bad breaks throughout his career. It is nice to see something go his way. He well deserves it. He is delighted and so are all the family.”

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

TWO emails came my way in the last week. Firstly, a Knocklong man had words of congratulations for all involved with Lifting the Treaty.


“I just wanted to highlight the good work that is being done at underage GAA in Limerick.
“I was at an under-8 hurling blitz in Ballybricken and while I am not from what could be termed a traditional GAA background was very impressed with the set-up and professional organisation on show as well as the warm welcome extended to all.
“Most importantly the kids appear to be well looked after and families seemed to go home happy afterwards,” he wrote.
So a big well done to all involved in the restructured competitions.
On that, a word of advise from Ger Downes - one of those involved with one of the new clusters.
“These league games are being played for the benefit of the child, for to help him/her develop their potential and skill level while enjoying themselves and the game,” said Downes.
He pleads: “Results of games are irrelevant, set a good example from the start, encourage fair play at all times from one and all and get players to shake hands before and after games.
“Let us all, whether be coaches, parents, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers or just supporters, show respect for our match officials, other coaches, parents and most importantly the players”.
In the second letter, there are no words of solace though, from a Pallasgreen reader.
“Today I logged onto the Limerick GAA website and clicked on the ‘results & fixtures page’.
“Result?
“Total blank - what is the point of having a website aimed at promoting our games & then putting nothing on it?,” he queried
“Either run the site properly or take it off altogether.
“Still, maybe the new full time secretary will get to grips with it.
“With ever diminishing attendances at local games it must be worth keeping the general public informed & engaged as much as possible.”

First All-Ireland Football Final
A medal from Limerick’s success in the first ever All-Ireland football final has finally found a new home.
The medal from 1887 has travelled to the other side of the world from Limerick, down under in Australia and back to Donegal has finally found its way to a new home in North Tipperary.
The medal that was won by Michael Slattery, a member of the Limerick Commercials team that won the very first All-Ireland football final, has been handed over to the Burgess GAA club.
Michael Slattery was a native of Tipperary but worked in Limerick and played his football with the Commercials club in the city.
The medal made its way to Donegal late last year to a Padraig McCafferty in Dunlewey courtesy of his brother Joe in Australia.
And after research by Padraig’s daughter Sally on Michael Slattery, and the medal, it was discovered that Slattery hailed from Tipperary.
Padraig McCafferty and his family travelled to Tipperary and were guests of the Burgess club at a number of function at which the medal was passed over to Kitty Looby, the wife of a grand nephew of Michael Slattery.
Padraig McCafferty, received the medal from his brother, Joe, who is in 80s and lives in Australia.
The medal had been handed on to Joe McCafferty by a Michael Quinn, a godson of Michael Slattery’s son, Bill Slattery, who had befriended Joe and was anxious that the medal be returned to Ireland and a GAA home.
The medal had been handed down to Michael Quinn from Bill Slattery (no relation), who in turn had received the medal from his father, the one and only Michael Slattery, who had emigrated to Brisbane, in Australia shortly after winning the All-Ireland.

Hurlers head for Ulster

JUSTIN McCarthy will utilise three games over this May Bank Holiday weekend to work towards finalising his starting 15 for next month’s Munster championship semi-final.
The Limerick senior hurlers journey north for two nights for a training weekend which will involve games against Antrim and Down on Saturday. Then on Tuesday night next, May 5, Limerick will play Tipperary at the official opening of the re-developed facilities at Lattin-Cullen GAA grounds.


A 33-man squad, together with management, Limerick GAA chairman Liam Lenihan and Limerick GAA treasurer Owen Hayes, will make the journey north on Friday for a two-night stay.
On Saturday the group will be based in Pairc Mac Uilin, the GAA grounds of Ballycastle McQuillans - a small rural town situated on the most north-easterly tip of County Antrim.
For Limerick manager Justin McCarthy it will be a return to the county he guided to an All-Ireland intermediate title in 1970 - McQuillans had three representatives on that team; Paddy McShane and Eddie and Kevin Donnelly.
On Saturday the local club in Antrim have a schedule of events.
At 2.15pm Limerick play Down, while a second Limerick selection plays Antrim at 3.45pm. Then at 5.30pm the Heineken Cup semi-final between Munster and Leinster will be shown live on a big screen.
The challenge games with Antrim will offer an opportunity for Mark Foley and Ollie Moran to dust down the cobwebs after their prolonged breaks.
After returning to Limerick on Sunday Limerick will be back in action on Tuesday (7.00pm) in Lattin-Cullen GAA grounds.
This official re-opening of the local GAA grounds clashes with a full fixture list in Limerick’s All-County League so the make-up of Justin McCarthy’s side is unknown.
The facilities at Lattin-Cullen, the home club of Nicky English, have undergone radical change during the first decade of the 21st century.
Firstly, the pitch was drained and levelled which was followed by the erection of a covered stand that can cater for 590 seated patrons.
A floodlit all-weather training pitch and practice wall were added.
In 2008 a new building incorporating four dressing rooms, a referee’s room, meeting room and kitchen was completed. While Alan Kelly of Galway is referee on the night, the game will be officially started by George Ryan, who refeered the All-Ireland finals of 1979 and 1985.
GAA President Christy Cooney will perform the official -reopening, prior to the challenge game between the senior hurlers of Tipperary and Limerick. Admission is €10, with children admitted free of charge.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reddan joins Leinster

LIMERICK scrum-half Eoin Reddan is hoping that his move from London Wasps to Leinster next season will re-ignite his international career prospects.
Twenty-eight-year-old Reddan has fallen behind Tomas O’Leary and Peter Stringer in the Irish pecking order in recent times and his switch to Leinster should boost his prospects of adding to his haul of 14 full international caps.
Reddan will leave Guinness Premiership giants London Wasps this summer to join Leinster on a three-year deal.


The exciting scrum-half Eoin Reddan will find himself in an unusual position on Saturday when his former club Munster face his new club Leinster in their mammoth Heineken Cup semi-final clash at Croke Park (kick-off 5.30pm).
Reddan, who joined Wasps from Munster in 2005, edging past former Wasp Matt Dawson to become the first-choice scrum-half, has enjoyed four seasons with London Wasps taking with him Powergen Cup, Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership winners medals.
Whilst with London Wasps 28-year-old Reddan made 106 appearances, scoring 16 tries, playing an integral role within the squad.
On his departure from the Guinness Premiership giants, Eoin Reddan said: “It is tough for me leaving Wasps. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my last four years and I can’t overstate how great a club it is.
“I am looking forward to representing Leinster next season. They are a top club who have proved that year-in year-out on the European stage and they may even go on to win the Heineken Cup come the end of the season.
“The fitness team, physio staff and back room team are top class and make it easy for you to be at your best week-in week-out in what is a long season.
“The coaches have helped me personally and supported me over the last four years and I would like to thank them for all their help and support, particularly in my decision to go home to look to further my international career.
“The biggest thing I will take away from Wasps is the experience of playing on the biggest day of the season, playing in the biggest games and performing consistently as a team.”
Wasps’ Director of Rugby and British and Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan said that while they were sad to see Reddan depart the club is, and always will be, one which supports a player’s international ambitions.
Eoin Reddan made his full Irish debut against France as part of the 2006 Six Nations squad. He also played twice for his country at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
Meanwhile Munster will today name their squad for Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Leinster.
Opponents Leinster will be without their Lions full-back Rob Kearney for the game as he is suffering from mumps.
Meanwhile the dates and kick-off times for Munster’s final two Magners League games of the season have been confirmed.
Leaders Munster will travel to Wales on Sunday, May 10 for a clash with the Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park. The game, which could see Munster crowned Magners League, champions will have a 4.35pm kick-off and will be televised live on Setanta.
Munster’s final game in the league will take place on Friday, May 15 when the Ospreys visit Thomond Park. The round 18 tie has a 7.45pm kick-off and again will be televised live on Setanta.
Munster will be crowned Magners League champions this Thursday night should the Ospreys fail to collect a bonus-point win over the Newport-Gwent Dragons at the Liberty Stadium (7.05pm) in their re-arranged tie.

