Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Clare stand in Limerick’s way

A MUNSTER senior football championship final appearance will be the carrot when Limerick travel to Ennis on June 7 for the provincial semi-final, which will take place in Cusack Park.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s side are bidding for a final spot for the first time since 2003 - Cork and Kerry play in the other semi-final on the same day as Limerick cross the river Shannon.

Ahead of the trip up the N18, the Limerick manager is playing down the role of favourites: “Championship football is championship football - it doesn’t matter the opposition. Clare will have the advantage - they have had us in their sights for six months while we had Tipp. They have the benefit of seeing our strengths and our weaknesses. Clare will be very tough - they have had the benefit of dissecting us and looking at us.”
Of great benefit to Limerick will be team coach Donie Buckley - a former Clare senior football manager.
When the sides last met in 2006, Limerick were 2-5 to 0-8 winners on a wet day in the Gaelic Grounds.
Ennis based Garda Stephen Kelly looks set to miss out on the semi-final.
A broken bone in his hand confined the Newcastle West man to a role as waterboy in Thurles and he is not due to have his cast removed until the day after the Clare game.
Pa Ranahan will receive treatment this week on his hamstring injury.
The Ballysteen man was a doubt for the Tipperary game, but came through a late fitness test. He was replaced 10 minutes from full time by Lorcan O’Dwyer.
One player that looks likely to have no further involvement this season is Mike Crowley. The Monaleen man departed the panel in the days before the Tipperary game and it appears he will not be rejoining the panel.
Mickey Ned and management will be hoping that a number of their squad come through this weekend’s round of county hurling championship games injury free.
O’Sullivan believes that the pain of relegation in the National Football League was the catalyst for Limerick’s win in Thurles.
“The lads knew that they weren’t that bad and they were determined to show what they could do,” explained O’Sullivan in reference to the league relegation.
“That’s part and parcel of being involved in football,” said the manager of the criticism after the league. You are going to get stick and you have to turn it into a positive”.
Limerick raced from the blocks and were 1-8 to 1-1 ahead at half time with Tipperary’s goal coming in injury time in the first half as Limerick dominated.
Then all went wrong as the lead was down to two points entering the final quarter.
“That was an outstanding first half - perhaps we were too far ahead at half time, the intensity begins to drop. Tipperary gathered momentum and that is very hard to stop. At half time the big danger is to get lads head right because we went in with a similar lead in Kilmallock in the league and within 20 minutes Tipperary had it down so we were very conscious of that.”
The Munster final will take place on July 5. If its Limerick v Kerry, the venue would be the Gaelic Grounds, while a Limerick v Cork final would be in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Jerome O’Connell

‘We have got to want to play for each other’

A DECADE on from starring with the Irish Colleges’ team in South Africa, Paul O’Connell returned to the rugby hotbed this week to captain the Lions on their mammoth 10-match tour.

Giant lock O’Connell and his team mates have stepped up their preparation’s for Saturday’s opening tour match with the Royal XV at Rustenburg (2pm Irish time).
O’Connell is one of five Munster players in line to make the starting line-up for this weekend’s clash.
The other Munster representatives hoping to feature in the fixture when the match day ‘22’ is confirmed this Thursday are David Wallace, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan.
Recalling his first visit to South Africa as a rugby player a decade ago, Paul O’Connell said he was instantly taken with the fiery passion the South African players possessed during that tour.
“I played in South Africa in 1999 for the Irish Colleges side and I’ll never forget how big their players were, how fast over hard grounds and how skilful they were,” O’Connell said.
“They have a fiery passion about their rugby that’s stronger, more aggressive than Kiwis.
“There’s nothing to compare with this experience, nothing.
“The closest I can think of in another sport would be the Ryder Cup- but without the blood and bruises.
“You play every game away, you are always in a hostile environment and you are charged with creating a team out of players from varied cultures and playing styles.
Paul O’Connell said he was excited by the manner in which the players from the four Home Unions had gelled since coming together last week.
“I think there’s a big buzz,” the giant Munster lock O’Connell said.
“There are a lot fewer people than I was used to four years ago and that’s the best thing about it.
“Everyone is on the pitch at the same time, everyone is in the gym together and everyone fits into the team room as one.
“I think there’s a lot of good friendships being made, a lot of characters emerging already and that’s going to be a big thing for us.
“Clive (Woodward) tried something different in 2005 which looked good on paper but we struggled.
“It was a tough tour because so many things were not in our favour.
“We had a very big squad and a very big coaching staff and, straight away, we failed to come together as a team.
“First of all, we have got to be a team.
“We have got to want to play for each other, first and foremost.
“If you have bonds, you will always be willing to play for others in the team and that will make a big difference.
“We are massive underdogs but we have a smaller coaching staff and a guy who knows the Lions inside out in Ian McGeechan.”
O’Connell said it was now up to the players to perform as the Lions hadn’t done the tradition proud in New Zealand four years ago.
“I said recently that the talent is there in the group, the coaching is there in the group and now it’s up to us to perform as a team,” Paul O’Connell insisted.
“I think it’s important that when the players wear the jersey on this tour, they live up to the tradition and the history of the jersey.
“I think when you look back at some of the players that have won the British & Irish Lions jersey down the years, there were great players.
“Maybe in 2005 we didn’t live up to that.
“A lot of things went against us on the tour and at the same time I don’t think we did the tradition proud.
“I think for me personally, looking back at 2005 is a big motivation.
“I know for a few other guys that were on the tour, it’s the same thing.
“Living up to the tradition of the jersey is a big thing for us.
“A lot of us when we play for our clubs give everything playing for Munster or Ireland.
“I think the same thing applies when we play for the British & Irish Lions.”

Colm Kinsella

Ireland seek improved performance

IRISH coach Declan Kidney will be looking for a much improved display from his charges when they face the Eddie O’Sullivan-coached USA Eagles in the Setanta Challenge Cup in San Francisco on Sunday night (9pm).
Experimental Ireland, featuring six new caps, stuttered to a hard-earned 25-6 victory over Canada in Vancouver last weekend.
Eddie O’Sullivan, of course, coached Ireland to three Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and current Irish team captain Rory Best is looking forward to catching up with the man who gave him his senior debut against New Zealand back in 2005.
“For the boys in the changing room who have worked with Eddie, the likes of myself, it will be good to see him again,” Rory Best said this week.
“I haven’t seen him since he was in charge of the Ireland team. He gave me my chance so, like I said, it will be good to catch up with him.
“For us it will be another game. We have to up our performance and we will be looking to improve.”
Sunday night’s game will be televised live on Setanta Ireland - coverage begins at 8.30pm.
UL Bohemian and Munster star Barry Murphy scored his first full international try in Saturday’s victory over Canada.
Twenty-six-year-old Murphy, operating on the right wing, latched onto Darren Cave’s well judged chip ahead to score Ireland’s opening try in the 18th minute.
Ireland led 7-3 at half-time, but it was not until the visitors bagged late tries through new cap Ian Whitten and Munster prop Tony Buckley- also his first for his country- that Declan Kidney’s side could be sure of victory. A total of eight Irish players made their senior debuts in the game.
The new caps included Munster duo, Ian Dowling, who played on the left wing, and flanker Niall Ronan, both of whom made telling contributions to the victory.

Ireland: Gavin Duffy; Barry Murphy, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Ian Dowling; Ian Keatley, Peter Stringer; Tom Court, Rory Best (Capt), Tony Buckley; Bob Casey, Mick O’Driscoll; John Muldoon, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy. Replacements: Mike Ross for Court, Ryan Caldwell for Casey (both 54 mins), Eoin Reddan for Stringer, Donnacha Ryan for Muldoon (both 71 mins).

Colm Kinsella

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

THE Greenhills Hotel will host a Guinness Hurling Supporters Nights on June 3 - supporters will be given the chance to get closer to their hurling heroes at the Guinness Hurling Supporters Nights which will take place around the country with eight events in local pubs during June and July.
Two hundred and fifty fans at each Supporter’s Night will be able to celebrate hurling with a unique insider’s perspective on the hurling issues facing their own county.
Limerick fans will be able to debate the issues and talk about the upcoming championship opener against Waterford in the company of former greats TJ Ryan and Gary Kirby, as well as manager Justin McCarthy and members of the team. Alongside a panel of experts made up of former hurling stars, fans will also be in a position to pose questions to the current manager and players, under the eagle eye of MC Paul Collins of Today FM fame.
The night will run similar to a ‘championship’ preview format, where the panel will analyse previous championship games, including the last championship meet of Limerick and Waterford in the 2007 All-Ireland semi-final.
Supporters will also be able to engage in a Q&A session with the Justin McCarthy and two players, and there will be plenty of prizes on offer on the night from match tickets to signed jerseys and special hurling t-shirts.
Entrance to the event is free, but strictly limited to 250 supporters, who must pre-register in advance by emailing their details to All supporters planning on attending the events must be over 18.
Further information is available via the hurling channel at

Elderly supporters in difficulty
A number of elderly Limerick football supporters had some difficulty getting into Semple Stadium last Sunday.
It’s not that the large crowd made it uncomfortable or anything at the Munster senior football championship quarter-final. Seemingly on approaching the relevant stiles for OAPs there was some confrontation.
According to the Munster Council, OAPs have always been advised that proof of ID is necessary to receive the recession which was €10 last Sunday in Thurles.
So supporters heading to Cusack Park in Ennis on June 7 are warned that no ID will mean no concession.
That provincial football semi-final on Sunday week is not likely to be an all-ticket affair, but Limerick’s Munster senior hurling championship semi-final against Waterford on June 14 will require the purchase of tickets in advance.
Tickets are already available through the 70 clubs of the county. Tickets can also be purchased on the Munster GAA website. On Tuesday June 2, tickets will go on public sale in the Gaelic Grounds between 4.00-8.00pm.
The Munster Council have increased the number of family tickets available this season, while juvenile group passes are also available through the county board.
Senior citizens should note that a refund of €10 is available on stand tickets on “production of valid ID” prior to entering the stadium at designated turnstiles on the day of the game.

