Stand-In Stand-Off

Peter O’Mahony’s ligindary feats on the wing well documented at this stage, with Triminjus only needing the most obtuse invitation to drop into dinner party conversations that he once played there in an AIL final, but he may have to start looking over his shoulder. When it comes to stand-in feats of extraordinary and unlikely versatility, there is a new sherriff in town. Step forward his Munster colleague Conor Murray in what must be a slow news week in rugby circles.

With JJ Hanrahan injured, Munster have only Ian Keatley available to play 10 in their Heineken Cup semi-final gainst Toulon, and if anything should happen to him, it appears that Murray is the closest thing they have to a backup. His credentials for the role are impeccable. According to The Indo’s Ruaidhri O’Connor he – get ready Triminjus– played there in the AIL for Garryowen (though not in a final, so maybe O’Mahony still wins that Top Trump contest), has been practicing his goal kicking in recent warm-ups, but most significantly of all, he worked with Neil Jenkins on the Lions tour. Neil Jenkins! Worked with! Lions Tour! Give the man the 10 jersey and proclaim him the new RADGE!

The alternative being considered by Penney is apparently Johne Murphy, the less said about which the better.

It’s a bit of a peculiar position for Munster to find themselves in, but so long as Ian Keatley can hop on one foot it’s unlikely to amount to anything terribly meaningful. Having three senior fly-halves is a luxury the Irish provinces haven’t had since Jeremy Manning traded his role as third choice at Munster (behind the never-injured ROG and classy utility back Paul Warwick) for Newcastle. It’s worth recalling that in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, Geordan Murphy was nominally the third-choice 10. Leinster and Ulster were blessed to have the likes of Isa Nacewa and Paddy Wallace (and latterly Stuart Olding) who could perform functionally at 10 if required.

The scrum-half filling in at 10 is more of a French tradition, whereas in Ireland it’s usually the 12 (Wallace, Olding) or the 15 (Murphy, Nacewa, Warwick) who tends to take up the role in emergencies, although Tomas O’Leary once gave a decent 10 minutes against Italy while ROG was in the sin-bin for boldness. Munster’s preference for crash-ball 12s in James Downey and Denis Hurley means that isn’t an option, while Felix Jones doesn’t fit the bill of fly-half at all. Conor Murray, all round footballer that he is, does indeed look the best choice. And did I mention that he once played there in the AIL for Garryowen, and that he worked with Neil Jenkins on the Lions tour?

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  1. Let’s be honest though, Murray’s just lucky that POM is injured, otherwise he’d probably play both half back positions at once.

  2. Amiga500

     /  April 16, 2014

    If Stringer could have kicked, Munster would never have needed Radge, so I don’t see the issue….?

  3. Shelflife

     /  April 16, 2014

    So who is their 3rd in line out half that is basically being told that he’s shite ?

    • They’ve a couple of other lads – Jonny Holland and Rory Scannell – in their squad but I don’t think either is registered for the Heineken Cup.

      • Bobby T

         /  April 16, 2014

        Anyone know what ever happened to Scott Deasy? Did he retire? Think he’s still only 25 and had plenty of first team experience including the odd appearance off the bench in the HEC. He was seriously talented also from what I remember…
        Johnny Holland looks v good but very slight (an apparetnly got shown up big time by Marsh in the B&I vs Leinster A) while Rory Scannell is more of a centre/full back from what I know although I think I remember seeing him fill in at fly a bit in the JWC?

        • Bridger

           /  April 16, 2014

          He’s currently playing for Lansdowne…..

        • Sound Steve

           /  April 16, 2014

          Scott Deasy retired/joined the real world. He plays 10 for Lansdowne now. Rory Scannell started 10 against Leinster “A” last week but came off at half-time after having a bit of shocker apparently…

  4. Rava

     /  April 16, 2014

    If Keatley were to get injured I’m sure we would see a lot more POC standing at 10!! 🙂

  5. Sound Steve

     /  April 16, 2014

    Remember Geordan Murphy played 10 in that WC warm-up against the Argies years ago? It was an interesting watch. He had all the skills but no control or presence – a bit like Ian Madigan!

    • Was that the one where we scored zero points, or the one where we had a common-or-garden mashing?

      Geordy played 10 right up to when he joined the Tigers – himself and our old buddy Jimmy Ferris came as a pair.

  6. Shelflife

     /  April 16, 2014

    Bit of a faux paux not to have a third 10 registered or is that standard practise ?

    • Amiga500

       /  April 16, 2014

      +2 points for using “faux pas”, but -1 point for not promoting a “young tyro” as a potential candidate, -1 point for not mentioning even a “callow-out-half” and -1 point for not mentioning the “faux pas” being that of the “coaching ticket”.

      Must do better.