Colm Kinsella

CBS chase national title glory

LIMERICK CBS will bid to win an unprecedented third Umbro FAI Schools Senior Boys National Soccer title in-a-row when they take on Connacht champions, St. Joseph’s College, Galway at Terryland Park on Wednesday, May 6 at 2pm.
Two key members of the Limerick CBS squad, Eoin Hanrahan and Jason Hughes, will be hoping to complete their own piece of history by collecting a third All-Ireland senior medal at this level next week - both talented young stars are current under-18 schoolboy internationals.
Limerick CBS claimed their fifth Munster Senior Boys title in-a-row with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Colaiste Mhuire of Cobh earlier this season. The Sexton Street side secured their place in next week’s All-Ireland decider thanks to a convincing 3-0 semi-final win over Leinster champions, Tallaght CS. Goals from Cian Byrnes, captain Eoin Hanrahan and Derek O’Hanlon helped the Munster champions secure that comfortable win.
Limerick CBS will be aiming to claim their sixth All-Ireland title in all in this grade as the renowned sporting nursery also won the competition twice in the 1970s. The Limerick CBS side is managed by Mike Molyneaux, while current Limerick FC star and Limerick CBS past pupil, Tommy Barrett is the team coach.
Meanwhile Limerick FC are busy preparing for their League of Ireland First Division clash with Sporting Fingal on Friday night at Santry’s Morton Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Super Blues will welcome Limerick CBS’ Jason Hughes and Crescent’s Ian Storan back to the squad for this crucial league clash. Sporting, who have won six league games in-a-row, are the favourites to prevail.

Colm Kinsella

Minor hurlers hope to beat Tipp for the first time in four years

THE Limerick minor hurlers bid to repeat the 2005 shock victory over Tipperary when the sides meet in the Munster minor championship this Wednesday night at the Gaelic Grounds (6.30pm).
Four years ago Limerick defeated Tipperary 2-14 to 1-6 and progressed to contest the All-Ireland final, where they lost to a Joe Canning-inspired Galway side.
Since that win in Kilmallock Tipperary have defeated Limerick in each of the last three provincial championships - last year Tipperary were 3-21 to 1-12 winners in Thurles.
Four members of that Limerick side remain in this year’s starting 15 - Kevin Downes, Niall Kennedy, Brian Cleary and Cathal McNamara.
The Limerick team for tomorrow’s night first round game was announced after training last evening.
Patrickwell’s Sean O’Brien has failed in his bid to regain full fitness from a broken bone in his hand.
In his absence his club-mate Nigel Foley will captain the team from full-back.
Ger Hegarty is the Limerick minor manager.
It is now 25 years since Limerick last claimed the Munster minor hurling championship.
Back in 1984 Hegarty was a key figure in the Limerick defence that defeated Tipperary in the Munster final to claim a fifth crown for Limerick.
The Old Christians man’s former Limerick inter-county defensive colleague Brian Finn, Natal O’Grady and Gerard Murphy join him as selectors.
The quartet have scanned the county for talent and ended with a panel of 30 that represents 19 different clubs - eight senior, four intermediate and seven junior clubs.
The county minor side is backboned by three members of the Ardscoil Ris side that reached the Dr. Harty Cup semi-final - Kevin Downes, Niall Kennedy and Declan Hannon.
Also prominent are a trio that helped John the Baptist Community School in Hospital to win the Munster senior B hurling championship - Aaron Murphy, Bryan Cleary and Paudie Ahern.
Another selected in the team is St. Patrick’s Brendan Mullins - next week the sporting all-rounder will play with Limerick CBS in the All-Ireland senior schools soccer final at Terryland Park.
If Limerick progress to the semi-final they will play Cork on June 24 while if Limerick lose this quarter-final, they will enter the back-door route against either Clare or Waterford on May 6.
Limerick: Aaron Murphy (Hospital-Herbertstown); Bryan Cleary (Knockainey), Nigel Foley, capt (Patrickswell), Niall Buckley (Na Piarsaigh); Paudie Ahern (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Declan Hannon (Adare), Thomas O’Callaghan (Monagea); Niall Kennedy (Granagh-Ballingarry), Liam O’Shea (Knockainey); Brendan Mullins (St. Patrick’s), Kevin Downes (Na Piarsaigh), John Fitzgibbon (Adare); William Griffin (Kildimo), Cathal McNamara (Doon), Michael Ryan (Murroe-Boher).

Jerome O'Connell

Monday, April 27, 2009

Munster men must improve

HOOKER Jerry Flannery has warned that unless Munster improve significantly from their Magners League showing against the Scarlets, the Heineken Cup champions will fail to see off Leinster in Saturday’s mammoth all-Ireland semi-final clash with Leinster at Croke Park.
While Munster moved within touching distance of securing the Magners League title with a 29-10 bonus-point win over the Scarlets, Lion Jerry Flannery said the side had an awful lot to work on ahead of the Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Leinster (5.30pm).


Munster’s victory against the Scarlets was over-shadowed by the fractured ankle sustained by Tomas O’Leary which will result in the scrum-half missing the remainder of the province’s season and the Lions tour of South Africa this summer.
Jerry Flannery said: “We got the result we wanted against the Scarlets, but our performance left a lot to be desired.
“But the over-riding feeling from the game is that personally I am very disappointed for Tomas.
“I could only imagine how disappointed I would be if I was in his shoes. I know he will come back just as strong.
“There is a feeling that we have an awful lot to build on from that performance against the Scarlets.
“We got the bonus point, but it won’t be near good enough to beat Leinster next week.
“I don’t think there was any consistency in terms of the way we played. We got a few good one-off tries, but we never really got into our patterns or any forward domination.
“There was a lot of loose play.
“Our breakdown work was not very good. That is disappointing because it is something that had been going very well for us.
“This time last year we played Llanelli away after a couple of wins when we probably fell in love with ourselves. We came out of the game and it was probably as low as I felt last year. So it was disappointing.”
Munster coach Tony McGahan said it was hugely disappointing to lose a player of Tomas O’Leary’s stature.
“In Tomas and Peter Stringer we are fortunate to have two of the best scrum-halves in the country in our squad and the experience of Mike Prendergast to call on when required,” Tony McGahan said.
Munster will win the Magners League if they pick up a single point from their two remaining fixtures or if the second-placed Ospreys fail to secure bonus-point wins in each of their three remaining fixtures, including a final weekend meeting with Munster at Thomond Park.
David Wallace was named Munster Rugby Player of the Year at the 2009 Munster Rugby Awards held in Thomond Park on Saturday night.
Wallace fought off stiff competition from fellow nominees Paul O’Connell, John Hayes and Niall Ronan to land the award.
Eleven awards in total were presented on the night recognising and honouring those involved in the different aspects of rugby across the province.
Another Lion, Keith Earls was named the Young Player of the Year at the Irish Examiner-sponsored awards.
The Academy Player of the Year accolade went to Tommy O’Donnell, of UL Bohemian, while Michael English received the Hall of Fame Award.
Among the other award winners on the night was John Lacey, the former Shannon and Munster star, who was selected as the province’s Referee of the Year.
Shannon are within touching distance of a ninth All-Ireland League Division One title after securing a battling 16-12 semi-final win over city rivals Garryowen at Coonagh on Saturday.
A first half try from flying winger Stephen Kelly and 11 points from the boot of out-half Tadhg Bennett saw Shannon advance to a final showdown with Clontarf at Thomond Park on Saturday, May 9 (4pm).
There was disappointment for Old Crescent, however, as the Rosbrien side lost out to UCC in their Division Two semi-final clash at the Mardyke.

Colm Kinsella

Power maintains undefeated record with fifth pro win

IT’S five from five for Jamie Power after the Limerick professional boxer kept his unbeaten record intact over the weekend.
The 28-year-old Norwood Park native was a hard-fought six-round winner over Slovakian Light Heavyweight champion Vladimir Idranyi in Cork’s Silversprings Hotel on Saturday night - the event was promoted by Hyde Promotions. The referee’s scoring of 58 points to 56 reflected the bruising encounter with Power needing to win the final round to assure him of victory.
A bruised Power, who now lives in Caherconlish, said after the fight that this was definitely the toughest bout of his career. The married father of two heaped praise on his conditioning coach Mario Feillachello and corner men Finbarr O’Brien and Jimmy Moore for helping him through this tough fight.
“I wouldn’t be were I am at five and 0 without these guys - we all work so hard and so well together. We are definitely a great team,” said Jamie.
Jamie could be back in the ring this June if his manager Ken Moore can negotiate a deal with Pat Ryan and Hyland Promotions.
“Ken is in charge of that part of the game and he is trying to get me on a show they are having in Dublin some time in June. We’ll know more by the end of this week. We are hoping to have a bus travelling to that one as there was about 50 supporters that followed me to Cork from Limerick at the weekend and they were fantastic - very vocal and very good natured, so we are hoping to get another big following for Dublin in June, all going well,” explained Power.
On Saturday Power’s opponent brought a reputation as a tough durable foe and that was very much evidence in the first round, when a head wound to Power required four stitches. The first round cut forced Power to box more conservatively than his last four bouts, but his solid jab, good body work and high work rate ensured he kept his 100 percent record intact.

Jerome O'Connell

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rua returns home

MUNSTER management have confirmed that Rua Tipoki will return to his native New Zealand when the season ends after his struggle with injury looks to have ended his tenure with the Heineken Cup champions.


