Munster Rugby — Time For Renewal?

 Posted by on January 17, 2011  Add comments
Jan 172011
 

For the first time in 13 years, Munster have failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the  European Cup and people in Limerick are saying all kinds of things about the game.  I spoke to somebody this morning, a person heavily involved in rugby, who couldn’t think of a single good thing to say about the Munster performance.

It’s hard to play against top-class opposition when your back row is missing, I ventured.

Yeah, he agreed.   And your front row.  And your second row.

Was it really that bad?  I certainly thought so.  They squeezed four penalties out of us from the scrum in the first half hour.   We had no forward momentum at all for virtually the entire match, and the scoreline didn’t reflect the fact that Toulon were in complete control.  Wallace’s try came only after they had relaxed, with the game wrapped up.

There was little comfort to take from the performance.

No.  Scratch that.  There was nothing at all to take from it.  Nobody performed well.  Howlett was bustled over the line time after time, but at least he was working hard and nearly scored a try except for an unlucky toe in touch.  The flat ball he received throughout the day didn’t give him much scope to create anything.

Nobody broke the line, a tribute to the Toulon defence, and Donncha O Callaghan’s yellow card from a stupid illegal tackle on an uninvolved man cost us 13 points.  On the other hand, I thought O Gara’s binning was a dreadful decision by the referee.  He was no more guilty than anyone else, and had been the victim of gouging before the fight broke out.   That disrupted Munster’s already scrappy game, but it’s not an excuse.

Toulon were better than us.  Wilkinson was superb.  So were Contepomi, Sackey, Van Niekerk, Mignoni and Bruno.  What am I talking about?  They were all on top form, unlike our fellas who looked tired and dispirited.

It looks like time for a change.  Certainly it looks like time for new coaching staff, and yet we hear that McGahan has been awarded an extension to his contract.  While I wouldn’t like to get into the witch-hunting that characterises soccer management in Britain, it seems a strange decision to extend the manager’s contract before he delivers what he’s paid for: qualification for the final stages.

At the same time, Paul Warwick is leaving, because Munster can’t afford to pay what he’s worth and there’s no doubt that Warwick is one of the best.  A first-class all-rounder, he’ll be missed, but Munster need the money to buy a first-rate prop and with a budget of €3.5 million, they can’t afford the luxury of a new front-row and Paul Warwick, no matter how good he might happen to be.

Apart from the coaching team, what of renewal on the field?  I’d like to think this is a transitional squad, but I don’t see the younger guys coming forward to replace the likes of Hayes, O Gara, Quinlan, O Connell, Wallace or Horan.  Are we at the point where money will define the shape of the new Munster, with bought-in talent outnumbering local players?  Up to now, Munster has welcomed immigrants like Howlett, Warwick, Williams, Langford, Pucciarello, Tipoki and Mafi.  These guys all bought into the party and were adopted as locals, but will the support be the same if the entire team is Australian, Kiwi, South African, Argentinean and Tongan?

This is a defining moment for Club Munster.   Not only is the team losing on the field, but Munster Inc is losing the sympathy of long-established supporters.  Already we hear the rumblings of dissent among the fan-base, who believe the whole thing has become too much of a business and not enough of a tradition.

The pensioners who saw their terrace tickets double and then quadruple in price are starting to ask why they should remain loyal to a corporate entity that seems to care little for them.

When the Munster fans start to feel alienated and ignored, you know it’s time for deep and painful reflection, made all the more painful by the unfortunate behaviour of the Toulon supporters who tore up sheets of newspaper and threw them in the air, shouting Garbage! and Merde! It’s a dirty tradition I was unaware of until somebody explained it to me after the match.

Zut, alors!

Well and good.  Keep doing that and we’ll keep showing respect when your players take their kicks.  But it would be a very long road indeed that had no turning.

Meanwhile, Leinster look effective, organised, incisive and unstoppable.  I think they’ll win the cup and I’ll probably lay a small wager to that effect.