  7. Solution – sign Stephen Donald. Surely a situation tailor-made for some Beaver heroics in a jersey that’s too small?

    But mainly, it’s a timely reminder of how much I miss Paul Warwick #Illneverletgo

  8. Lop12

     /  April 16, 2014

    Murray was a quality goalkicker at U20 and AIL level for Young Munster, not sure how much kicking he did for GOwen. Well out of practise now though. If he is back up 10 then id suggest Keatley should take out life insurance before the Toulon match, considering you would be going from Murray/Keatley combo to Williams/Murray; which would not inspire confidence at AIL level.

    • No, it wouldn’t be ideal. Murray is one of Munster’s best players so moving him to a position where he is very unfamiliar and in turn bringing on a far weaker replacement at scrum-half would put Munster in a tight spot.

  9. Gerry Hurley is on the books for the HEC squad, he was added when Cathal Sheridan got injured, and has been playing with the Munster A’s on an irregular basis ever since he dropped out of the full-time squad a few years back. He even had a cameo as a sub against Clermont 7 years ago. Give his AIL credentials & having played in the club internationals he could be one of the alternates under considerarion.

  10. Topsy Turvy

     /  April 16, 2014

    Would it not make more sense to leave Murray in his position and play anyone else at 10 and hope that murray could guide the game a bit, something like what Pienaar does?
    Anyone at all just to kick or pass at 10 and let Murray manage the game as best he can from 9.

  11. Junior

     /  April 16, 2014

    I had to do a double take when I read the sentence about working with Jenkins. Well he worked with Graham Rowntree too, but I don’t expect we’ll see Murray packing down at tighthead if BJ takes a niggle at the weekend. Did you ever read such horse manure?

    All jokes aside, Johnne Murphy has actually been having quite a good season so far (by his, or any other observer of his, standards). I was quite surprised not to see him in the squad ahead of Van den Heever against Toulouse. Great point Kate about Warwick, what a player, and a big loss for Munster when he left. I am a big fan of Keatley, and Hanrahan too, but when you think about it, at its very basic level, Penneyball doesn’t actually call for a play-making ten. Playing Murray there is an option, but it would severely diminish the good work he does around the fringes and behind defences

  12. Not Michael Bent

     /  April 16, 2014

    Just did a quick scan of the H-Cup squads from the Irish provinces (at start of the season):

    Leinster; Madigan, Gopperth and Reid (as third choice/centre)
    Connacht: Jack Carty, Dan parks and Craig Ronaldson
    Ulster: Pienaar, Paddy Jackson, James McKinney (and maybe even Luke Marshall or Stuart Olding) (or Paddy Wallace)

    So yeah, it looks like a serious mess up for Munster to not carry a third player who can legitimately claim to be an out-half.

    • Junior

       /  April 16, 2014

      I think while nominally the other provinces have a third choice ten, there was never really any genuine chance of Carty, McKinney or Reid getting H-Cup game time in the position this season.

      Craig Ronaldson pulled his hamstring 2 minutes into their home game against Toulouse, and Carty was given some runs in the Rabo. Miah Nikora has been injured most of the season, which most likely advanced Carty’s involvement in the first place. The Leinster 10 duties were always likely to be divvied up between Gopperth and Madigan, with the now-injured Andrew Goodman as the backup. McKinney has a great underage legacy, but has failed to push on to any degree in the senior ranks at Ulster, with Peinaar more often than not playing at 10 when required. The squads aren’t huge, and the general jist is two genuine contenders for the berth, with a young pretender in situ in emergencies (or for games verus Zebre)

      All of this kind of comes back to a previous point about having NIQ squad players who can cover a variety of postions – and their value to a squad. Nacewa and Warwick are just two examples, but there were other less lauded, but talented fellows nontheless,like Shaun Berne and Lefimi Mafi

      • Carty played 80 minutes against Zebre at 10, and also made one substitute appearance. Even if he only owed his place in the HEC squad to Nikora’s injury, the fact that all of Parks, Ronaldson (mostly at 12), and Carty played just shows that Munster’s failure to nominate 3 outhalves is as dumb as mistakes come.

        • I presume the coaching staff rate Murray out of position over Johnny Holland in position, and would prefer a 9-10 axis of Williams-Murray over one of Murray-Holland. Nominating him would have been no use if they weren’t prepared to play him, which they’re clearly not.

    • Stephen

       /  April 17, 2014

      For what it’s worth, any time Pienaar plays at 10 Ulster play relatively badly, and McKinney is simply not up to scratch, so Ulster were working with one HC standard fly-half this season.

      Will presumably be fixed by the return of iHumph to play second fiddle, and Jamie O’Hagan joining to play apprentice to Jackson.

  13. Junior

     /  April 17, 2014

    Definitely a slow news week when Duncan Williams has an article written about him in the Times. Jaysuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus

  14. seiko

     /  April 17, 2014

    Tomas O’Leary got man of the match playing at 10 in an away win against the Ospreys a few years ago (Paul Warwick got injured). He scored a try, converted it and defended like a demon. He was everywhere!

    Pre-Paul Warwick for Munster, Jason Holland was ROG’s backup.

    By the way, Conor Murray kicked the first conversion in the new Thomond Park in some underage game.

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