Dr. Harty Cup amalgamation
IT appears that the chances of an amalgamation team representing Limerick City schools in the Dr Harty Cup next season are yet to be finalised.
A Munster GAA Schools Council meeting took place last week, but there was no confirmation of the involvement of the proposed city schools side.
It is understood that Castletroy College, St Clements College, Crescent College Comprehensive and St Munchins could be joining forces to enter the Munster senior A colleges hurling championship.
But the provincial council are understood to favour the combining of no more than three schools, so there is a bit of work to be completed before Limerick’s representation in the top level competition increases to two.
Ardscoil Ris are now the flag bearers at this level in Limerick and will be among the pre-competition favourites next season, especially as they are now in a position to attract the top local players to the North Circular Road.

Dispute over underage rugby players drags on

A NUMBER of Limerick rugby clubs remain strongly opposed to an agreement reached between representatives of the North Munster Schools and North Munster Youth Clubs aimed at resolving an on-going dispute over the availability of young rugby players to their second level schools and clubs during the playing season.
The eight-point agreement, which was brokered under the chairmanship of Branch President Nicholas Comyn at the Charleville Park Hotel, was ratified by the Munster Branch at a meeting earlier this month. However, while several North Munster-based clubs are in favour of the accord, a number remain highly critical of it.
The issue is expected to generate a heated debate at next Tuesday night’s AGM of the Munster Branch in Limerick.
Munster Branch officials were anxious to find a resolution to the contentious issue prior to the start of next season. Officials are concerned over the fall-off in numbers playing rugby in their late teens and feel that player burn-out is a major contributing factor to this trend. Both the schools and youth sections of clubs have been invited to send representatives to the Charleville meeting with a mandate to agree a deal.
Under the agreement, schools can panel up to 28 players for their Junior Cup (U-16) and Senior Cup (U-19) teams from September 1. These players will play for their school only.
However, players at this level, who are not included in the panels, can be released back to their clubs on request of the player and consent to release ‘cannot be unreasonably withheld.’ At U-15/U-17 level, McCarthy and Bowen Shield level, the release and availability of players is to be managed by the schools/club liasion officers. After March 18 of each year, all players are to be automatically released to their clubs. The players will be allowed play in North Munster competitions which will be changed to Heineken Cup style format in order to facilitate more games.
An age-group committee will adjudicate on all disputes. Panelled players can be released and non-panelled players can be included in panels, subject to the consent of the players.
However, no temporary de-panelling will be allowed. Finally, a formal letter of release is needed from a school to allow players participate in club youths U-17/U-19 pan-Munster competition.
A Munster Branch source said the agreement could be revisited at the end of next season. However, if the accord turned out to be unworkable during the season, then the new age grade committee had the power to move on the matter in the meantime.
One Limerick-based under-age rugby coach said the reality was that players who were on the fringes of the 28 panelled for the Senior and Junior Cup teams would be reluctant to seek release back to their club. Instead, these players would continue to train with the school teams and would, in effect, not be available to their club.
The coach said that the small number of players turning up for club training for much of the season made it extremely difficult to organise meaningful training sessions. The coach also pointed out that the increase in the number of school friendlies being played on Saturdays, with schools often fielding two sides, also hampered the staging of club training sessions the following day. While there were a few elements of the agreement he agreed with in principal, he was opposed to others due to their vagueness.
The coach said clubs played a key role in introducing players to the game before they arrived in secondary school as well as helping them develop as players after their school days and this invaluable contribution should not be overlooked.
One school’s coach said he was in favour of the agreement as it now stands, insisting schools had made concessions in helping to draw it up.
The coach said the player burn-out issue was of real concern, given the amount of matches and training sessions across a number of sports, teenagers were engaged in at present.

Schools cup draw
THE draws for the quarter-final, first round games, in next season’s Munster Schools Senior and Junior Cups have been made.
The 2009/2010 Munster Schools’ Senior Cup quarter-finals: Rockwell College v St Munchin’s College, Ardscoil Ris v PBC, Glenstal Abbey/B School v Castletroy College, Crescent College Comprehensive v CBC. The 2009/2010 Munster Schools’ Junior Cup quarter-finals: Crescent College Comprehensive v PBC, Ardscoil Ris v St Munchin’s College, Castletroy College v Rockwell College, Glenstal Abbey/B School v CBC. Ties likely to be played towards the end of January 2010.

Colm Kinsella

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

REPORTS from South Africa this week suggest that local rugby supporters are more taken with the Bulls’ Super 14 final against the Chiefs this Saturday rather than the Lions opening tour match with a Royal XV earlier the same day.
That’s if the demand for tickets for both games is anything to go by. But once Saturday’s Super 14 decider is over, then the Lions will have the rugby scene in South Africa all to themselves.
Since the squad’s arrival in Johannesburg this week, head coach Ian McGeechan has made some significant changes from the most recent Lion tours.
McGeechan is keen to develop the bond between the players during the 10-game tour and has ended the single-room policy adopted by Sir Clive Woodward in New Zealand four years ago.

So Munster’s five Lions can expect to be sharing rooms with squad members from the other Home Nations during the course of the tour.
The Lions were based in Auckland for most of the 2005 tour, keeping travel to a minimum, but the 2009 Lions will travel from west to east and north to south.
“I can understand Clive’s thinking, but sharing rooms breaks down barriers and you like to see as much of a country as you can when on tour,” Wales out-half Stephen Jones, who was in New Zealand four years ago, explained.
“One of the significant things during our training week in Bagshot before we left for South Africa was that when you went down to breakfast in the morning or went into the dining room in the evening, players were mixing freely.
“There was no huddle of Welsh players on one table, Irish on another and English on a third. A beauty of a Lions tour is getting to know players from other countries and sharing rooms is a sure way of making that happen.
“I was with Ireland’s Tommy Bowe last week and he made me laugh a lot. We are also a more experienced squad than we were four years ago.
In a column this week, Wales and Lions flanker Martyn Williams admitted the 2005 trip to New Zealand had been a ‘bit of a disaster’.
“I’ve been on two Lions tours and haven’t managed to win one yet. The 2001 series against Australia was decided by fine margins, but last time was a bit of a disaster if I’m honest,” Martyn Wiliams said.
“New Zealand were awesome, probably head and shoulders above any other team in world rugby at the time, but we came away feeling we hadn’t done either ourselves or the Lions justice.. .
“If I’m honest, my main memories of 2005 are of rugby pitches and hotel rooms. Sometimes it’s good for the players to be able to unwind over a few beers, which we didn’t have much opportunity to do.
“I’m a firm believer that the better you know someone, the better you play together.
“It’s about getting the balance right, which is where our head coach Ian McGeechan is so good.
“No-one understands the Lions better, and if last week at Pennyhill Park was anything to go by, Geech has got the balance spot on. It was an awesome week and by Wednesday everyone was really comfortable in each other’s company. My Cardiff and Wales team-mate Andy Powell seemed to be the highlight of the week for a lot of the lads. If you don’t know much about him, Andy is a larger-than-life character who can liven up any proceedings.
“At a formal black-tie dinner on Wednesday night, Geech asked the management to stand up.
“At that point Andy took it upon himself to get to his feet and join the management.
“That went down a treat in front of 500 people.”
Roll on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Make or break time for Limerick FC

LIMERICK FC board member Andrew Mawhinney believes that the League of Ireland club has arrived at a critical crossroads in its 72-year history.
“As it stands the club is simply not sustainable and we’ll have serious cash flow problems come July,” admitted Mr. Mawhinney last night.
The club hosted a screening of a 24-minute documentary, Till I Die, at the Strand Hotel on Monday night, but the buoyant mood inspired by the news that Limerick FC had drawn St. Patrick’s Athletic at home in the third round of the FAI Ford Cup was tempered somewhat by Andrew Mawhinney’s comments.

Mawhinney said that it was imperative that Limerick returned to the Market’s Field and that the club also required a cash injection this season.
“Jackman Park cannot cater for senior soccer and everything leads us to the Market’s Field,” Andrew Mawhinney said.
“We’re using this evening to highlight our desire to return to the Market’s Field. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, but this is a make or break season for Limerick FC.
“The Market’s Field is the only show in town for us. Going forward I can’t see the club getting through the summer if we don’t have a high-profile friendly that would bring significant revenue into the club.”
As had been previously reported by Leader Sport Limerick FC have been in negotiations with a number of cross-channel clubs in an effort to stage a series of lucrative friendlies at Thomond Park.
Indeed Mr. Mawhinney has now confirmed that the club are examining the possibility of bringing Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town to Limerick.
“I can confirm that Ipswich Town have offered Limerick Football Club a friendly on the Friday before they play Cork City on the 17th of July and we’re currently considering the viability of playing that game because the only place we can play it is at Thomond Park. So, we’re talking to other clubs to turn it into a double-header to make it more attractive for soccer fans in the mid-west.”
While introducing Till I Die, which features interviews with volunteers like grounds man Ralph McMahon, who has been a supporter of the club for over 50 years, and provided those present with a valuable insight into how the club is run on a day-to-day basis, Club Promotions Officer Paul O’Riordan made a plea to the City Council to support Limerick FC’s proposed return to the Market’s Field for the first time since 1984.
“We’re not saying that a move to the Market’s Field will solve all our problems,” Paul O’Riordan said.
“But it will give us a catalyst to move the club forward and establish a foundation that we can build upon.
“We have problems that we have inherited, not problems that we have created. We need a chance to put all of that right and my fear is that we won’t get that chance.”
Andrew Mawhinney echoed those sentiments: “On a lot of levels the club needs something to change.
“We’re grateful to the LDMC, but on a lot of levels Jackman Park isn’t suitable. Jackman Park is a very good junior ground, but we need something that we can call our own.
“The Market’s Field is the only opportunity; it’s the only show in town for us. But I have to stress that the project would mean a municipal stadium, it’s a stadium that we can use, but it’s also a stadium that can be used by the community and be used by other sporting codes.
“I think there is an appetite there to do something with the Market’s Field. I think it has reached a point where a decision has to be made.”
Speaking at the Strand Hotel the FAI’s Richard Fahey, who works on facility development with the national association, left those in attendance in no doubt that the club needs support from the City Council.
Mr. Fahey is currently working on a ‘Vision’ document which will be presented to the stakeholders within the next couple of weeks in an effort to move the project dramatically forward. The FAI, in conjunction with Limerick FC, will then assess political support for the project and decide whether or not to proceed.
Meanwhile Limerick FC manager Pat Scully was delighted with the FAI Ford Cup third round draw which pits the Super Blues against St. Patrick’s Athletic on the week ending June 14.
“Yes, it’s a very good draw, a really good draw,” explained an obviously pleased Pat Scully.
“Normally you’re looking for a non-league team in the early rounds other than that you’re looking for a big scalp. So we have that and it’s great. Pat’s are having a bit of a difficult season at the moment and I think that we’ve been playing reasonably well so I’m more than confident that we can give them a really good game.”
A week after the cup game against St. Pat’s, Limerick host Shelbourne at Jackman Park while they will spend the next two weekends playing away from home. On Saturday, June 6 Limerick pay a visit to Athlone Town, but this coming weekend they face a resurgent Mervue United in Galway.
“It will be a tough match,” admitted Pat Scully.
“They’re new to the league and they’ve done exceptionally well so far. They started out a bit sluggishly, but over the last month or so they’ve started to get results.
“Terryland Park is a tough place to go and they’re a big physical team so we know it will be a battle, but again I think we proved last Friday that we can play good football and be a match for anyone.”
Limerick FC, although they only managed a point against UCD (0-0), will be hoping to build on their brilliant performance against the league leaders, but they will have to do so without Pat Purcell and John Tierney who both limped off against the Students - both Purcell and Tierney are expected to miss the next four to five weeks through knee and hamstring injuries respectively.