  23 Responses to “Munster Rugby — Time For Renewal?”

Comments (23)
  1.  

    In fairness Bock, when you speak of munster fans you should probably differentiate between the ones who have always been there and the ones who signed up when munster started winning (probably 80%?). The fair weather fans will probably disappear as the winning ratio drops, which sends a clear signal to the management that winning is what counts and it doesn’t matter how you do it. Which is a bit rough on the ones who aren’t bandwagon jumpers, but there you go. I suppose what I’m getting at is that now is the time for the famed munster supporters to stand up and fight, and show us what youre really made of. Anyone can follow a winning team, its not so easy to follow a losing team. I’d much prefer that the munster team remains primarily composed of locals and keeps its ethos, even it means fallow years, rather than just a bunch of mercenaries who happen to be wearing red.

  2.  

    That’s the point I’m trying to make. If it becomes nothing but a business, it serves little purpose, especially considering the fact that the professional game has already taken so much from the club sport.

  3.  

    Oh here we go….that old “i was supporting munster when there was only 150 of us in the old thomond” argument. Who gives a shit !! Munster is now a business and anyone who wants can go and watch them. Yes, I agree it would be great if we could continue an assembley line of home grown talent to replace the clapped out bunch of players we have now, but it doesent always work out that way. If we have to go and invest in a couple of hairy-arsed Argentinian or Georgian props then lets do it .Time waits for no-one and some hard decisions need to be made by the Munster managment.

  4.  

    EssoDee I think that the great Munster supporter is a myth. I well remember going to Thomond Park to watch the old interpros, you’d probably have gotten more at a club game. ’99/’00 changed all that, especially thae game v Saracens when a whole new layer of supporters were formed, the Red Army. Suddenly Munster were omnipresent, replica jerseys, coats, tshirts, jockstraps, women who wouldn’t know if a ball was pumped of stuffed, men also. Celtic Tiger trips to the South of France, Paris, Spain, London the all new Munsterwaffen was on the road. Left winger the majority of Munster supporters fall into this bracket. Munster supporters not rugby supporters. 26,000 in Thomond Park = zero at the next AIL club game. Where are all the fans? How much more socially acceptable to say “i was in Toulon, super town and as for the lobster, well” rather than “I was in Galbally for the Junior League play off, pissed rain all day, ref was a bollix” If only the great munster supporters also supported the AIL clubs then the clubs would be in a much stronger position, financially to provide top class training and coaching facilities and produce players of the calibre that Munster require. If Munster is a business then it is an out of town retail giant. It sucks the much smaller local shop dry in an attempt to attract all the customers. Do you want to live in a town like that?

  5.  

    I’m not sure what Munster stands for any more. It used to be about more, much more than the rugby.

  6.  

    What “pensioners” terrace tickets are you talking about that quadrupled?

    We’ll rebuild anew, there is some new blood coming through – guys like Nagle, Holland, Jones (signed admittedly), Hanrahan, Barnes, Zebo, Dineen, Scanlon… they’ll get their chance to prove themselves, some impending retirements will see to that. People thought we’d struggle to replace Gaillimh, Langford, Foley… dark days admittedly but things will pick up again, teams go in cycles.

  7.  

    No 8…I have fcuk all sympathy for any club. They played their part in creating the Munster brand with their corp packages and underage coaches not getting access to the club tickets. What I dont want, is to hear people going on about how they are “real fans” and all the fairweather fans will now fuck off and probably start supporting man u or whatever else is in fashion. The thing is , Munster are now a well supported outfit and a whole generation has grown up with this current crop of players. Of course the numbers will drop , happens with all things popular, but a new hardcore has been formed and will remain and new fans will come onboard now that tickets should be more accessible. Leinster have proven that the home talent is there, it just has to be carefully and intelligently nurtured. Munster have failed to do that.

  8.  

    As I said earlier there are rugby supporters an dthere are Munster supporters. You’re entitled to your view on clubs. Where do you the majority of the current team came from and where do you think their successors will be sourced?

  9.  