Tipoki said: "I have had ongoing problems with my hamstring since October and despite the best efforts of the medical and fitness staff I have struggled to regain full fitness. I initially suffered an injury to my hamstring during the Montauban game last October, but managed to return for the epic encounter against the All Blacks.
"Frustratingly, after recovering from a knee injury in that game, I suffered another hamstring injury against Ulster in Thomond Park in January. I have since suffered recurrences of the same injury which have meant I have not yet been able to play in competitive games, despite being able to take a limited part in training. I have in conjunction with the medical staff consulted with the top specialists in the country and undergone numerous tests over the past couple of months in an attempt to resolve the injury.
"It has been a deeply frustrating time for me as I would dearly love to get back to helping the boys achieve the goals that they'd set out at the start of the year. At the minute however, I am not up to the level of fitness required and would not like to do the jersey or the team an injustice by taking the field when I know I can't give my all. Everyone in Munster has been really supportive and understanding, I appreciate their encouragement and just wish I could maybe repay them by getting back and playing a bit of footy.
"This time in Munster has been brilliant for me and my family and while there is only one place you can call home, we will leave Munster with some great memories and having made lifelong friends."
Munster are now likely to step up their efforts to sign another top class centre for next season.

Seven of Munster's eight Lions are included in the side to face The Scarlets in Musgrave Park tomorrow evening (7.35pm) with the Munster and Lions skipper, for once being the odd man out.
Munster management were however quick to confirm that Paul O'Connell will be fit for the following weekend's trip to Croke Park and the game against Leinster. The Lions captain was in attendance for both Munster's sessions yesterday in UL, and his non participation was purely precautionary as he watched his colleagues go through their paces ahead of the clash with the Scarlets.

Munster: P Warwick, D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, I Dowling, R O'Gara, T O'Leary, M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll Capt., A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy. Replacements: D Fogarty, T Buckley, D Ryan, N Ronan, P Stringer, B Murphy, D Hurley.

Colm Kinsella

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Captaincy thrills Paul O’Connell

PAUL O’Connell, on Tuesday night, paid tribute to the countless sports coaches and mentors in Limerick who helped mould him into the Lions captain for this summer’s tour to South Africa - O’Connell’s first port of call on his return home from London on Tuesday was Young Munster’s Clifford Park base where he learned his rugby. Scores of well wishers turned out to congratulate the first Limerick man to be afforded the honour of captaining the Lions.


In an exclusive interview with Leader Sport 29-year-old O’Connell said he owed a debt of gratitude to the numerous sports coaches who had helped him develop into one of the world’s leading sports men.
“I was contacted last Tuesday of last week about the captaincy. I was thrilled about it. Captaincy is not something I have ever aspired to. You get offered it,” O’Connell pointed out.
“To have been offered the position with the Lions is a great honour for Young Munster and Munster too.
“As soon as I got the word I let my parents and my brothers know. They were thrilled. We are a big rugby family. I have been very fortunate with the kind of mentors and coaches I have come across in Limerick.
“They were in school at Ardscoil Ris, Young Munster, with Seal and Limerick Swimming Clubs and Limerick Golf Club. So many guys have helped me. I remember the first time I played with Young Munster. It was probably in an under-8 seven-a-side tournament. Every coach I had along the way helped me greatly to develop.
“If I had been attached to a club other than Young Munster I wonder would I be where I am today?
“A lot of the Munster guys seemed to avoid asking me about the captaincy in the lead up to the announcement. They didn’t want to put me in an awkward position.
“That was funny.”
O’Connell revealed that the first thing he did when he was handed the 37-strong squad for this summer’s 10-game tour to South Africa was scour the sheet for the names of his Munster team mates.
“When I was handed the sheet containing the squad names on Monday night, one of the first things I did was scan it for the guys I am closest to,” Paul O’Connell explained.
“Anyone would be biased in that case. I was thrilled for the guys who had made it, but when I saw that John (Hayes), Marcus (Horan) and Denis (Leamy) had not, my thoughts were with them. They had contributed so much to Munster and Ireland all year.
“It is very tough on those who don’t make it, but you are thrilled for the likes of Quinny (Alan Quinlan) who has worked so hard all year.
“It was just reward. He has been very unfortunate with injuries.
“Keith (Earls) is a very exciting player, a great athlete.
“His father Ger was one of my favourite players growing up.”
Paul O’Connell played in all three test matches in the Lions’ unsuccessful tour to New Zealand four years ago in 2005. The number of players included from Paul O’Connell’s Munster side - eight - equals the mark set by Newport in 1910 and Leicester Tigers for the 2005 tour. Twenty-one-year-old Keith Earls and experienced flanker Alan Quinlan both gained call-ups. They will be joined by hooker Jerry Flannery, lock Donncha O’Callaghan, back-row David Wallace, as well as half-backs Tomas O’Leary and Ronan O’Gara.

2009 British & Irish Lions

Backs: Lee Byrne (Wales), Rob Kearney (Ireland), Shane Williams (Wales), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Ugo Monye (England), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Tom Shanklin (Wales), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), Keith Earls (Ireland), Riki Flutey (England), Ronan O'Gara (Ireland), Stephen Jones (Wales), Mike Phillips (Wales), Harry Ellis (England), Tomas O'Leary (Ireland).

Forwards: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Andy Powell (Wales), David Wallace (Ireland), Stephen Ferris (Ireland), Alan Quinlan (Ireland), Joe Worsley (England), Martyn Williams (Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O'Connell (Ireland) (captain), Donncha O'Callaghan (Ireland), Simon Shaw (England), Nathan Hines (Scotland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Andrew Sheridan (England), Phil Vickery (England), Euan Murray (Scotland), Jerry Flannery (Ireland), Lee Mears (England), Matthew Rees (Wales).

Colm Kinsella

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

JUST 12 months ago a fleet-footed Keith Earls was scampering over for one of Garryowen’s four tries in their All-Ireland League semi-final play-off win over local rivals Shannon at Coonagh. On Tuesday,21-year-old Earls was unveiled as a member of the Lions touring party which will travel to South Africa at the end of May. ‘Meteoric’ doesn’t even come close to doing justice to Earls’ rise through rugby ranks over the past year.
At a time when the Munster phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, it is easy to lose track of the massive role club rugby plays in the development of today’s elite players.
Earls, who grew up playing his club rugby with Thomond RFC in their highly successful under-age set-up, was a ‘regular’ in the Garryowen side throughout the ‘light blues’ march to the AIL final last season.
A series of eye-catching performances helped him to force his way into the Munster squad and a couple of appearances in the Magners League.
He was named on the bench for last season’s Heineken Cup final.
Earls’ star has continued to rise throughout 2008-09 and while injury deprived him of playing a greater role in Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning campaign, Lions coach Ian McGeechan believes the former Munster Schools Senior Cup medal winner can thrive on South Africa’s firm pitches.
But the examples of Lions lining out for their club sides in the AIL in recent times doesn’t stop with Earls.
Ian McGeechan’s choice as Lions skipper, Paul O’Connel, turned out for Young Munster’s first team in January 2008 when he made his comeback from a back injury which had sidelined him since the 2007 World Cup.
O’Connell had a 35-minute run-out that day at a muddy Greenfields as the Cookies claimed a 12-10 win over Buccaneers. It was a Division 2 tie and the win paved the way for Munsters’ to gain promotion to the top division.
While many rugby supporters may have lost faith with the AIL in recent seasons, the players certainly have not.
Young Munster President, Declan Edwards explained this week how the Lions skipper O’Connell was in constant contact with him on Saturday last, checking in on how ‘the Cookies’ were getting on in their do-or-die relegation battle with UCD at Belfield.
O’Connell had taken time out from his hectic schedule during the season to offer some advice at a number of Munsters’ training sessions.
The 29-year-old hasn’t lost sight of the fact that it was Munsters’ march to the AIL semi-finals eight seasons ago which catapulted him into the Munster set-up.

Amazing drama
Last Saturday’s final series of games in the AILs regular season provided some amazing drama. If Sky Sports were televising the happenings from club grounds around the country, they would be offering a choice of viewing any one of a dozen games.
Saturday afternoon turned into a glorious day for Limerick club rugby when Shannon and Garryowen both secured their passage into the AIL Division 1 semi-finals.
The only shame was that the great rivals will meet at the semi-final stage of the competition this weekend.
Young Munster secured their place in Division 1B of the League with a heart-stopping victory over UCD at Belfield. A drop goal from Mike Prendergast, kicked from the half way line in injury time, glanced against the crossbar, before shooting up into the air and dropping over the bar.
UL Bohemian had already secured their place in Division 1A of the league prior to their defeat by Blackrock College.
In Division 2 Old Crescent booked a semi-final play-off place with UCC this weekend. Although Bruff missed out on making the knock-out stages, the south Limerick club will be pleased with their overall league performance in their first season up following promotion from the Third Division. And Thomond, the great survivors, secured their place in Division 2 with an impressive home win over Bective Rangers at Fitzgerald Park. While Munster continue to enjoy much of the media headlines, the club game remains vibrant in Limerick.