Brian McDonnell

Former Garryowen hooker Damien Varley will sign for Munster

FORMER Garryowen hooker Damien Varley will return from London Wasps this summer to take up a contract with Munster.
The 25-year-old Damien Varley moved to Guinness Premiership giants Wasps last summer and made an instant impact when scoring a dramatic match-winning try against the Leicester Tigers in his opening league appearance. Varley, who made 10 appearances for Wasps during the season, was a key member of Garryowen’s All-Ireland League and AIB Cup-winning side of 2007.
Former AIB Club international Varley joins Munster in the wake of Frankie Sheahan’s departure from the club after a distinguished 13-year career.
Eleven members of Munster’s 2008-09 squad depart the province this summer while it has already been confirmed that Ireland under-20 full-back Felix Jones is on his way south from Leinster.
Back-row forward Billy Holland and centre Tom Gleeson will move from development to full contracts while academy players, flanker Tommy O’Donnell and prop Dave Ryan, brother of Toulon-bound Timmy Ryan will move onto development contracts.
Exciting winger Ciaran O’Boyle is back training having suffered injury in his try scoring appearance against the Dragons in March while Darragh Hurley is also on the mend following minor neck surgery last month.
The Munster squad will report back for training on June 29.
Meanwhile Lions captain Paul O’Connell has urged his players to restore the pride lost during the 2005 tour of New Zealand with the opening match of their South African tour now just four days away.
The Lions were today stepping up their preparations for their clash against a Royal XV selection in Rustenburg.
Ian McGeechan’s starting line-up is scheduled to be announced this Thursday.
“The players must now live up to the tradition of what the Lions is all about,” Paul O’Connell said.
“Maybe in 2005 we didn’t do the Lions jersey proud, but this tour gives us a chance to restore that pride.
“All the talent is there for us to be competitive, we have a great coaching team, but now it’s up to us, the players, to perform as a team.”
Coach Ian McGeechan said he would give everyone an opportunity in training in the coming days to force their way into Saturday’s team, as well as the Test XV.
“I’m going to give every player an equally chance to get into the Test side. I’ll pick the Test team in the Test week,” McGeechan said.

Colm Kinsella

Monday, May 25, 2009

Murphy savours try-scoring display

UL BOHEMIAN and Munster star Barry Murphy was savouring the feeling of scoring his first full international try today as the Irish rugby squad arrived in San Francisco to begin preparations for Sunday’s Test match against the USA.
Murphy’s first half touchdown helped an experimental Irish side secure a stuttering 25-6 victory over Canada at Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver on Saturday.

Twenty-six-year-old Murphy, operating on the right wing, latched onto Darren Cave’s well judged chip ahead to score Ireland’s opening try in the 18th minute. Ireland led 7-3 at half-time, but it was not until the visitors bagged late tries through new cap Ian Whitten and Munster prop Tony Buckley - also his first for his country - that Declan Kidney’s side could be sure of victory.
A total of eight Irish players made their senior debuts in the game. The new caps included Munster duo, Ian Dowling, who played on the left wing, and flanker Niall Ronan, both of whom made telling contributions to the victory.
Afterwards coach Declan Kidney said that while there were areas of their play that they needed to improve upon, he was pleased with the manner in which his young charges kept on trying things.
Ireland face the US Eagles in the Buckshaw Stadium, Santa Clara, California on Sunday evening next. (9pm Irish time).
“There was a lot of things in our performance we know we’d like to get better. We were trying things - that’s what pleased me,” Kidney said.
“As long as we keep trying things, we will try and work the positive out of that. We didn’t go back into our shells. We must give credit to Canada. They are an improving side. They put us under a lot of pressure and retained the ball for long periods of time.”
Canada: James Pritchard; Dean van Camp, Ciaran Hearn, Ryan Smith, DTH van der Merwe; David Spicer, Ed Fairhurst; Kevin Tkachuk, Pat Riordan (Capt), Scott Franklin; Tyler Hotson, Mike Burak; Chauncey O’Toole, Adam Kleeberger, Aaron Carpenter. Replacements: Andrew Tiedemann for Franklin, Jebb Sinclair for Carpenter (both half-time), Ander Monro for van Camp (54 mins), Luke Tait for Hotson, Nanyak Dala for O’Toole (both 58 mins), Phil Mack for Fairhurst (66 mins).
Ireland: Gavin Duffy; Barry Murphy, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Ian Dowling; Ian Keatley, Peter Stringer; Tom Court, Rory Best (Capt), Tony Buckley; Bob Casey, Mick O’Driscoll; John Muldoon, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy. Replacements: Mike Ross for Court, Ryan Caldwell for Casey (both 54 mins), Eoin Reddan for Stringer, Donnacha Ryan for Muldoon (both 71 mins). Referee: C. White (England).
Meanwhile the Lions squad was due to arrive in South Africa early today as head coach Ian McGeechan warned that the Paul O’Connell captained side faced the toughest challenge in their history.
‘Airforce Scrum’ carrying the Lions squad left Heathrow Airport last night and was due to touch down in Johannesburg earlier today. As well as captain O’Connell, the Lions party also included Munster players David Wallace, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan.
Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland said the biggest challenge this week would settling into a new country, finding their bearings and getting their preparations in place for that first game.
“The most exciting thing for this squad is that right now, there is only a couple of players you could hang your hats on for a starting place in the first Test,” warren Gatland said.
“There’s a great opportunity for everyone. Anyone could play themselves into selection.”
The Lions’ first tour match will be against a Royal XV in Rustenberg on Saturday. The tourists then play a further five provincial fixtures before taking on the world champion Springboks in Durban.
The funeral took place today of Sean Moore, Church Road, Raheen, a past President of Young Munster RFC. The late Mr Moore is survived by his wife Eileen, sons, daughters, relatives and friends. Following Requiem Mass at Raheen Church this Monday morning, burial took place in Castlemungret Cemetery.

Colm Kinsella

Limerick prepare for documentary premier

Limerick FC are preparing to screen a documentary, Till I Die, tonight in the Strand Hotel at 9.30pm.
The made-for-TV documentary takes a look behind the scenes at the club, highlights its plans for future development and also examines the possibility of a potential return to the Market’s Field.
The FAI will also make a presentation on their vision for the Market’s Field on the night in what promises to prove an exciting occasion for Super Blues supporters.
The Super Blues will host their now annual ‘The KenDuckey Derby’ on Bank Holiday Monday, June 1 at 4.30pm at Abbey Bridge.
Ducks cost €2 each and are available to buy from any club volunteer or squad member.
Once again some bumper prizes are on offer and you can contact the club on 061 324 563.

Pat Scully’s First Division side were extremely unlucky not to beat league leaders UCD at Jackman Park on Friday night. The Super Blues dominated that encounter, but failed to score the winning goal their determined display so richly deserved.
Manager Pat Scully will be concerned this week with injuries picked up by three key players against UCD.
Pat Purcell limped off in the first half, Shane Tracy was forced off in the second while John Tierney suffered a hamstring injury which could rule the talented striker out for a number of weeks.
Limerick FC’s next outing is against Mervue United at Galway’s Terryland Park on Friday night next (7pm).
Kilmallock United, who carried the Limerick District League flag into Sunday’s FAI Under-17 Challenge Cup final suffered a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Belvedere at Dublin’s Tolka Park.
Despite taking the lead and the heroics of the immensely talented goalkeeper Robert Egan Belvedere surged back to score three times in the last half hour to deny Kilmallock an historic first national title.
Meanwhile Pike Rovers collected the Kilmurry Lodge Premier League title on Thursday night last when goals from Johnny Corbett and Pat McGarry (penalty) helped the Hoops to a 2-0 victory over their closest rivals Fairview Rangers at the Fairgreen. Following a one-all draw with Carew Park on Saturday night Pike Rovers finished five points clear of second-placed Fairview while Dromore Celtic and Granville Rangers were both relegated from the Premier League.
Pike Rovers have now won the Fran Mullally trophy for the third time in four years and will be most observers favourites to make it three titles in a row next season.
Pike, chasing a domestic treble, face Fairview in a Lawson Cup semi-final this Thursday night (6.30pm).
The Hoops have already won the Tuohy Cup while the clash with Fairview this week promises to be a cracker.