    You know where the current team came from and hopefully the next crop will be reared locally too. But no harm in having a few sexy imports also. Mistakes have been made and hopefully managment will learn from them.

  10.  

    Thats my point. Without a well supported club scene there will be no next genertion!

  11.  

    No 8, I agree 100% with your analysis. Hail, rain or snow I’m at Clifford Park every other saturday. I think if most of the limerick “munster” supporters, who probably never attended a local game realized how high the standard is, in particular the division 1 a and b then maybe they could be encouraged to attend the local club games. If you look for example at Sla our hooker. He is probably the best in the country at any level. Probably whats keeping him out is his physical size. And there are a lot more examples across all local senior and junior clubs. A few weeks ago a few of us bought a ticket for the match which included the pre-match meal for €20.00! A good feed, a few glass’s of vino and a match for €20. By the way I attend the Munster matches from time to time as well and always watch every match on the box! But the experience of being right on the line, when the crunching tackle goes in, or a wonderfull movement by the backs right in front of your eyes, cannot be beaten. So I would encourage all munster supporters to also support your local Limerick clubs – Now thats real limerick rugby!

  12.  

    On the newspaper thing, just to let you know, the paper was a local “free sheet” suppled by RC Toulon on every seat. I knew what they were at and it was very unpleasant to have torn newsprint raining down on our heads, as the team fell apart on the field. Disrespect organised by the home club, where would you get it except in France. By the way, the lobster was nice!

  13.  

    I read that the “newspaper thing” is a tradition. Can you explain what you mean by “Disrespect organised by the home club, where would you get it except in France.” I have been to France for rugby matches on many occasions and have always been impressed by the hospitality affprded me. They certainly have different ways of expressing themselves but why is this risrespect?

  14.  

    Leakyboots, leftwinger,Mermoz, Redmist. I admire your support and passion for Munster. And as I said previously, I will attend Munster matches myself when possible. Just a quick question. Do you also support the local senior or junior club in your area, when Munster are not playing?

    I agree that Munster will re-group and there are some good local players coming through. Not enough though and that’s the worry. I don’t think the answer to the lack of local talent is to buy in foreign players in mass. Simply because Munster cannot afford to. To be successful in the future it will have to (as it did in the past) rely heavily on the talent and passion of local players from local clubs.

  15.  

    LJS I am a paid up current member of Galbally RFC, and still like a lobster thermador. I considered not answering your query but had to defend lobster eating Munster Rugby club and affiliated travellers. :-)

  16.  

    Long John Silver,

    No, I don’t. Not any more. Why do you ask? I was making a point about Munster, not any of the local clubs.

  17.  

    The reason I ask the question, would I hope be obvious from the rest of my comment in 14

    “I don’t think the answer to the lack of local talent is to buy in foreign players in mass. Simply because Munster cannot afford to. To be successful in the future it will have to (as it did in the past) rely heavily on the talent and passion of local players from local clubs”

    If you agree with the above extract from comment 14, then I think it would probably be a good reason to support your local club when Munster are not playing. Why? because the additional funds that you provide by paying your admission to the local game allows them to provide opportunities to develop the local club game, the development of which, will eventually provide much needed talent for the Munster team. A win win strategy I would think for the game in Ireland as a whole.

  18.  

    Shameless Little plug to put your money where your mouth is.
    In Kilballyowen this coming sunday there is an all-Ireland AIB Senior cup semi-final between Bruff and UCD.
    Bruff this season have beaten Shannon, Cork Constitution and Garryowen on their way to the Munster Senior Cup title and now move on to the next level.
    Entry fee is €5.00 per adult and children go free. K.O. @ 3:00pm, There’s a cheap day out for ya……

    This is where the lifeblood of rubgy lies, this crew of lads have been promoted from junior and up three more divisons (4 promotions) in six years. Bruff have done this by virtue of a fabulous underage system which has seen them win All-ireland competitions at every level from Cummunity games U10s and 12’s to U20’s upwards in the last ten to fifteen years. (20 of the starting panel of 22 have been with the club since their pre-teens) and there is a rule in the club which specifically bans any and all players from being paid to play the game unlike nearly all of their division 1a and 1b counterparts. Full 100% amateurs competing and winning against Professionals, Semi-professionals and academy players.
    One nice little detail is that 7 of the players that beat Australia in Thomond park had lost in Bruff in the 8 days before that match.
    Come out and have a look at what is going on in clubs around the province on a weekly basis. Come out and support the true heart of rugby.