Paul O’Connell’s prank calls
New Lions captain Paul O’Connell revealed he had thought a number of missed calls from head coach Ian McGeechan to his mobile phone might have been pranks from Munster team-mates Frankie Sheahan and Brian Carney.


“I had a few missed calls on Monday night (of last week),” O’Connell told reporters.
“They were from an English number, but for the last few weeks I’d had a guy phoning me on an English number trying to sell me shares.
“I was avoiding the call, but saw the number again at 8.55 on the Tuesday morning. I rang it back and it was Geech, but I still wasn’t certain - Brian Carney and Frankie Sheahan are always making crank calls.
“Once I was sure of the accent, we had a chat and he asked me to be captain. The accent was too good to be a hoax - I’ve sat in with the lads on one of their crank calls and their accents aren’t the best.”

Selectors not convinced
ARMCHAIR viewers of the Guinness Premiership are continually being bombarded with Sky Sports’ insistence on what an excellent product England’s top league provides.
Well, judging by the make-up of the Lions squad to tour South Africa this summer, the selectors were not overly convinced. No fewer than 27 of the 37-man squad who will travel to South Africa next month ply their trade in the Magners League. This represents 73% of the touring party, a far higher proportion than the 48% selected by Sir Clive Woodward when he named 21 Celtic players in his 44 man squad that toured to New Zealand in 2005.
It is also the best ever selection of players who currently play their rugby in one of the Celtic nations beating the 24 that were named for the 1977 tour, also to New Zealand. Of the individual Magners League teams Munster provide eight players, the highest representation ever by a single province, Leinster four and Ulster one, the first Ulster Lion since 1989. The Welsh Regions Cardiff Blues and Ospreys supply six players apiece, the Blues best total since their forerunners Cardiff had six players named in the original touring party in 1968.

Justin McCarthy: ‘Overall it was worthwhile excercise’

“OVERALL it was a worthwhile exercise.”
That was the summation of Justin McCarthy as Limerick’s National Hurling League campaign came to a close.
McCarthy was speaking beneath the stand in Semple Stadium.
In eight weeks time will come the real test when Justin McCarthy leads his Limerick side back into Semple Stadium to battle with his former charges in the Munster championship semi-final.


“It was a two-fold thing,” said McCarthy of Limerick’s NHL which yielded three home wins (Clare, Dublin and Waterford) and four away defeats (Kilkenny, Cork, Galway and Tipperary).
“We wanted to give fellas a chance while at the same time we were trying to develop a team for going forward into the championship,” said McCarthy.
The new manager and his selectors, Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey, gave league action to 29 players, with experienced duo Mark Foley and Ollie Moran not among those to see game-time.
“The league is gone now and we are into summer hurling and the championship,” explained Justin McCarthy.
He added: “It’s a different mindset from now”.
“We have a few games lined up for the next few weeks,” he explained.
“Overall we have a bit of work to do, there’s no doubt.”
Many of the old failings were evident in this final league game.
“Wides are a funny thing - you play as well as you are let play and you score as well as you are let score.
“We were under pressure for some of the shots and were hitting balls without looking up or taking time to create space, but that’s something that we can work on for the championship,” responded McCarthy when quizzed on Limerick’s tally of 16 wides.
“It was an unusual game from our point of view - we didn’t have a full team coming into it and had a few injuries during the game.
“Tipp were sharper - there is no doubt about that, but they are coming into a league final and would want to be sharp.
“From our point of view, we took the game as it was but it didn’t have any consequences.”
Not overly concerned with the defeat, McCarthy “saw a few things and we learned from the game”.
“We played quite well - we fought back well in the second half,” said a satisfied Justin McCarthy.

Jerome O’Connell

Hegarty leads Limerick

GER Hegarty leads the Limerick minor hurlers into Munster championship action on Wednesday evening next, April 29 in the Gaelic Grounds.
The former Limerick hurler in joined in the county management team by Brian Finn, Natal O’ Grady and Gerard Murphy.
Tipperary, one of the favourites for the All-Ireland, stand in Limerick’s way in the quarter-final.
If Limerick progress to the semi-final, they will play Cork on June 24.
If Limerick fail in the quarter-final, they will enter the backdoor route against either Clare or Waterford on May 6.
The Limerick panel is backboned by six members of the Ardscoil Ris side that reached the Dr Harty Cup sem-final - Sean O’Brien, Shane Dowling, Declan Hannon, Niall Kennedy, Tom Nolan and Kevin Downes.
Members of the John the Baptist side from Hospital that won the Munster senior B hurling championship are also key - Aaron Murphy, Bryan Cleary, Paudie Ahern, David Murphy. Two other members of the panel also tasted Harty Cup action with Doon CBS - Michael Barry and Cathal McNamara. Limerick have injury concerns over Sean O’Brien and Declan Hannon.

Panel: Kevin Downes, Niall Buckley, Shane Dowling (all Na Piarsaigh), Sean O’Brien, Thomas Nolan, Nigel Foley, Niall Carrig (all Patrickswell), William Griffin (Kildimo), Brendan Mullins (St Patricks), Bryan Cleary, Liam O’Shea (both Knockainey), Kevin Palmer (Blackrock), Cormac Behan (Croom), Aaron Murphy (Hospital-Herbertstown), Thomas Ryan (South Liberties), David Murphy, Paudie Ahern (both Kilteely-Dromkeen), Darragh Lyons (Ballybricken), Cathal McNamara, Michael Barry (both Doon), Michael Ryan, Darren Dunlea (both Murroe-Boher), Declan Hannon, John Fitzgibbon (both Adare), Mike Flynn (St Kierans), Stephen Foley, Tom McMahon (both Croagh-Kilfinny), Mark Ranahan (Askeaton), Niall Kennedy (Granagh-Ballingarry), Thomas O’Callaghan (Monagea).

Jerome O’Connell

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

THE county senior football championship kicks off this weekend and it will be a welcome break from the inter-county scene.
Following the relegation to the bottom tier of the National Football League, a return to the grassroots of the club championship will help to alleviate the doom and gloom surrounding football in the county.
I was on holidays last week when Limerick’s relegation was confirmed to Division Four of the NFL.
The debate as to whether Mickey Ned O’Sullivan should be sacked has passed.
And, last Friday evening a post-league meeting between the football management, officials of the football board and the players agreed to put their best foot forward and move collectively towards the championship.
It’s too late now to be calling for heads to roll.
But let me say, without any doubt, that this group of Limerick senior footballers must contest the Munster senior football final on July 5.
I firmly believe that the squad of players available to Limerick at present, is more talented than that available to John Evans in Tipperary or Frank Doherty in Clare.
All rejoiced when Limerick avoided Kerry and Cork in the provincial championship draw - now is the time for the players, management and officials to ensure that a season full of optimism reaches its potential.
There can be many varied opinions and excuses for the league performance, but D-Day on May 24 in Semple Stadium in Thurles will be judgement day.
There is certainly no arrogance attached to Limerick football, but I don’t think it is out of order to suggest that this squad of players should be beating Tipperary and Clare.
Many of the current players were mixing it with the best in Division One just a couple of seasons ago and all still have plenty football left in their legs.
And, that’s not to mention last season’s championship performances against top notch sides like Cork, Meath and Kildare.
Let’s just hope that all will roll up their sleeves and that the best performances are being saved for when it matters - the championship.
To date Munster football championship results in 2009 have not inspired football followers in the county. The under-21 footballers exited tamely in Cooraclare against Clare when they were clearly good enough to win.
Then in the last 10 days the county’s minor footballers fell at the first hurdle possible in their championship. Firstly came the 2-12 to 1-6 loss to Cork which had sprinklings of promise.
However, the backdoor offered no joy, when Waterford were 0-9 to 0-6 winners this Monday night.
Even after the loss to The Rebels John Colbert’s side could have had the possibility of playing four games of championship football which would no doubt have benefited the squad greatly.
But it was not to be and a poor first quarter and a total of 12 wides saw Limerick exit.
This weekend football followers will look for indicators of form from the varying inter-county senior players on display with their clubs.
The presence of Munster club champions Dromcollogher-Broadford brings a new element to what should be a keenly-contested competition.
There is no doubting that the Munster champions will be a target for all sides and they find themselves in a most interesting group.
Joining John Brudair’s side in Group One are 2007 champions Ballylanders, 2006 champions Fr. Casey’s, 2005 champions Monaleen, ever-improving St. Senan’s and Hospital-Herbertstown. Drom-B’dford and Ballylanders are the big guns and it is interesting that neither compete in the All-County League.
The possibilities in Group Two are endless with all six sides harbouring ideas of progressing to the semi-final or quarter-final.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Limerick’s Lion King

LIMERICK rugby is today celebrating the appointment of Paul O’Connell as Lions captain for this summer’s tour to South Africa - the 29-year-old was unveiled as the man to lead the Lions on their 10-match tour, including three test matches against the Springboks.