Brian McDonnell

Pain of relegation proved a catalyst for Limerick

THE pain of relegation in the National Football League was the catalyst for Limerick’s Munster senior football championship win in Thurles yesterday, according to manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
Management and players came under fire after relegation to the bottom tier of the NFL, but they bounced back in Semple Stadium on Sunday to book a provincial semi-final against Clare in Ennis.
“The lads knew that they weren’t that bad and they were determined to show what they could do,” explained O’Sullivan in reference to the league relegation.
“Thats part and parcel of being involved in football,” said the manager of the criticism.
He added: “You are going to get stick and you have to turn it into a positive”.
Limerick raced from the blocks and were 1-8 to 1-1 ahead at half time with Tipperary’s goal coming in injury time in the first half as Limerick dominated.
Then all went wrong as the lead was down to two points entering the final quarter.
“That was an outstanding first half – perhaps we were too far ahead at half time, the intensity begins to drop. Tipperary gathered momentum and that is very hard to stop,” surmised the Limerick manager.
“At half time the big danger is to get lads head right because we went in with a similar lead in Kilmallock in the league and within 20 minutes Tipperary had it down so we were very conscious of that.”
Unlike the league loss, Limerick maintained composure for a two-point win.
“In the last 10 minutes they upped the intensity again and showed great level heads,” said the manager.
With Limerick on the backfoot a Stephen Lucey finally opened Limerick’s account 19 minutes into the second half.
“I think that was the most important score of the second half from our point of view – he has great spirit and his lifted the team at the time,” recalled Mickey Ned.
“I thought it was an exceptionally good game if you compare it to last year in Fermoy, which was the worst game in history. It was an excellent game of football, right up to the final whistle.”
Clare now stand between Limerick and a first Munster final since 2003.
“Championship football is championship football – it doesn’t matter the opposition,” said O’Sullivan’s as he dismissed the opinion that Limerick will be favoured.
“Clare will have the advantage – they have had us in their sights for six months, while we had Tipp. They have the benefit of seeing our strengths and our weaknesses. Clare will be very tough –they have had the benefit of dissecting us and looking at us.”

Jerome O'Connell

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Injury shatters Jerry’s Lions dream

IN a matter of hours this Wednesday the British & Irish Lions dream was shattered for two of Limerick’s best-loved rugby heroes - Jerry Flannery and Alan Quinlan.
In Glasgow a specially-convened ERC disciplinary panel upheld Quinlan’s 12-week ban, while on the training fields in Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot in England, Jerry Flannery sustained an elbow injury to rule him out of the eagerly-awaited tour.

The Shannon duo will now follow the 10-game South African Tour of the British & Irish Lions from their Limerick bases. Their withdrawal leaves captain Paul O’Connell, David Wallace and Keith Earls to carry the hopes of the Limerick rugby community into the tour.
Jerry Flannery is to start rehabilitation immediately and will be assessed by an orthopaedic specialist this Thursday. The Munster and Ireland hooker sustained torn ligaments in his left elbow during a training session with his new team-mates.
When Flannery missed a Lions function in London on Wednesday night, it first became apparent that the popular Limerick man would become the third Munster selection who will not make the flight to South Africa on Sunday.
Hours earlier Munster flanker Alan Quinlan had received the news he had feared.
“The committee found Alan Quinlan had not demonstrated the original decision had been in error or that it should be overturned or varied.
“Accordingly the appeal committee dismissed the appeal and upheld the suspension imposed on the player of 12 weeks,” said and ERC statement relating to Alan Quinlan’s appeal.
Alan Quinlan’s last-ditch bid was to have a 12-week playing ban overturned - he was banned for making contact with the eye area of Leo Cullen during Munster’s Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster at Croke Park. Quinlan’s suspension is for 12 playing weeks which means the off-season is not included and will therefore not be eligible to play again until September 10.
British & Irish Lions Tour Manager Gerald Davies spoke of Quinlan’s absence.
“Alan Quinlan’s suspension is naturally disappointing and he must be devastated by the outcome of the hearing and appeal. That said the Lions management fully accepts the decisions of the ERC judicial process. The outcome necessitated the selection of a new player and Ian McGeechan and his fellow selectors had no hesitation in selecting Leicester’s Tom Croft,” said Davies.
The words of Davies were echoed by Head Coach Ian McGeechan.
“We had to be fair and allow Alan Quinlan the opportunity to appeal his suspension. However, following the outcome of the appeal we have replaced Quinlan with Tom Croft who, it must be said, was very unlucky not to have been selected in the original tour party. I’m very disappointed Quinlan will have to miss out on a Lions tour, but Tom is a young buck with a lot of talent. He gives us something different,” said the Scot.
Meanwhile, despite winning the 2009 Magners League, Munster have just four players selected on the Magners League Dream Team for the 2008-09 season - Lions captain Paul O’Connell is joined in the Dream Team by Jerry Flannery, Ronan O’Gara and Lifeimi Mafi.
Rugby fans and media across Ireland, Scotland and Wales were asked to vote for their Magners League Dream Team and the player who polled the highest number of votes in each position was been selected for the Dream Team.
The Dream Team features players from four clubs - Ospreys lead the way with five players, while Cardiff Blues and Heineken Cup finalists Leinster have three players in the team.

Magners League Dream Team 2009: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Lifeimi Mafi (Munster), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Jerry Flannery (Munster), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rocky Elsom (Leinster), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).

Jerome O’Connell

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Judgement day for Limerick

BACK in the final week of January, Mickey Ned O’Sullivan laid his cards on the table when speaking ahead of the start of the 2009 season.
As he entered his fourth year at the helm in Limerick, it was championship or bust.

“The one goal that we have this year is the first round of the championship against Tipperary,” stressed O’Sullivan, when previewing the new season with Leader Sport.
“The way it is, the only way we will be judged is on the championship”.
Almost four months have passed and its time for the Limerick senior footballers to be judged when they meet Tipperary in the quarter-final of the Munster senior football championship in Semple Stadium Thurles this Sunday (3.30pm).
If Limerick can repeat last season’s success over the Premier County, a provincial semi-final against Clare awaits in Ennis on June 7.
While defeat cannot be contemplated, if all does go horribly wrong, Limerick would enter the All-Ireland Qualifiers in round one on July 4.
Over the spring Limerick and Tipperary had very different league campaigns - Limerick were relegated from Division Three while outsiders Tipperary were crowned champions.
While Tipp emerged from the NFL on an upward curve, Limerick’s management and players were certainly under pressure. Still the bookies have marked up Limerick as 10/11 favourites with John Evans’ side available at 11/10.
Limerick have won the last two championship meetings between the sides - 2004 & 2008. While Tipp football is on an upward curve, they have not won a match in the provincial championship in six years - they’ve won just two games and drawn two from 14 Munster Championship matches in the past 10 years and have lost seven out eight qualifiers during the same period.
For Sunday’s game Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, Joe Redington and Paddy Ivess have handed a championship debut to teenager Cormac Joyce-Power. Also included for the first time since 2005 are dual players Stephen Lucey and Mark O’Riordan, while Jason Stokes also makes a return to the inter-county scene.
The Limerick team shows seven changes from the side that lined out against Tipperary last season. In an unusual looking selection, there are many questions as to the exact line-up of the Limerick side which appears to be physically strong.
It appears that the defence will play as selected, although Shane Gallagher could be at the edge of the square in a swap with Johnny McCarthy. This duo could be key in dealing with Tipperary attacking duo Brian Coen and Barry Grogan. Further up the field it appears that Stephen Lucey will start in midfield with Jim O’Donovan - leaving John Galvin and Jason Stokes to fill the central attacking roles.
Indeed this quartet are likely to inter-change throughout the 70 minutes in an effort to maintain freshness in the middle of the park where it is critical that Limerick dominate against George Hannigan and Brian Jones.
In attack all scoring threats appear to rest on the shoulders of Ian Ryan, Ger Collins and captain Seanie Buckley.
It is key that under-21 players Ryan and Collins are kept as close to goal as possible if Limerick are to profit from a direct ball to a targetman at full-forward.
Since the league ended on April 12, Donie Buckley has had the necessary time to work with the panel on the training field. Reports from challenge games against Wexford and Roscommon were not overly encouraging, but still Limerick can and must win on Sunday.
The most basic requirment will be that Limerick match the hunger and work ethic of John Evans’ well drilled Tipperary side. Sunday’s game in Thurles will be only the third ever meeting of the sides in Semple Stadium in championship fare.
Admission is by payment at the turnstiles - adult price is €20, students and senior citizens €10. Under-16s will be admitted free of charge and all juveniles will be issued with a free flag.
Limerick’s Live 95FM will carry full live commentary with former Limerick senior football captain Tommy Stack joining Liam Aherne in the commentary box.
On the Munster GAA website, the game will be followed by a match-tracker with up to the minute updates of every score and incident.

Limerick Team: Sean Kiely; Shane Gallagher, Johnny McCarthy, Mark O’Riordan; Padraig Browne, Stephen Lavin, Pa Ranahan; Jim O’Donovan, John Galvin; Stephen Lucey, Ian Ryan, Seanie Buckley (capt); Cormac Joyce-Power, Jason Stokes, Ger Collins. Subs: Conor Ranahan, Mike Crowley, Lorcan O’Dwyer, Thomas Cahill, Kieran O’Callaghan, Bobby O’Brien, Andrew Lane, Dermot Phelan, Eoin Hogan, Gary Egan, Diarmuid Carroll, Maurice Carrig, Conor Mullane, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Mullane.

Jerome O’Connell

UCD will present Blues with a stern league test

LIMERICK FC will be eager to exact revenge on UCD when the league leaders visit Jackman Park on Friday night (7.45pm).
UCD beat the Super Blues 2-1 on the opening weekend of the season in Belfield, but, following Limerick’s 3-2 win over Longford Town on Saturday evening last Pat Scully’s side will face into this encounter in confident mood. Goals from Thomas Lyons, Davy Ryan and Paul Cummins helped Limerick to their fourth win of their First Division league campaign, a performance that manager Pat Scully was reasonably pleased with.