  19.  

    @Geek, I presume you are referring to others on this post? As I said in my earlier post (11) I support my local club all season. At every home match and as many away matches as possible. I was also a dinger of a winger in my youth ha ha . My point though is, I am also a munster rugby supporter and believe whole heartedly that bringing players from the local club system into the munster team academy is the best possible way of keeping the Munster team at the top end of the professional game. This valid and proven system is starting to dry up because of the dropping off of support for the local Junior and senior teams.
    Simple.

  20.  

    Long John Silver – my home club is in Kerry and I live in Limerick, so I don’t get to games much any more. I did look into joining a local club up here but I simply cannot give it the time. However, I do play tag rugby in two local clubs (Spring and Summer league in Bruff and Garryowen respectively) and have encouraged family members and friends alike to join.

    Because of my involvement in Tag, I have the opportunity to purchase tickets to games for both Munster and Ireland – and invariably when I don’t take them up on the offer, I find someone else who will.

    Just because we’re not next to you on the terraces doesn’t mean we’re not helping our local clubs.

  21.  

    Its nice up on the terraces Leaky boots, thats where most of the former players and supporters watch the game from. And it has the added advantage of having to pay your €10.00 at the gate. A revenue stream that should be the life blood of all local junior and senior clubs. Hope to see you in the terraces soon. Bruff and Garryowen, two great limerick Clubs.

  22.  

    I agree with you totally LJ, Don’t get me started

    This was aimed at the fair weather crew….. amongst others..
    I know from experience that the Munster scouts have had to be almost physically dragged out to see promising youngsters in clubs around the province, not just a gentle hint dropped which you would think would be enough(It would anywhere else). There has been more Premiership scouts seen in the AIL clubs around town than sign of the Munster scouts. I guarantee you that this weekend London Irish scouts will hit every local game that’s on this weekend. They know that they can because the Munster set-up is falling down on the job.
    The Munster management set-up is starting to smell a little, how could any professional outfit let themselves get into a situation where a raft of 1st choice players will be retiring together? Jesus even a junior club in the sticks knows about bringing on youngsters all the time to benefit from the experience of playing with the older players before it’s lost. All clubs in all sports stagger their 1st choice players in age, it’s team management-101.
    Yet I’m sure that as before, after retirement they will suddenly come back in some position or other in the Munster set-up. This is where the money seems to be going rather than back into the youth game to keep the cycle going.
    It’s common sense bloody basic club management that seems to be going out the window.
    Last year of the 65-odd million total IRFU budget, the international and provincial set-ups cost over €54Million euro. This left the club system with less than 20% of the total budget (€10M or so in actual fact) to spend on the Domestic games set-ups AND every other ordinary club in the country (205 clubs and 246 schools affiliated). Now I know that the provincial set-up (Primarily Munster in fact up until the last three years) were the main suppliers of this money but something is starting to stink with the whole system I tell ya…
    How many more have left in the current financial climate because they needed to find work when they are good enough to make the academy and first team rugby? We’d rather blow a huge budget on imported guys.

  23.  

    I was at the Munster A v Esher game in Dooradoyle lastnight. A paltrty crowd of around 500-600 on an admitedly cold night. Excusing the Cork and East Munster regiments of the Red Army where were the best fans in the world? 000’s went to Toulon. to be seen on the Med coast, yet less than a 1/4 of that could stroll out to Dooraoyle for an A game. I have long believed that most Munster “fans” are indeed event junkies who went to the games to be seen. Seems I was right.

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