The squad will leave for the tour, which includes tests in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, on Sunday, May 24, a day after the Heineken Cup final.
O’Connell, one of six players to start all three Lions tests in New Zealand four years ago, has been in superb form for Munster and Ireland this season.
The Young Munster clubman is the 10th Irish man to skipper the Lions on tour.
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan unveiled the 36-strong squad at a Heathrow airport hotel this lunchtime.
While the exact make-up of the touring party was not available at the time of going to press, Munster were expected to provide the largest contingent from any one club.
Meanwhile Shannon and Garryowen will meet in an AIL semi-final for the second successive season at Coonagh on Saturday (2.30pm).
In order to ease access to Coonagh for Saturday’s big game, Shannon RFC, with the backing of the Gardaí will once again implement a traffic management plan which will facilitate the expected large volume of supporters.
In accordance with the wishes of the Gardaí, no match traffic will be allowed access through the village of Coonagh after 1pm.
Access to the village will be by Garda-issued residential permits only. As was the case for last season’s semi-final, access to Shannon RFC’s ground is via the Clonmacken roundabout on the Condell Road and along the access road for the construction of the new tunnel. The exit on the roundabout will be well sign-posted and attended by stewards. Patrons travelling to the game are advised to arrive early and adhere to the directions of the Gardaí and stewards along the route.
Shannon wish to thank the management and construction team at Direct Route for their assistance and support.
In Division 2 Old Crescent travel to the Mardyke in Cork for a semi-final clash with UCC (2.30pm).
Thomond Park has been announced as the venue for this year’ Division 1 play-off final on Saturday, May 9 for the very first time. The home of Munster Rugby will host Irish club rugby’s end of season showpiece which will see the winners of this Saturday’s semi-finals between Shannon and Garryowen and Cork Constitution and Clontarf clash in the national final.
The AIB League Division 2 and 3 play-off finals will also take place in Limerick on Saturday, May 9 with Dooradoyle, the home of Garryowen FC hosting both games. The AIB League Division 3 final will kick off at 12.00pm, followed by the AIB Division 2 final at 2.00pm.
In other news hooker Frank Sheahan returns to action for the first time since turning out against Connacht in December, in an A game against a Russian selection at Nenagh Ormond RFC tonight (7.30pm). The Russian side hail from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia - where Ireland played a World Cup qualifier some years ago - and are in Ireland on a three-match tour.

Munster A: S Deasy; A Horgan, D Barnes, T Gleeson, M Doyle; J Manning, M Prendergast; D Ryan, F Sheahan, S Archer; D Foley, B Holland; J O’Sullivan, E Grace, N Williams. Replacements: M Essex, T Ryan, I Nagle, C Sheridan, Cusack, D McCarthy.

Colm Kinsella

Minors suffer second defeat

THE Limerick minor footballers have crashed out of the Munster championship losing 0-6 to 0-9 against Waterford in Dungarvan last night.
The teenagers lost to Cork last week, 2-12 to 1-6 in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in round one, and last night failed to Waterford in the backdoor route.
The John Colbert-managed side were left to rue a poor opening period when they trailed 0-4 to no score after 12 minutes.
A wides tally of 12 also hindered Limerick’s progress - The Decies had five wides.
Limerick played with the aid of the wind in the first 30 minutes, but led by cousins Barry and Michael O’Halloran, the home side had four points on the board before Limerick opened their account. Cormac Behan and Jake Mulcahy cut the deficit, but Waterford maintained their advantage into the half time break. The half time scoreboard read 0-5 to 0-2 in favour of the home side in Fraher Field. Two quick frees on the resumption stretched their lead. Limerick reorganised and the move of Mountcollins’ Thomas McCarthy from full-back to midfield was particularly effective. Kilmallock’s Mulcahy and Thomas Quilligan of Newcastle West added further Limerick points, but Waterford maintained a healthy lead.
Waterford: K Williams; C Buckley, R Cahill, S O’Connor; B Nolan, C Faherty, S Lynn; M O’Halloran, S Crotty; S Lawless, B O’Halloran, S Nolan; I Galgaly, P Whyte, K Guiry. Subs: J Power for S Nolan, J Curran for Guiry, G Murphy for Curran.
Limerick: J O’Donoghue; A Morrissey, T McCarthy, S Nicholas; P Martin, A O’Sullivan, P Quinn; J Walsh, M Cussen; C Behan, J Kelly, J Mulcahy; T Quilligan, D Bonfil, P Donna (capt). Subs: J Lee for Donna, J Fitzgerald for Walsh, M Ranahan for Cussen, P O’Sullivan for Nicholas, R Egan for Mulcahy.

Jerome O'Connell

Irish schoolboys must beat England to retain Carnegie Shield

FOLLOWING last night’s result, when Northern Ireland beat Wales three-nil, the Republic of Ireland under-18 schoolboys must beat England next Friday night to retain the Carnegie Centenary Shield.
Northern Ireland, although they have already lost two-nil against the Republic, lead the group on nine points with their neighbours, who are captained by Limerick CBS’ Jason Hughes and also feature Crescent Comprehensive’s Ian Storan, trailing by two points.
The Republic of Ireland won the Carnegie Shield last season and will be favourites to beat England on Friday night.
The game, which will be televised live on Sky Sports, will be played at Waterford’s RSC stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).
England, on six points, also enjoy on outside chance of wrestling the prestigious title away from the Irish schoolboys - England lost one-nil to Northern Ireland, but have beaten Wales and Scotland.
The Republic of Ireland will face Friday night’s game in confidence having beaten Wales (3-1) and Northern Ireland (2-0) and drawing one-all with Scotland.
The Republic, under the leadership of manager Hugh Colhoun have enjoyed huge success in this competition - the Republic also beat England last season at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light to win the 2008 tournament.
In the last ten meetings between the two sides Ireland have enjoyed the upper hand only losing once to their english counterparts since 1995.
In the intervening period Ireland beat England six times while drawing three times.
The under-18 schoolboys team received a huge boost when seven members of the side, namely James Keohane, Paul Corry, Shane Howard, Andrew Boyle, Jason Dwane, Jason Hughes and Ian Storan were selected on the Republic of Ireland under-18 squad who travelled to Larnaca to play Cyprus in two friendly matches recently. This experience at international level should give the boys the edge they need to overcome the English side.
England last captured the Centenary Shield in 2002 and are eager to avenge their defeat of last season.
Tickets for the Republic of Ireland versus England game at the RSC in Waterford cost €5 for adults, €2 for students.
Tickets are available from Mairead Collins, FAI Schools International Secretary, by calling 087 954 8661 or e-mail: secfais@oceanfree.net

Squad: Aaron McCarey (St. Macartan’s College), Neil Harney (St. Aloysius College), Ian Storan (Crescent College Comprehensive), Garvan Broughall (Athlone Community College), Tomas Boyle (Salesian College), Jason Hughes (CBS Sexton Street, Limerick), Gary Burke (Larkin Community College), Paul Corry (Belvedere College), Carl Forsyth (Cabinteely Community School), Shane Howard (Colaiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Carlow), Brian Gaffney (St. Joseph’s College, Galway), Andrew Boyle (Colaiste Phadraig CBS, Lucan), James Keohane (CBS Kilkenny), Jason Dwane (St. Peter’s College, Dunboyne), Robert Benson (Marist College, Athlone), Gerard Hanley (St. Joseph’s College, Galway), Danny Fallon (Sancta Maria College), Cillian Morrison (St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny).

Brian McDonnell

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ian McGeechan will name O’Connell as Lions captain

LIMERICK MAN Paul O’Connell is set to be unveiled as Lions’ captain for this summer’s tour to South Africa in London tomorrow.
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan will name his 36-man touring party and skipper at a Heathrow Airport Hotel at 1.30pm on Tuesday.
Twenty-nine-year-old O’Connell is in line to be announced as team captain ahead of his Irish team mate Brian O’Driscoll.
Sixty-two time capped lock O’Connell played in the Lions three Test matches in their 2005 tour to New Zealand.