“Yeah, we played well and it was good to get the three points,” admitted Pat Scully this week.
“In the first half we played decent football and got a good goal.
“In the second half we were a little sloppy and conceded an equaliser.
“Conceding a goal can often knock a side even if they are on top, but we came back into it. Our substitutes, Davy Ryan and Paul Cummins, worked well, we got a foothold in the game again and scored two good goals to go on and win the game. That was really encouraging. We did let in another sloppy goal in injury time, but the players are making progress.
“They are learning and the spirit in the team really is different class.”
Pat Scully took time out to watch UCD take on Waterford United on Friday night last in Belfield, a game which finished nil-all and maintained the Students two-point lead at the head of the division.
“I went to the game myself in Dublin on Friday night,” added Pat Scully.
“UCD are a good team and they’re top of the league on merit. I know three or four of their players very well from being involved with the Shamrock Rovers youths team and they’re all top class. UCD are a really good team and to compete with them we need to keep improving and play to a high standard on Friday night. They’re a good team, but so are we. It should be a good game.”
Although Wayne Colbert is out with an ankle injury, Brendan Daly is suffering with a groin injury and Tommy Barrett has a slight knee complaint Pat Scully and his squad are eagerly looking forward to Friday night.
“All the lads are really looking forward to the game,” explained Super Blues manager Pat Scully.
“They know it will be a test, but it’s a test they’re looking forward to. UCD are a good young team and very mobile. We really need to track our runners on Friday night and not let them in behind us.
“It’s important that we put in a big performance.
“We definitely won’t be sitting back and I’m confident we can get a result. We’ve only lost one game in seven now and that was against Waterford when we just didn’t play at all.
“We can’t afford a performance like that again. On Friday night we will go out to play UCD, to stand up to them and if we do that we can get a result.”
Meanwhile Limerick FC are preparing to screen a documentary, Till I Die, on Monday, May 25 in the Strand Hotel at 9.30pm.
The made-for-TV documentary takes a look behind the scenes at the club, highlights its plans for future development and also examines the possibility of a potential return to the Market’s Field. The FAI will also make a presentation on their vision for the Market’s Field on the night.
Limerick FC have appointed Paul O’Donnell and Mick Shields as manager and assistant manager respectively to the under-20 side who will commence training in early June while goalkeeper Brian Collopy has also been invited to join the Republic of Ireland under-19 squad.
The Super Blues will host their now annual ‘The KenDuckey Derby’ which will take place on Bank Holiday Monday, June 1 at 4.30pm at Abbey Bridge. Ducks cost €2 each and are available to buy from any club volunteer or squad member - Leo the Lion will also be selling ducks at Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre on Saturday, May 23.
Once again some bumper prizes are on offer and you can contact the club on 061 324 563.

Brian McDonnell

‘We need to do justice to the Lions jersey’

CAPTAIN Paul O’Connell says it is crucial the Lions do justice to the red jersey in South Africa this summer unlike four years ago when they suffered a whitewash Test series defeat to New Zealand.

Ian McGeechan’s Lions squad are continuing their preparations for the 10-match tour to South Africa at a training camp at Pennyhill Park in Surrey this week. The squad departs for South Africa on Sunday next with the opening match in the tour taking place on Saturday, May 30 when the Lions face a Highveld XV in Rustenberg.
The tourists then play a further five provincial fixtures before taking on the world champion Springboks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg on June 20, 27 and July 4 respectively. Lock O’Connell said the experience the Irish and Welsh players had gained from winning Grand Slams should stand them in good stead during the tour, but playing for the Lions was the next step up for all the squad members.
“We have a lot of players who have been a bit more successful,” O’Connell pointed out this week.
“Ireland got the Grand Slam at last, the Welsh have two. For a lot of those players being on a successful Lions tour is the next level.
“We need to do justice to the Lions jersey, I don’t think we did that in 2005. We need to do the Lions proud over there and see what happens after that.”
The 29-year-old lock said the squad needed to work on gelling as a unit as quickly as possible.
“First and foremost, the talent is here,” Paul O’Connell insisted.
“The coaching staff have very good ideas on how we want to play and how we want to perform. I think all those bits are going to be ticked off so it’s about us coming together as a team.
“We don’t have a lengthy time frame so we don’t have time to suss each other out. We really have to work on coming together as a team in a short space of time. If we can do that then we’ll have a very good chance.”
Meanwhile, two Munster players will win their first full international caps when Ireland face Canada in their summer international in Vancouver this Saturday. Winger Ian Dowling and flanker Niall Ronan are two of the six new caps named in Declan Kidney’s side to face the Canucks at Thunderbird Stadium. Kick-off is at 10pm Irish time (Live coverage on RTE 2).
New caps Dowling and Ronan are two of seven Munster players named in the starting XV for the game. The Magners League winners are also represented by winger Barry Murphy, scrum-half Peter Stringer, prop Tony Buckley, lock Mick O’Driscoll and number eight Denis Leamy.
The replacements’ bench will feature five players who are in line to win their first caps if introduced. These include Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin and Munster full-back Denis Hurley.
Fourteen-time capped scrum-half Eoin Reddan, who will move from London Wasps to Leinster later in the summer, is also named on the replacements’ bench.

Ireland: Gavin Duffy (Connacht), Barry Murphy (Munster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Ian Whitten (Ulster), Ian Dowling (Munster); Ian Keatley (Connacht), Peter Stringer (Munster); Tom Court (Ulster), Rory Best (Ulster), Tony Buckley (Munster); Bob Casey (London Irish), Mick O'Driscoll (Munster); John Muldoon (Connacht), Niall Ronan (Munster), Denis Leamy (Munster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (Connacht), Mike Ross (Harlequins), Ryan Caldwell (Ulster), Donncha Ryan (Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps), Niall O'Connor (Ulster), Denis Hurley (Munster).

Colm Kinsella

Hayes hungry for more Irish caps

PROP John Hayes is set to continue his record-breaking international rugby career for another season at least.
Munster star Hayes, who turns 36 in November, has won a stunning 94 caps for his country. While the majority of his international colleagues are in Canada this week preparing for a Test match in Vancouver this Saturday, Hayes and fellow international prop Marcus Horan have been given the summer off.

Hayes, who attended the wedding of his rugby-playing brother Tom to Irish international Rachel Tucker on Friday last, is eagerly looking forward to the season ahead. The Cappamore man’s appetite for the game remains as strong as ever despite his demanding playing schedule.
The former student at St Fintan’s CBS, Doon was an integral part of Grand Slam and Magners League-winning campaigns for Ireland and Munster.
“I’ll go for another year anyway,” John Hayes confirmed.
“If I stay injury free, stay enjoying it and as long as the managements for Munster and Ireland keep picking me. It’s a great opportunity. I love doing it and I’ll try and stay doing it for as long as I can. From an Irish point of view, for those of us who have played for Ireland for a number of years, to win the Grand Slam this season was huge. We had been trying for years. But from the Munster point of view, to be caught at the semi-final stage in the Heineken Cup was disappointing.
“If you look back over the whole year, the Grand Slam was brilliant. I’m still hugely disappointed over the semi-final, but that’s the way it goes.”
John Hayes is fiercely determined to help Munster regain the Heineken Cup next season: “It would be good to get another crack at the Heineken Cup again next year. We’ve played so much in it over the years and put so much into it to try and be successful. We’ve had some great years, two great wins in finals, but we’ve had some other disappointments. That’s all part of it.
“It would be great personally for myself and for the whole Munster squad to get back and have a go at it again next year.
“It’s a great competition, it generates huge interest in Ireland and Europe.”
Hayes was called into the Ireland squad for the summer tour to South Africa in 1998, after helping Shannon to the 1998 AIB League Division One title.
However, the Limerick native had to wait until February 2000 to make his debut against Scotland in the Six Nations Championship.
Hayes started all ten of Ireland’s internationals in the Triple Crown-winning year of 2004. The 2004-05 season saw him score his second Test try against Scotland and earn a call-up for the Lions.
He beat Phil Orr’s long-standing record (58 caps) as Ireland’s most-capped prop by starting against Italy, France, Wales, Scotland and England in the 2006 Six Nations - winning his 60th cap against Wales.
In his 94 games for Ireland, he has only ever been a replacement four times making for an incredible tally of starting games.

Colm Kinsella

O’Brien faces a race against time

MIKE O’Brien is in a race against time to be fit for Limerick’s Munster hurling championship semi-final against Waterford on June 14. The Glenroe centre-forward suffered two broken fingers while assisting his club last Sunday evening in their south intermediate hurling championship tie against Hospital-Herbertstown. The full extent of his injury is yet to be determined, but with just four weeks to the Semple Stadium semi-final O’Brien is rated as extremely doubtful.
Seamus Hickey is another that is receiving treatment - the Murroe-Boher man sustained a shoulder injury in Limerick’s challenge game against Antrim two weeks ago.
Kilmallock’s Bryan O’Sullivan is also on the injured list, with a hamstring injury curtaining his recent training.
Last Saturday night, Limerick travelled to Castletownroche to play Cork in a high scoring challenge game. The home county were 1-32 to 2-15 winners in a game which left Limerick supporters worried as to the form of their team ahead of the mid-June clash. Since the end of the league campaign, Justin McCarthy’s side have played Tipperary, Antrim and Cork in challenge games and are yet to taste victory. Limerick continue their preparations with training this week, but then players will be released back to their clubs for county championship action on the weekend of May 29/30/31.
In last weekend’s challenge game against Cork, Limerick played with the wind and were ahead 1-12 to 0-13, at half time.
However, the second half was not encouraging as Cork hit 1-19, with just 1-3 in reply from Limerick.

Cork: D Óg Cusack; S Murphy, E Cadogan, C O’Sullivan; K Hartnett, C McGann, J Jordan; J O’Connor 0-5, P Cronin 0-4; P O’Sullivan, N McCarthy 0-1, T McCarthy; P Horgan 0-7 (6frees), K Murphy (Sarsfield) 0-2, T Óg Murphy 0-3. Subs: R Ryan 0-2 for Hartnett, (5mins); M Coleman for Cusack, C Naughton 0-3 for T McCarthy, F O’Leary 1-1 for P O’Sullivan, B Corry for N McCarthy (all half time); K Murphy 0-3 for O’Connor, B Johnson 0-1 (sideline) for Cronin (both 57mins); D Crowley for Cadogan, Billy Murphy for S Murphy (both 63mins).

Limerick: B Murray; D Moloney, R McCarthy S Walsh; J Ryan, B Geary, G O’Mahony 0-1 (free); D O’Grady 0-2, W McNamara; O Moran 0-2, M O’Brien, N Moran 1-7 (1-6frees); A O’Shaughnessy 0-1, D Breen 1-0, D Ryan 0-2. Subs: M Foley for J Ryan (10mins); T Condon for O’Mahony, P Browne for McNamara (both half time); G Mulcahy for O’Brien (49mins); P Tobin for D Ryan (57mins).

Jerome O’Connell

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

A meeting of all senior hurling clubs in the county is to be organised to discuss the future structure of the county senior hurling championship.
The 2009 championship, which commences on the weekend of May 29/30/31, is to be the last of the three years of the current format.
Currently Limerick has 15 senior hurling clubs with an inter-divisional team completing the make-up of the championship.
It is proposed that officials of the varying clubs will sit down with representatives of the County Board executive to explore all possibilities.
Last December the Milford GAA club put a novel proposal before Limerick’s Annual Convention.
That proposal was withdrawn, but could be one of the possible suggestions.
Milford were looking for all four divisions to play in the county championship and thus increase the championship to 20 teams.

Secondary schools
THREE Limerick secondary schools have been pin-pointed by the Munster Council for a new Gaelic Football coaching initiative.
SMI Newcastle West, John the Baptist Community School in Hospital and Colaiste Mhuire in Bruff will all get specialist coaching for the next three to four years after recommendations from a Munster Council sub-committee, which was chaired by Limerick man John Landers. Three secondary schools in each of Limerick, Clare, Waterford and Tipperary have been identified in a bid to raise the standard of Gaelic Football in the counties.
Starting next September, the under-14 football sides in the three schools will be targeted.
The ultimate goal is that the schools would be in a position to play in the Corn Ui Mhuiri (Munster senior colleges A football championship) within four years. Qualified coaches will provide the extra coaching, while a number of blitzes between the participating schools are also planned.
The initiative is to be broadly welcomed and all await the positive results. But, perhaps a Limerick city school could have been included.

GAA celebrations
AS part of the GAA’s continuing 125 year celebrations the Munster Council will be honouring the captains of the winning hurling and football teams of the last 25 years as guests of Munster GAA at this year’s Munster GAA Championship finals.
Unfortunately, just hurlers Gary Kirby and Ciaran Carey will be necessary to represent Limerick.
In addition, the Munster Council will select a team of the last 25 years in both hurling and football.
With just two Munster senior hurling championships from that period and no All-Ireland title, Limerick representation could be limited.
Winning captains; Gary Kirby who won four All-Stars and Ciaran Carey who won two All-Stars, would appear the best options.
Of the current squad, Mark Foley is a likely contender. In football terms, Galtee Gaels midfielder John Quane would be a worthy recipient but the team will most likely be Kerry/Cork dominated.

Masters hurling tournament
THE All-Ireland Masters Hurling Tournament could be back on the GAA fixture list.
After a break of two seasons, there are moves afoot to revive the worthwhile competition.
Bruff’s Michael Weekes is spear heading the revival and already interest has been shown by Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway and Dublin among others.
One of the proposals is to reduce the age to 35, which could see former inter-county stars like Steve McDonogh and Ciaran Carey return to the green of Limerick.

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

THE first thing I would tell anyone joining Munster is to leave their feelings at the door before they enter the dressing room. You will get the p**s taking out of you.
“It is about getting the balance right. There is a ferocious intensity in training. Fellows do extra training sessions and when we do that we do it well. The same applies to the matches.
“But off the field there is a great balance with guys having the craic and a laugh, going out for a few pints.
“It is about having the balance and being able to do both.”

Frankie Sheahan was in philosophical mood as he called time on his Munster career at Thomond Park on Friday night last.
While Munster supporters said an emotional farewell to several squad members as Tony McGahan’s side were presented with the Magners League trophy, fans reserved a special ovation for two stalwarts who were departing the squad, hooker Sheahan and winger Anthony Horgan.
Between them the pair played for the province for some 25 years, making more than 300 appearances in the famous red jersey.
The duo’s place in Munster rugby folklore is assured.

Anthony Horgan
Anthony Horgan says he will miss going to the gym in the morning, the craic, the camaraderie and close bond that exists among the players.
The 32-year-old winger called time to his 12-year professional rugby career in the best possible way, marking his 146th and final appearance for the province by arrowing over for a stunning late try.
So what went through Horgan’s mind just then: “There is another couple of years left in me yet, lads,”
“I don’t know what I was thinking. It would be hard to put it into words, to be honest. It won’t sink in until the boys go back training and you know you won’t be joining them.
“But when one door closes, another one opens, hopefully.
“As much as I will miss the game, I will miss going into the gym in the morning, it’s the craic that you have.
“As Fogs (Denis Fogarty) said it’s a second family. That will be the hardest part of it, to be perfectly honestly.
“I would recommend Munster to any player because you will have some laugh, I can tell you that!
“I felt like crying when I saw the whole team running at me after I scored the try. It is impossible to put into words how I feel. Munster has been 12 years of my life.
“I have been more than a third of my life doing this. So it is impossible to describe.”
Horgan and Sheahan, who is due to move to French side Brive later this year assuming he recovers from the ‘pec’ injury he received in Friday night’s tie with the Ospreys quickly, have been close friends from the time they won a Munster Schools Junior Cup together at the start of the 1990s.
“Myself and Frankie have been friends since school. Even outside of rugby we were pals,” Anthony Horgan revealed. The week building up to the match was normal enough.
“I spoke to Frankie on the morning of the game.
“There was a strange feeling in the belly, knowing that it was over after tonight. For some reason, Frankie Sheahan, who was also on the bench, was in quite humorous form for the opening 40 minutes.
“But when we came out after half time he said we shouldn’t be messing any more because we would be going on. Myself and Frankie said we would enjoy today!
“There are too many fantastic memories over the years. To pick one or two out would be just impossible.”

Frankie Sheahan
Frankie Sheahan played with Munster for 13 seasons, making his debut for the province against Western Samoa in November 1996.
Thirty-two-year-old Sheahan made 154 appearances in total.
“There was huge emotion out there I suppose after 13 years,” Sheahan revealed afterwards.
“I suppose a lot of people will remember 13 years ago and there may have been 200 or 300 at a game like this. Having the Celtic League wrapped up and 22,000 or 23,000 supporters here tonight. It’s phenomenal. It’s Munster, but its rugby in general and the way it has grown.
“It’s incredible, really. To be a part of that is immense. To have two small fellows (sons) around tonight and my wife, it’s great.
“Unfortunately all good things come to an end. I will be moving on after tonight. That is the way it goes. It has been a great journey and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Denis Fogarty
MUNSTER hooker Denis Fogarty will have more than a passing interest in Saturday’s Heineken Cup decider at Murrayfield.
Fogarty’s brother John, also a hooker, is set to be included in Leinster’s Match Day ‘22 for the big showdown with Leicester Tigers.
Denis and John Fogarty were in direct opposition when Munster and Leinster clashed in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup at the start of the month. Twenty-five-year-old Denis Fogarty, who admits he’s a ‘devil for messin and joking’ when the time is right, was selected as Man of the match in the win over the Ospreys.
He said: “John (Fogarty) is getting ready for the Heineken Cup final. He is in the Leinster squad. I got to come on against him in the Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park. That was great for the family.
“It was a good moment. Afterwards John didn’t say very much. He probably felt that I had had my day in the sun already with Munster. I was delighted for him personally. He has been around for a long time. Losing that semi-final was tough to take for us, but I wish him a load of luck in the final and I hope he gets on.”

John Webb-O’Rourke: ‘If Belvedere beat us they’ll be a very good side’