He was inspirational in Ireland’s Grand Slam success last month and has been in outstanding form for Munster this season.
Munster skipper Paul O’Connell is this week savouring Young Munster’s achievement of avoiding the drop to Division 2 of the All-Ireland League, thanks to a last gasp 17-14 victory over UCD at Belfield on Saturday.
O’Connell, who assisted with a number of Munsters’ training sessions during the season, was in constant contact with the club President Declan Edwards via text messages on Saturday to find out how the side was faring in their make-or-break tie with UCD.
Declan Edwards said he believed O’Connell was the right man to lead the Lions in their 10-match tour to South Africa: “I feel that Paul (O’Connell) is without doubt the right man to lead the Lions. (Ian) McGeechan likes forwards to captain his sides. History has shown that. Paul (O’Connell) is a leader of men. He commands huge respect worldwide. He deserves to be captain.
“And we cannot forget Keith Earls either. Hopefully he will be included in the squad for South Africa too.”
Lions legend Jim Telfer already hinted that Paul O’Connell will be announced as the captain of the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour.
The man who was Ian McGeechan’s forwards coach on the last Lions trip to South Africa 12 years ago told BBC Wales that he wanted the Munster giant to be given the role. Telfer has been used by fellow Scot McGeechan as a selection adviser in the build up to Tuesday’s announcement.
“I would give the captaincy to Paul O’Connell. I would go for a forward in South Africa,” said Telfer.
“They always try to intimidate you in South Africa. They did it to us in 1968 and they will try to do the same thing again this summer.”
Meanwhile Limerick sides enjoyed a hugely successful final series of regular seasons games in the AIL on Saturday.
Shannon and Garryowen will meet in a Division 1 semi-final next Saturday in Coonagh as a result of both sides securing bonus point wins at the weekend.
The game is a repeat of last season’s semi-final when Garryowen ran out convincing winners.
Young Munster pulled off their own version of the ‘great escape’ at the Belfield Bowl when a last gasp drop goal from Mike Prendergast ensured the Clifford Park side’s survival in Division 1 of the AIL for another season. Declan Edwards said: “With the drop goal the ball skipped off the top of the crossbar and into the air.
“There was silence at the ground. Thankfully, the ball dropped at the right side of the crossbar from our point of view.
“We had to weather another attack from UCD before the final whistle blew.
“For us it is vital to be playing in Division 1B next season. It would have been a disaster to drop out.
“It’s great for the players and for our coaches who have given so much.”
Young Munsters will play in the new-look eight-team Division 1B next season.
UL Bohemian already assured of their place in Division 1B suffered a final day defeat to Blackrock College.
Meanwhile gritty Thomond secured their Division 2 status for next season after securing an impressive 29-15 victory over Bective Rangers at Fitzgerald Park on Saturday.
Old Crescent set up a Division 2 semi-final meeting with UCC next weekend as a result of their 21-19 away victory over Malone.
Bruff’s hopes of securing a top four finish ended with their 3-10 defeat by Greystones.

Colm Kinsella

Minors face Waterford in Dungarvan

JUST over 24 hours after his two goals helped Kilmallock into the FAI under-17 National Cup final, Paul Donna captains the Limerick minor footballers into their make-or-break Munster Championship play-off game against Waterford this evening.
The corner-forward will be joined in the Limerick minor attack by his soccer team-mate Jake Mulcahy.
After last week’s loss to Cork, the Limerick minor footballers enter the backdoor stage this evening (6.30) in Fraher Field Dungarvan. If Limerick prevail this evening they will then face Tipperary on Saturday night.
Limerick manager John Colbert has made personel and positional changes from the side that lost 2-12 to 1-6 to Cork in Pairic Ui Chaoimh.
Mungret duo Jack Walsh and Michael Cussen now form the midfield partnership. Monaleen pair Sean Nicholas and Padraig Quinn are in defence while a third member of the club Darragh Bonfil is at full-forward. Into the team comes Newcastle West’s Thomas Quilligan to join his club-mate James Kelly in the forward unit.
Limerick team: Jack O’Donohoe (Ballysteen); Aidan Morrissey (Croom), Tom McCarthy (Mountcollins), Sean Nicholas (Monaleen); Paul Martin (Ballybricken), Aidan O’Sullivan (Bruff), Padraig Quinn (Monaleen); Jack Walsh (Mungret), Michael Cussen (Mungret); Cormac Behan (Croom), James Kelly (Newcastle West), Jake Mulcahy (Kilmallock); Thomas Quilligan (Newcastle West); Darragh Bonfil (Monaleen), Paul Donna (Kilmallock). Subs: Donal O’Sullivan (Monaleen), Patrick O’Sullivan (Monagea), Eoin Cahill (Mungret), Paul Hannan (Newcastle West), Robert Egan (Kilmallock), Jack Fitzgerald (Glin), Eoghan Kelly (Fr. Casey’s), Jamie Lee (Newcastle West), Mark Ranahan (Ballysteen).

Jerome O'Connell.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hurlers renew rivalry with Tipp

LIMERICK’S clash with Tipperary in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday (2.30pm) has the makings of a very spicy soup indeed. Some will argue that there’s little of material worth to play for in the final round of the Allianz National Hurling League, but there’s always something to play for when the opportunity presents itself to write another chapter in the most parochial GAA conflict of them all.


Although their last meeting (Tipperary won 2-20 to 2-9 in Thurles during last year’s league) was entirely forgettable games between these two neighbours, for the past five years at least, have captured the imagination of the entire country.
Limerick have faced down Tipperary ten times in the past five years and although the Shannonsiders have won only two of those encounters, drawn four and lost four they can still boast a win from their last championship meeting - Limerick, unforgettably, saw off Tipp 0-22 to 2-13 after three extraordinary games in 2007.
Limerick progressed to the 2007 All-Ireland final and although they were expected to push on from there in 2008, for one reason or another, they failed to do so.
Media Cassandras then suggested that this current bunch of Limerick hurlers were ‘finished’. The task of pin-pointing Limerick’s self-destruction last year has weakened many a stout heart on Shannonside and has been exasperated by Tipp’s progress during the intervening period - while Limerick languished in the doldrums Tipperary went on to win both the league and Munster championship.
Limerick need a good performance against Tipp and, perhaps, they even need to win the game. That would leave the Shannonsiders in promising shape for their championship meeting with Waterford and since the Tipperary panel spent the past week or so in La Manga training three times a day winning this game is not beyond Justin McCarthy’s men. Tipp will be hot favourites for the game, but, at times, life as an underdog can be fun.
Although pub discussions are by nature whimsical they remain an accurate barometer of that which occupies the minds of hurling people.
The make-up of Justin McCarthy’s starting team for June 14 occupies the minds of Limerick supporters and it’s hard to blame them. Justin McCarthy, after all, doesn’t give away much.
So what have we learned from the league campaign?
Well, McCarthy has employed the services of 28 different players thus far. Since the following men have featured in all six games it would appear likely that they will find themselves starting against Waterford - Brian Murray, Damien Reale, Stephen Lucey, Stephen Walsh, Seamus Hickey, Paul Browne, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and David Breen have started all six games while Gavin O’Mahoney has started five and found himself introduced as a substitute on one occasion.
Patrickswell’s Brian Murray looks certain to start in goal. Damien Reale and Stephen Lucey have cemented their positions in the full-back line while Tom Condon, Mark O’Riordan and Stephen Walsh have all been tried in the left corner.
Four players have been employed in the half-back line thus far. Brian Geary has hurled at centre-back for four consecutive games now while the Monaleen man has been accompanied by Stephen Walsh and Gavin O’Mahoney with glaring regularity. Seamus Hickey has, of course, occupied the wing on four occasions, but McCarthy has moved the Murroe-Boher man out to midfield for the past two games. With Hickey prospering in that role the battle for five and seven looks to be down to a straight fight between Walsh, O’Mahoney and, of course, Adare’s Mark Foley.
Donal O’Grady is an automatic choice for one of the midfield berths while Seamus Hickey looks the strongest candidate to accompany the Granagh-Ballingarry man. Paul Browne started four games in this sector, but it looks as if he will miss out.
Once fit it will be hard to look beyond Ollie Moran at centre-forward. Mike O’Brien played there three times in the league while James O’Brien, Jim Ryan, Bryan O’Sullivan and Niall Moran also enjoyed an opportunity to show McCarthy what they had to offer. Niall Moran, scoring an impressive 3-29 thus far, looks likely to accompany his brother Ollie in the half-forward line which leaves Mike O’Brien the most likely candidate for right half-forward.
Andrew O’Shaughnessy and David Breen have started every league game and so that leaves the left corner-forward position open. Richie McCarthy, Donie Ryan and Pat Tobin have all enjoyed stints there with Tobin starting the last two games at 15.