NORMALLY the prospect of facing the likes of Belvedere in a national cup final would unsettle a side, but not Kilmallock United.
On Sunday afternoon Kilmallock take on Belvedere in the FAI Under-17 Challenge Cup final at Tolka Park in Dublin (kick-off 3pm) and, amazingly, the Limerick lads can’t wait to get at their Dublin counterparts.
Although Belvedere, a club founded in 1971 which draws its players from Fairview, have won more than one hundred major trophies and have seen 166 of their players capped for the Republic of Ireland, they don’t bother Kilmallock, not one bit in fact.
“There has always been this fear in teams from outside of Dublin. It’s as if only Dublin clubs are allowed to win national trophies. Our lads knocked that fear aside a long time ago,” explained John Webb-O’Rourke who manages Kilmallock United alongside James Mulcahy and coach Ger Finn.
“Our lads know no fear.
“I mean we have three or four players who are real match winners.
“What I mean by that is that this team is just never beaten.
“If we fall behind, since our defence is so good, we can risk three at the back and just throw caution to the wind. We’re good enough to be able to take risks like that and that makes all the difference in cup competitions.
“You’ve got to be brave and these lads are as brave as they come.”
During their extraordinary run to the final Kilmallock have accounted for Geraldines (3-0), Park AFC (2-1), Fairview Rangers (3-2), Greenwood (4-1), Salthill Devon (2-1) and Monaghan United (3-2) at the semi-final stage.
But it’s the defeats that stand out in John Webb-O’Rourke’s mind and drive his side forward. Kilmallock were incredibly unlucky to lose an FAI Youths Cup quarter-final 2-1 to Cork City this season (Cork City beat Salthill Devon in last weekend’s national final 2-1) while Kilmallock United also lost last year’s Barry Cup (under-16) last 16 clash (4-3) to Louth’s Muirhevnamore.
“We really felt that we left that under-16 title behind us,” John Webb O’Rourke told Leader Sport.
“But it’s no surprise to us that these guys have gone so far. They’re all in the same class in school, they play soccer together, they play hurling together and they play rugby together with Bruff.
“That’s the fantastic thing about it. They’ve been together since they were nine years of age and the only time they lost a cup final in domestic competition was against St. David’s at under-15 level. Everything else they’ve won and won well.”
Despite John Webb-O’Rourke’s positive outlook, he also has his homework done on a Belvedere side which includes Tom O’Halloran and Sean Skelly who both featured against Poland for the Republic of Ireland under-17 side in April.
“I haven’t seen Belvedere play,” added John Webb-O’Rourke, “but I have spoken at length to the Mervue United manager who Belvedere beat in the semi-finals.
“Over the last few years Mervue and Belvedere have swapped titles in the various age groups and he knows the Belvedere players very well. Mervue actually felt that they left that semi-final behind them. They lost 3-1, but finished with nine players. They fell behind early on and even though they had a man sent off they got an equaliser. But what really killed them was that they conceded an own goal after that and then Belvedere scored a third goal late in the game. So when you think about it Belvedere’s win doesn’t sound all that impressive.
“If we go out and play a bit of football and then lose our shape we will get beaten. We need to hold our shape and not let them in behind us. We know we have the speed to break up the field and that our counter-attacks can hurt any team.”
Besides highlighting the work of Mike Collins, life president of the club, and Donal Hayes (chairman) John Webb-O’Rourke has this week found himself overwhelmed by the public support shown for his side.
“We recognise the fact of the generous support from the local community,” John Webb-Rourke said.
“The good will directed at the team locally has been fantastic.
“Kilmallock is very much a GAA town, but the soccer club gets great support and so does Bruff rugby club.
“If there’s a town in this country with as much sporting activity going on I’d be very surprised. We have something special out here.
“I believe there are in excess of 200 people heading to Dublin, all the senior hurlers are going up to support the team and I hear as well that the Skylon Hotel in Dromcondra is booked out. To give you an idea of the support we have let me tell you this: both the Manchester United supporters club and the rugby supporters club in Kilmallock have made contributions to our campaign. That gives you an idea of the kind of the spirit that is in this town. It’s just fantastic and a pleasure to be part of.”
Even though Kilmallock are blessed with gifted players like goalkeeper Robert Egan, left-back Jake Mulcahy, Cian Burchill and Chris Todd in midfield and the outstanding Paul Doona up front it’s absolutely extraordinary to note that 12 of the 16-man squad for next Sunday’s final are underage again next season.
John Webb-O’Rourke however isn’t interested in waiting another year to bring a national title back to Limerick.
His side, who have already won the District League and cup double, desperately want to emulate Wembley Rovers who won the Under-17 Challenge Cup twice in the last five years.
“My job is to make sure that we bring that cup back to Kilmallock,” said a determined John Webb-O’Rourke.
“That’s our job. We know the lads have the ability to win it so all we have to do is instil the belief in them to do it. If we can do that the result will look after itself.
“And, I can tell you one thing if Belvedere beat us they’ll be a very good side. We’ve got the most committed bunch of players you could ever experience and I can’t see them being beaten.”

Brian McDonnell

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alan Quinlan appeal will be heard

ALAN Quinlan’s appeal against the 12-week ban which threatens his participation in the Lions tour to South Africa will be heard in Glasgow tomorrow.
An independent appeal committee, chaired by Scotland’s Professor Lorne Crerar and consisting of fellow Scot Rod McKenzie and HHJ Jeff Blackett of England, will hear Alan Quinlan’s appeal.

The original independent disciplinary committee found the Munster flanker guilty of making contact with the eye area of Leinster’s Leo Cullen during their Heineken Cup semi-final clash earlier this month. The independent disciplinary committee determined that the offence was at the low-range of the level of seriousness for an offence of this type.
Should the 12-week suspension stand Quinlan will not be eligible to resume playing before September 10.
Lions’ head coach Ian McGeechan and tour manager Gerald Davies yesterday explained that they will not stand in the way of Quinlan’s intended appeal. McGeechan announced that he did know who would replace the Irishman if his appeal was dismissed. It is believed that Leicester and England back-row Tom Croft will be called up to the tour.
The 2009 British & Irish Lions gathered together for the first time yesterday at Pennyhill Park, Surrey as preparations for the 10-match tour of South Africa continued with the start of a week-long training camp.
The camp included six Munster players, team captain Paul O’Connell, hooker Gerry Flannery, versatile back Keith Earls, flanker David Wallace, out-half Ronan O’Gara and lock Donncha O’Callaghan.
The Lions depart for South Africa on Sunday next with their first tour match taking place six days later against a Royal XV in Rustenberg.
The tourists then play a further five provincial fixtures before taking on the world champion the Springboks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg on June 20, 27 and July 4 respectively.
Tour captain Paul O’Connell said that creating the unique team spirit associated with the Lions will play a key role both in the run up to departure for South Africa and during the tour itself: “First and foremost, the talent is here.
“The coaching staff have very good ideas on how we want to play and how we want to perform. I think all those bits are going to be ticked off so it’s about us coming together as a team.
“We don’t have a lengthy time frame so we don’t have time to suss each other out. We really have to work on coming together as a team in a short space of time. If we can do that then we’ll have a very good chance in South Africa.”
McGeechan also announced that he will not be naming a replacement for Welsh centre Tom Shanklin who was ruled out of the tour through injury almost a fortnight ago.

Colm Kinsella

Muiris Gavin returns to inter-county fold

FORMER limerick senior football captain Muiris Gavin is back in inter-county football.
The Monaleen attacker retired from inter-county football after the 2006 season, but has now decided to try his hand with the county junior side this season.
Gavin is named at full-forward on the Limerick junior team to play Tipperary in the Munster championship on Sunday in Thurles (1pm).
The 32-year-old captained Limerick to the Munster senior football final and the National Football League Division Two final in 2003.
Also that season Gavin was nominated for an All-Star and was named provincial footballer of the year by the Munster Council.
Gavin played at minor and under-21 level with Limerick before making his senior debut in the 1994 championship against Kerry - he played 12 years at senior level with Limerick.
Gavin’s medal cabinet holds three McGrath Cup medals, two county senior football championship medals and one county intermediate hurling medal.
Limerick’s junior team is managed by John Ryan and along with Gavin, a number of other ex-seniors are included - Jason O’Brien and Mike Jones.
The Limerick junior team was named last night after a challenge game against Kerry.
Meanwhile the Limerick senior football team for Sunday’s Munster championship clash with Tipperary will be named after training this evening.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and selectors will give fitness tests to defensive colleagues Shane Gallagher and Pa Ranahan before finalising their plans.
Gallagher is suffering with a shoulder complaint and was unable to line out in the team’s final challenge game against Roscommon last Thursday night.
Limerick will be without Stephen Kelly, who suffered a broken bone in his hand while assisting Shannon RFC in rugby’s All-Ireland league final 10 days ago.
For the first championship since 2005 Limerick will have the assistance of dual players Stephen Lucey and Mark O’Riordan.
“We have a few niggling injuries as always, but we would be hopeful that everyone will make it - except, of course, for Stephen (Kelly),” said Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
Limerick and Tipperary had very different league campaigns - Limerick were relegated from Division Three while Tipperary were crowned champions.
Still the bookies have marked up Limerick as 10/11 favourites with John Evans’ side available at 11/10.
Ahead of Sunday the Munster Council have unveiled a new cost-saving ticket package. By purchasing a ticket package supporters will receive a €10 discount on the admission price.
The package will be available for a charge of €40 and entitle the holder to entry to the football game on May 24 and to the Limerick versus Waterford Munster senior hurling championship semi-final on June 14.

Limerick junior team: Mike Jones; David Finnerty, Ronan Kirby, Eddie Mulcahy; Stephen Fox, Ray Hayes (capt), Jason O’Brien; Mike McMahon, John O’Connell; Derry McCarthy, Pat Donnelly, Trevor Cosgrave; Michael Quilligan, Muiris Gavin, Pa Mullins.

Jerome O'Connell

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fairview - back in the big time

FAIRVIEW Rangers’ manager Jason Purcell, in just his first season in charge, has guided the ‘View back into the big time.
Before Jackman Park hosted Sunday’s Munster Junior Cup final Fairview had failed to win a major trophy in six seasons and had not appeared in a provincial final since beating Carew Park to win the decider in 2000, but that all changed yesterday when an exceptional performance saw Rangers overcome Carrick United by two goals to nil.
In atrocious weather conditions Christy Doyle scored Fairview’s opening goal in the sixth minute while Colm Heffernan, from the penalty spot, sealed the win with five minutes remaining in normal time.