Brian McDonnell

Munster host Connacht at Thomond Park

TEAM manager Shaun Payne is confident Munster can manage their playing resources successfully over the remainder of the season to ensure the province continues its strong bid for both Magners League and Heineken Cup honours - table-toppers Munster return to Magners League action this Saturday night at Thomond Park when Connacht visit Limerick for a crucial sell-out round 15 tie (7.30pm).
Leaders Munster, already odds-on favourites to win the competition, will be hoping to avenge their shock defeat at the hands of Michael Bradley’s Connacht when the sides met at the Sportsground in Galway at Christmas - Ian Keatley landed four penalty goals for the home side to give them their first win over Munster in 12 seasons and their first home success over their Irish rivals in 29 years.
Munster currently enjoy a seven-point lead over Leinster at the top of the Magners League with just four series of games remaining.
The Munster management team is likely to make several changes from the side which demolished the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup.
Munster team manager Shaun Payne said the management of playing resources over the coming weeks would be critical as the province aims to complete a famous double: “There has been a lot of rugby for the Grand Slam guys. And it is not just the physical aspect of that, there is the mental side too. You are getting up and getting down the whole time for these really, really important games. It is every bit as mentally tiring as it is physically. I think we have managed to manage that very well this season.
“We have the Connacht game coming up. That is huge for us given our position in the Magners League.
“We will manage the squad. We have a squad which is fully capable - you saw that in the All Blacks game. We have a minimal amount of injuries. There is plenty of scope.”
Munster’s victory over the Ospreys was their eighth straight success in all competitions. The Magners League leaders will be out to improve on their losing record against Irish provinces in the league this season.
Munster have lost three of their five fixtures against the Irish provinces.

Tony McGahan
Munster coach Tony McGahan said they would decide how much game time players get between now and the end of the season on ‘a case by case basis’: “We wanted to be competing well on all fronts and the next two games in the Magners is very important. But we only have to look at our training and the players in their last two outings have been very fresh and played with a lot of intensity so that’s down to great work from our S & C (strength and conditioning) department. We need to keep continuing to look at that and make sure the players are looking forward to playing a game at the weekend.
“We’ve put forward many times that we have a huge depth in our squad and certainly we’ve looked to make sure that players are well rested. They’ve come back off a lot of rugby; they’ve had a lot of high intensity rugby and we want them looking forward to the weekend.
“We need to make decisions on how many games they play and keep monitoring them. It will be case by case with each player and we’ll address that during the week.”
Connacht, who exited the European Challenge Cup at the hands of Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend, did secure an impressive 39-17 victory at home to the Dragons last time out in the Magners League. It was the western province’s first bonus-point success in the league since January 2007.
Connacht have won just once on the road in the Magners League since September 2006, an 13-11 victory away to the Dragons 12 months ago.
Connacht are set to have two Limerick-born players in their squad, dynamic hooker Sean Cronin and centre Keith Matthews, who impressed in their victory over Munster earlier in the season.

Colm Kinsella

Leinster clash will be an event to cherish

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan believes next month’s Heineken Cup semi-final clash with Leinster at Croke Park is a sporting event to cherish.
A world record attendance for a club rugby fixture is set to attend the Saturday, May 2 semi-final clash of the two fierce Irish rivals at Croke Park.
A capacity crowd of 82,500 is set to pack the GAA venue. A full house at Croker next month would surpass the previous world record for a club rugby game, the 81,600 which attended last year’s Guinness Premiership final between Wasps and Leicester at Twickenham.
Munster coach, Tony McGahan is eagerly looking forward to bringing his charges to GAA headquarters: “It is a massive achievement to get to Croke Park and it is a once-off opportunity to play there. For us, being involved with Munster and to have the chance to play such an important game at such an historic venue is a tremendous achievement and one we will look forward to and cherish.”
Munster will appear in their eighth Heineken Cup semi-final when they face Leinster in a mouth-watering clash on the first Saturday in May. The game has a 5.30pm kick-off time and will be televised live on Sky Sports.
RTE TV will show highlights of the tie later in the evening.
Some 5,000 tickets, which went on sale on Ticketmaster on Sunday evening for the game, were sold out within half an hour.
Both Munster and Leinster will get an equal allocation of tickets for the match with ERC distributing 30,000 to each province.
Munster’s 30,000 tickets will be allocated in line with Thomond Park Heineken Cup pool games, with an additional amount of tickets held for commercial partners and the balance split between the Munster Clubs and the Munster Rugby Supporters Club.
There are approximately 10,000 tickets available to purchase for Croke Park premium seat and corporate suite holders.
An additional 1,500 tickets will be sold with official hospitality packages and the remaining tickets will be allocated to European club rugby stake holders and partners.
Tickets are priced at €25 for terrace tickets, with concessions available at €12 for under 16s.
Stand tickets for the big game are priced at €45 each.
A statement on the Munster web site explains that it is unlikely that any tickets will go on public sale, but supporters are asked to keep an eye on the website, www.munsterrugby.ie, for further details.
Next month’s clash of Munster and Leinster should see the 14th European tournament become the first to attract 1,000,000 fans through the turnstiles.
Resilient prop John Hayes is in line to break Anthony Foley’s record number of appearances in the Heineken Cup in the semi-final clash.
Hayes, who received a huge ovation from the capacity attendance when substituted during the second half of Sunday’s quarter-final win over Ospreys, is in line to make his 87th appearance in the Heineken Cup on Saturday, May 2.
Cappamore’s 35-year-old John Hayes made his Heineken Cup debut against Petrarca Rugby in September 1998.
The second Heineken Cup semi-final will take place on Sunday, May 3 when the Cardiff Blues face the Leicester Tigers at the Millennium Stadium. Kick-off for that semi-final is 3pm.

Colm Kinsella

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

THE ‘Green and White’ duo of Ciaran Crowe and Joe Lyons continue to excel with their excellent production.
The Easter offering of the Limerick GAA magazine has been distributed to the primary school children of the county.
Now in its 13th year, ‘Green and White’ has a superb new glossy look - 32 pages in full colour to commemorate the 125 years of the GAA.
The joint-editors Crowe and Lyons continue to win nation awards for their Limerick GAA Youth Magazine.


The magazine can also be read online at www.thegreenandwhite.com
In the latest publication, and the first of three annual editions, there is a superb four-page interview with Limerick hurling manager Justin McCarthy, a review of Niall Moran and Seamus Hickey’s celebrity fund-raising efforts, a round-up of all primary schools GAA activity and plenty of pictures.
The Green and White is a non-profit publication. Magazines are sold at below cost price. This generates approximately half of the required funding.
The shortfall is made up by subscriptions from every club and through grants from Limerick Development Draw, Limerick County Board, the Divisional Boards and Limerick’s Cumann na mBunscol Boards.
I firmly believe that the magazine has a greater appeal that just school children.
The editors of the Green and White agree and are making enquires to find retailers throughout Limerick to stock the magazine. Interested shop owners are asked to contact Gerry Bennis in the Gaelic Grounds office.

All-County League
WITH the newly restructured All-County Hurling and Football Leagues now up and running the Limerick Leader hopes to be in a position to print a weekly round-up of the fixtures and updated league tables.
All games are scheduled for Tuesday nights, so Leader Sport needs assistance if this venture is to succeed.
To assist the weekly round-up, club officials, PRO’S, team managers, players or indeed supporters are invited to submit scores and one or two lines of interest to joconnell@limerickleader.ie no later than 10am on the Wednesday morning after the round of fixtures on the previous night.
Round one of the football league appears to have run smoothly, but just a handful of results were submitted to the County Board after the first round of the ACHL.
I assume that the relevant fines will be imposed as per Rule 14 of the Master Fixture list.
From a club perspective, surely the cost of a text, phone call or email would be cheaper than the fine in these times of economic uncertainty.

Senior football championship
THE Limerick’s Live 95FM sponsored county senior football championship is just two weeks away now and ahead of the kick-off it’s certainly the most anticipated championship ever.
Of course the presence of the Munster club champions Dromcollogher-Broadford has heightened the interest in the competition this season.
And to defend their county and provincial titles John Brudair’s side face a severe test which will surely bring large crowds to the six games in each round.
All eyes will focus on Group One where the reigning champions are joined by 2007 champions Ballylanders, 2006 champions Fr. Casey’s and 2005 champions Monaleen.
Completing the six-team group are last season’s semi-finalists St. Senan’s and Hospital-Herbertstown.
Group Two could be the launch pad for the 2009 surprise packets. There must be a great incentive for all six teams in this group to reach the knockout stages.
Adare, Newcastle West and Pallasgreen would be seen as the leading contenders, but intermediate champions Ballysteen, 2005 finalists St. Kieran’s and dual senior club Claughaun will also fancy their chances ahead of the first round on the weekend of April 24-26.

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

THEY came, they saw, they were conquerored. But the result of the match didn’t stop them having a ball!
The thousands of Ospreys rugby supporters who descended on Limerick at the weekend for their Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown with Munster were lavish in their praise of the hospitality they received on Shannonside.


Despite the fact that hundreds of Ospreys fans who travelled to Limerick by ferry and bus got little or no sleep on Saturday or Sunday nights, they were quick to make their feelings known about their experiences of their visit to Ireland’s.
Below is a sample of just three accounts from Ospreys fans which were posted on the munsterfans.com website this week. ‘Phil In Merthyr’: “The welcome we got in Limerick yesterday was the best I’ve experienced in an away trip. Before the game and after the game the Munster supporters were superb.
“There was no gloating at the stuffing you gave us and the reception we got while being given a police escort on the three buses out of Limerick, so we could avoid the traffic to get back to the ferry, made us feel like royalty as you stood and clapped us as we passed.”
‘Osprey Steve’: “Yeah, awesome team, (Munster) awesome supporters. Had a great time in Clohessy’s pub and when I asked bloke next to me why he was shouting for ‘Quins, he said: ‘More chance of a ticket’. Locals in Limerick were quality as well and couldn’t have been more helpful. Anyone know when the date for the ml (Magners League) game v us is confirmed, as I will be back. Good luck in the rest of your games (unless you meet Cardiff ) tho’ the way you played yesterday, no one would have stopped you.”
‘Leap Osprey’: “My daughter and her friend said exactly the same thing. True rugby supporters, the world over, behave in this way!
“This is what sets our game apart. As I met my daughter off the bus in Swansea at 2:30 this morning (Monday), 2 Munster supporters also got off this Ospreys-organised trip. I thought at the time that this sums up the true spirit of the game. Rugby is truly an international language. “Well done, Munster and good luck for the next two games!.”

Hammered
While the Ospreys of supporters seemed to enjoy their visit to the mid-west - apart from the result, obviously- their team took a bit of a hammering in the Welsh press.
Andy Howell’s report in the Western Mail was stinging in its criticism of the Ospreys.
These are some extracts from it: “Heads must roll at the Ospreys following their humiliating exit from the Heineken Cup yesterday. Don’t be deceived by this scoreline, which was a record defeat for a Welsh region at the knock-out stage of the European showpiece - they could have lost by more! . . .
“Of the eight possibles who could make this summer’s Lions tour of Australia only two - Ireland star Tommy Bowe and Wales prop Adam Jones - emerged with their reputations intact yesterday. . .
“On and off-the field, the hosts showed the Ospreys the way to go, playing with freedom and confidence.
“Even the pre-match entertainment for the capacity 26,000 crowd at a magnificent, rebuilt stadium was sensational.
“It put the Ospreys or, for that matter, any of the Welsh regions to shame with live bands and a choir.”

Match tickets
Finally, the desperate search for a match ticket ahead of Sunday’s tie at Thomond Park resulted in one middle-aged supporter making the long walk through Thomondgate a full two hours before kick-off carrying a sign.
It read: “Bald and Ticketless.” The sign certainly got noticed by passing motorists and walkers alike who saw the humour in it. I wonder did the support succeed in getting a ticket in the end? He deserved one for his creative streak alone.

Trevor Halstead
Speaking of Munster, could one of the province’s former centres make a dramatic return to high profile action for the Sharks in their clash with the Lions this summer in South Africa?
Trevor Halstead, never-to-be-forgetton by Munster fans after his try-scoring exploits in the 2006 Heineken Cup final, is one the comeback trail.
The 32-year-old former Springbok centre recently played his first game in two years for the Sharks XV in the Vodacom Cup.
The six times capped 105kg centre, who spent two seasons with Munster, retired from professional rugby in 2007.
However, the 32-year-old gave a solid display in his comeback game for the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup team against the lowly Eastern Province Mighty Elephants.
Halstead formed a formidable midfield partnership with Andries Strauss in the Sharks XVs 68-6 demolition of their opponents.
The winners ran in 10 tries, 9 of which were converted. The Sharks XV maintained their winning ways to clinch a home quarter-final in the domestic tournament.
The Lions face the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday, 10 June, although Halstead will have to battle with the Super 14 players for a place in the side to meet the tourists.
However, with the Sharks flying high in the Super 14 table at present, it might well be that a number of the leading players could find themselves involved with the Springbok squad at that time.
Watch this space!
Meanwhile, current Munster centre Keith Earls has made a strong late push to become a surprise inclusion in Ian McGeechan’s Lions squad to tour South Africa.
Twenty one-year-old Earls bagged a brace of tries in Munster’s demolition of the Ospreys at Thomond Park, including a terrific 65th minute effort when he defied both opposition scrum half Mike Phillips and gravity to score in the left corner.
Despite his relative lack of experience as full international level, Earls has made a strong case for inclusion in the 35 or 36-man squad which will be named by coach Ian McGeechan at the Heathrow Hotel on Tuesday next.
Munster coach Tony McGahan agreed Keith Earls had made a strong case for inclusion with his recent eye-catching displays for Munster.
“We said after the Six Nations that we would hope the 12 players who represented Ireland would have every opportunity of being selected in the Lions squad, as well as a few smokies,” Tony McGahan said.
“Keith Earls has certainly put his hand up.”

Hoping to get back on track

LIMERICK FC enjoy an ideal opportunity to put the pain of Monday night’s penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of the Wexford Youths behind them when they face a struggling Kildare County at Jackman Park on Friday night (7.45pm).

Although the Super Blues enjoyed a monopoly of possession during that EA Sports Cup clash against the Wexford Youths, and had beaten Noel O’Connor’s men 2-0 in the league on Friday night last, they struggled to break down the visitors to Jackman Park and after a one-all draw lost on penalties (3-5) when ‘keeper Pa Doyle guessed right and saved Martin Deady’s spot kick.
Limerick FC, however, will be raging hot favourites to beat Kildare County next Friday night.
Shamrock Rovers (3-0) dumped Kildare County out of the EA Sports Cup on Monday last while the Thoroughbreds lost a league encounter to Mervue United (0-3) on Friday night last.
Limerick proved four goals (4-0) too good for Mervue when the Galway side visited Jackman Park earlier this season and since Kildare have conceded 26 goals (23 in the league) in seven games thus far the Super Blues will be hoping to take advantage of a struggling defence.
Pat Scully recorded his first league win on Friday night last when goals from Colin Scanlon and Paul Walsh (penalty) helped Limerick to a 2-0 win away to the Wexford Youths.
Scully rested the majority of his side for the return game against the Wexford Youths in Monday night’s EA Sports Cup clash and is expected to name a strong side for the visit of Kildare County - the signing of Shane Tracy, who was formerly on the books of Arsenal, has also bolstered the Limerick FC squad.
Kildare County conceded three headed goals against Mervue United last weekend and the significance of that fact will not be lost on a manager as experienced as Scully.
It is not known at this point whether Pat Scully will employ the talents of Jason Hughes and Ian Storan on Friday night.
Both did play their part on Monday night last, but it is likely that these talented schoolboys will be rested in view of their international commitments.
Hughes (Limerick CBS) and Storan (Crescent Comp.) join Pike Rovers’ Eoin Hanrahan on the Republic of Ireland under-18 schoolboy side which faces England at the RSC, Waterford on Friday, April 24.
The game, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports (7.35pm), will serve as the deciding game in this season’s Carnegie Centenary Shield. The Republic, having beaten Wales and Northern Ireland and having drawn with Scotland are in pole position, but defeat in Waterford could cost the Republic of Ireland their chance of successfully defending the trophy they won so emphatically in 2008.
Meanwhile Limerick have also launched the club’s very first soccer camp. The Easter camp is taking place at Abbey Rovers ground in Abbeyvale, Corbally and was completely booked out running from 10am to 1.30pm every day costing €50 per child aged between five and 12 years. Each participant received expert coaching from Limerick FC players including Colin Scanlan, Wayne Colbert, Conor Molan, Brian O’Callaghan, Derek Daly, Shane Tracey, Bobby Tier and ‘keeper Brian Collopy.
At the end of the camp each child received a certificate from the club as well as a gift pack which included a ticket for the Limerick FC versus Kildare County match at Jackman Park on Friday night. The camp was run by Colin Scanlan and Paddy Hartnett who were so overwhelmed by the response they have decided to continue with weekly soccer camps as well as running summer camps. The summer camps will take place in a number of venues across Limerick city and county and if your club would like to host one of these camps, or if you are interested in booking a place for your child please contact the club on 085 130 5752, 086 301 9408 or 061 324 563.
Alternatively you can email the Super Blues on academy@limerickfc.ie.

Brian McDonnell