“It’s great for the lads,” a delighted Jason Purcell told Leader Sport in the wake of Sunday’s final.
“They have put in a massive effort throughout the year and they totally deserved their win today.”
Fairview entered Sunday’s final as underdogs against a Carrick United side who had won the 2008 FAI Junior Cup and beaten Newcastle West and Regional United en route to the final.
Fairview, however, completely out-played the Waterford side and but for the brilliance of Carrick ‘keeper Adrian Walsh Rangers could have humiliated their final opponents.
“I don’t think we let Carrick play,” explained Jason Purcell.
“We pressed them right up the pitch. That was our plan and I think it worked a treat. Christy (Doyle) was a threat all day in behind and so was Rossy (Ross Cosgrave).
“I thought the Carrick United ‘keeper was outstanding,” explained Jason Purcell.
“He made six or seven world class saves today. Thankfully we got the second goal and Colm Heff (Heffernan) tucked it away.”
The depth of talent at Fairview’s disposal forced Jason Purcell to make some tough decisions prior to this final - that fact that a player as talented as Darren Harrington could not force his way in the match day 16 says it all.
“Yeah it’s hard,” said Purcell.
“In fairness there were lads disappointed today, but in fairness they all reacted very well and were very positive towards the rest of the lads who were playing. They are a great bunch of lads. They deserve everything they get,” said Jason Purcell who was especially delighted with his side’s defensive display - Fairview didn’t concede a single goal in their 2008-09 Munster Junior Cup campaign.
“I think that experience counts for a lot. Martin (Neary) and Brian Buckley were outstanding throughout the whole tournament.
“We didn’t concede goal before the final and thankfully we didn’t concede a goal again today.
“We had a lot of tough games.
“Two games away in Waterford, Waterford’s is a strong league and Carrick proved that again today, but thankfully we were the much better side and we deserved the win.”
Fairview still have plenty to play for this season and on Thursday night next (6.30pm at the Fairgreen) Rangers face Pike Rovers in a game which will decide the Kilmurry Lodge Premier League.
“We’ll enjoy tonight,” added Jason Purcell, “and probably Monday as well, then get back to the grindstone and hopefully beat Pike Rovers on Thursday night.
“It’s great for the club to be back competing at this level again.
“I wouldn’t have said it at the start of the year. If you asked me then would we get to a Munster junior final I would have said no chance.
“The amount of players the club has lost to the League of Ireland down the years has been hard. I don’t think any other club would have survived, but Fairview keep churning out the players. Thankfully we got it right this year.”
So does this provincial title herald a return to the glory days which saw Fairview Rangers dominate the domestic, provincial and national game: “I don’t know if you can say that,” explained Jason Purcell.
“We have to play it by year.
“No one has a divine right to play in Munster Junior and FAI Junior Cup finals. Hopefully we can be competing again.”
Meanwhile Pat Scully’s Super Blues collected their fourth win of the season on Saturday night when Limerick saw off the challenge of Longford Town at Flancare Park.
Limerick FC took the lead in the 15th minute when Martin Deady found the head of Thomas Lyons with a terrific cross and the teenage midfielder made no mistake from close range. Longford Town managed to level the game two minutes into the second half, but Limerick, who looked the more accomplished footballing side on the night, re-claimed the lead in the 84th minute when Davy Ryan stole in to punish Longford for a defensive error.
Paul Cummins made it three-one in the 90th minute when the striker raced clear of the Longford back four before blasting a smashing shot past a helpless Anthony Fennelly. While in injury time Adrian Murphy scored a consolation goal for Longford.
Limerick now prepare for the visit of league leaders UCD to Jackman Park on Friday night (7.45pm).

Brian McDonnell

Munster Lions join McGeechan’s squad in Surrey

MUNSTER’S Lions are due in England today to begin a pre-tour training camp in Surrey ahead of the squad departure to South Africa on Sunday next - the five Munster Lions on Ian McGeechan’s squad who played in the province’s 36-10 Magners League victory over the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Friday night came through the game unscathed.
David Wallace, who bagged two tries, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and Lions skipper Paul O’Connell contributed handsomely to the victory over the Welsh visitors. Hooker Jerry Flannery, who was not involved in the win, is also set to join up with the Lions squad in Surrey.
A decision will be made later today on whether flanker Alan Quinlan will appeal his 12-week suspension which puts his participation in the Lions tour in serious doubt.
Quinlan was banned until 9 September after a disciplinary committee found him guilty of making contact with the eye area of Leinster’s Leo Cullen in the sides’ Heineken Cup semi-final.
Quinlan was in Thomond Park on Friday night as Munster received the Magners League trophy following the game against the Ospreys.
Munster and Lions skipper O’Connell said it was important the side put on a big performance in their final home game of the season.
“I’ve been training away for two weeks since we got knocked out of the Heineken Cup semi-final, but it’s great for my match fitness to play.
“You can’t get that without games,” Paul O’Connell said.
“It was a fabulous reception from the fans and we’ve got a great home crowd here.
“They will have felt the disappointment of two weeks ago so it was very important to put on a big performance.
“By and large, I thought it was a good performance.
“It was a great to play and a really tough game especially in the first half before we cut loose in the second half.”
Friday night’s game was an emotional one for several Munster players who are now departing the province.
These players include Frankie Sheahan, Anthony Horgan, Mike Prendergast, Federico Pucciariello, Rua Tipoki, John O’Sullivan and Kieran Lewis.
Munster have also received the ‘Best Supported Team’ award in this season’s Magners League. The province sold more than 160,000 tickets for their nine home Magners League games this season, five of which were staged at Thomond Park and four at Musgrave Park.
Munster’s average ticket sales reached almost 18,000, moving the province into the top three best-supported teams in European rugby leagues.
Just Stade Francais and Toulouse attract more supporters to their home domestic league games.
Meanwhile Declan Kidney’s Ireland side, who face Canada and the USA in full internationals in Vancouver and California respectively over the next two weekends, will play three home games in the Guinness November series later this year.
Ireland will face Australia at Croke Park on Sunday, November 15 at 3pm, before hosting Fiji at the RDS on Saturday, November 21 at 5.15pm.
Ireland then complete their programme of November matches when World champions South Africa visit Croke Park on Saturday, November 28 at 2.30pm.

Colm Kinsella

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

THE announcement of rugby’s new British and Irish Cup, which will include a Munster A side, from next season has been greeted with plenty of fanfare, but it remains to be seen how the competition will impact on the new-look Division 1A of the AIL, widely regarded until now at least as providing an ideal mechanism for talented young rugby players to make the smoothest possible transition from the club game into the provincial set-up.

Organisers of the British and Irish Cup have been at pains to point out that fixtures will not clash directly with AIL weekends.
In theory clubs should have their strongest squads available to them for AIL fixtures, but one wonders whether that will in fact be the case?
The best young club players in the province will see the British and Irish Cup as a means of furthering their prospects of securing a professional contract. Players will be in the shop window, playing at a high standard and hoping to make an impression.
It is understandable that talented young players’ first loyalty will be to the Munster A side and not necessarily to their clubs.
And no club is going to stand in the way of any of their players trying to further their rugby careers.

Bridging the gap
Division 1A of the AIL was seen as providing a means by which the top club players could bridge the gap between playing for their clubs and the professional set-up.
But it now seems as if the situation has changed. The British and Irish Cup is being put forward as the mechanism by which talented club players can make that progression.
The new-look Division 1A of the AIL loses some of its gloss with the inception of the British and Irish Cup.
The standard of the 24-team cup, which will feature 12 teams from the English Championship, six from the Welsh Principality Premiership, three Irish provinces Munster, Leinster and Ulster and three Scotland sides, will surely be higher than any AIL game.
As a spectacle, it will very likely prove more attractive to rugby supporters than an AIL game.
So with the full Munster side paying Magners League and Heineken Cup pool games in Limerick on a regular basis and then the province’s A side playing quality English, Welsh and Scottish opposition in the British and Irish Cup, it seems certain that the already modest attendances at AIL games will be hit even further.
In a time of recession, with numerous sporting counter-attractions on TV on Saturday afternoons and viewing facilities at club grounds - with the exception of Thomond Park- modest for spectators, the odds are stacked in favour of fewer patrons attending AIL games next season.
In short, the new British and Irish Cup will benefit the provinces and the development of talented young players, but it is unlikely to do much for a club player of decent standard who doesn’t have the ability or interest in moving into the provincial set-up.
It will also be fascinating to see just how the Irish province’s A sides will fare against English Championship, Welsh Principality Premiership and Scottish Premiership Division 1 sides.
It would be useful at this stage to explain exactly what is envisaged with the new British and Irish Cup.
The 12 competing English side are Championship, or National League One, clubs, comprising of Bedford, Birmingham & Solihull, Bristol Rugby, Cornish Pirates, Coventry, Doncaster, Exeter Chiefs, London Welsh, Moseley, Nottingham, Plymouth Albion, Rotherham Titans.
They will be joined by the top six Welsh Principality Premiership clubs as well as the top two finishers in Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership Division 1 (champions Ayr and Boroughmuir or Heriot’s) and a team drawn from the SRU National Academy and Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as the three Irish representatives from Munster, Leinster and Ulster.
Teams will be divided into four polls, with each one consisting of six teams. Teams play each other once, giving five pool matches.
The pools based on travel/geography with the aim of maximising local interest and minimising cost to teams and supporters
Teams will be awarded 4 points for a win, 2 for a draw, 1 bonus point for either a) scoring 4 or more tries or b) losing by 7 points or less.
The pool matches scheduled for November 7 and 28, February 13, February 27, March 13. These are non AIB League weekends.
Pool winners will progress to knockout stage. The two semi finals are scheduled for April 24, with the final fixed for May 15.
Irish Rugby Football Union Director of Rugby, Eddie Wigglesworth said the British & Irish Cup would introduce a more structured approach to the existing Ireland provincial A game programme in each province.
In 2009-10 this competition when combined with the existing A interprovincial series “will deliver the same number of games as agreed last year, with only the semi final and finals additional games”.
He continued: “Games will take place over the extended weekends (Thursday to Sunday) and will not conflict at any point in the season with the AIB league weekends or the latter stages of the AIB Cup.
“We need this additional professional game opportunity to augment the existing provincial Academy and Development player structure and also need a very strong domestic league. The AIB League represents the top level of our domestic game and professional player involvement in the AIB League is important to both the clubs and our professional structure. We believe this more structured approach can alleviate many of the current interface issues in the coming seasons.”
Further details on the British and Irish Cup will be available in the next couple of months.

A terrific spectacle
Saturday’s All-Ireland League Division 1 decider provided a terrific spectacle at Thomond Park. The meeting of Shannon and Clontarf produced arguably the best final since the play-off system was introduced.
Many neutrals felt that the manner in which Shannon were declared champions after the sides finished level after extra time was unsatisfactory. They felt a replay was the common sense approach to the matter.
But as Shannon officials and supporters were quick to point out later, they didn’t make up the rules governing the competition. They rules for Divisional Championships state that if the clubs are tied after extra-time, then the teams which scored the most tries will be deemed the winner. In this case both teams scored two tries.
The rules state that if the finalists manage the same number of tries, the side scoring the first one will be the winner. As a result David O’Donovan’s 22nd minute touchdown for Shannon was the scored which clinched a ninth AIL title for ‘the Parish’ side.
Incidentally, if the teams had finished level after extra time and neither side had managed to score a try, then the team that scored the first points in the final would be the winner. Shannon would also be declared winners in this scenario as out-half Tadhg Bennett opening the scoring with a first minute drop goal.
And finally, if the game had finished scoreless after extra time, the team occupying the higher finishing position in the League table at the end of the regular season would be declared the winner.
As it turned out, Shannon finished in second place in the League table, one point ahead of fourth-placed Clontarf. So now you know!