Summer Summer Summer Time

Are these songs on the playlist in Thomond Park these days?

Are they about to throw the towel in rather fight tooth and nail for silverware? After losing to an exceptionally inexperienced Ulster time, it’s time to be worried. Next week they travelt to Glasgow, the form team in the Pro12 and a team hungry for the cup having repeatedly gone close in recent seasons, for a very tough semi-final.  Time to shape up.

In 2012, with a head coach leaving at the end of the season, Munster threw their hat at the final rounds of the Pro12, culminating in an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Ospreys.  Sounds familiar?  After their exit at the hands of Toulon, we mentioned that they would do well to quickly turn their attention to the prefectly respectable piece of silverware that was available.  The signs so far are mixed.  They put 50 points on Edinburgh, which served to underline that they mean business, but their performance against a junior Ulster team was so poor as to be bizarre.  Even great players like Conor Murray were reduced to throwing aimless passes to nobody.  In front of a barely half-full Thomond Park they didn’t seem very interested.  Sure, there wasn’t much at stake, but Munster would have been better off building momentum for a very difficult semi-final next weekend than throwing in a clanger in front of (a few of) their own supporters.

RTE were at pains to argue that Munster would definitely respond to their dire performance next time out, and that no team can turn an abject performance into a good one a week later than Munster, but they were missing the point.  The Pro12, in its various guises, is not a competition that really switches Munster on – it’s not in their DNA to give it as much respect as the Heineken Cup, and at times they seem to pride themselves on their ability to play as abominably as possible, to make their HEC exploits look even better.  If they were playing, say, Clermont Auvergne next week we wouldn’t doubt they’d respond, but Glasgow?  Hard to see it.

The only time since 2009 that Munster really went full-tilt at the Pro12 was in 2011, but under unusual circumstances.  Munster were out of Europe in the pool stages, so they had time to get over the emotional hump and re-focus.  Back then, Munster ditched the remnants of several aged Liginds and found a spark to their season when they introduced Conor Murray and Felix Jones to the team. They won that year, in memorable style against Leinster  – but it wasn’t typical.

Three years on, the newbies have read the script: the Pro12 is for vain losers like the Hairsprays and Leinster .  Real men only care about The Big One, or friendlies against touring test sides. Now there’s something worth giving your all for!  For Munster, the idea of going to a ground like Scotstoun and considering it worthy of their greatest efforts, is insulting their standing in the game. Glasgow?  What have they ever done in Europe?  This game is Glasgow’s season, but Munster’s ended two weeks ago. They are a better team than Glasgow, but they don’t need this game to prove anything to anyone.

Nor did they need to beat Ulster’s seconds to prove anything – ironically, the sight of some rivals for the green shirts might have got more out of them, but Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray – best in their positions in Europe – do not look at Lewis Stevenson and Michael Heaney and find their hearts pumping. They were sloppy and disinterested, and as we forewarned in our post-Toulon review, if they perform with the same lack of vigour against Glasgow, the sense of a good season in which many gains have been made will start to dissipate.  There’s a trophy on the line guys, look alive!

Will it hurt their chances in green? Maybe, after all, Joe Schmidt is a stickler for detail and Leinster prided themselves on giving every game 100% when he was in charge, but more likely, he’ll understand- the good work the fringe Ireland players like Simon Zebo and Dave Kilcoyne put in against Toulon is far more relevant to international rugby than a workout against the Ulster Ravens at the tail end of the season. This game told us precisely nothing about Ulster’s chances in the Oar Dee Esh, but it told us everything about Munster’s in Glasgow – they’ll lose to the hungrier side.

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41 Comments

  1. Judging by the response on twitter to the defeat this is very accurate. Its only Pro 12 was thrown around far too many times. When one of the biggest teams in the league treat it as a 2nd rate competition despite it being there only chance of silverware you have to fear for the competitions future.
    Leinster looked very poor as well versus the Gunners, chances of an Ulster Glasgow final?

    • Very strong I would say. While Ulster’s team will look very different they’ll carry lots of positive vibes aftr that result. Leinster look there for the taking if Ulster really believe they can go to the RDS and win.

      • @Completebore

         /  May 12, 2014

        If they really believe they can do it…and get a few of the injured players back…and avoid an early red card…and the ref’s not a homer, then Ulster might get the job done. Unlike Munster, Leinster have managed to peak for the ‘minor comps’ in the last few years and specialise in breaking Ulster hearts.

        • Stevo

           /  May 12, 2014

          Indeed, I’ve become a specialist at commiserating with those heart-broken Ulster fans.

        • TBH while every team does gets its of poor refereeing once in a while, the best teams can overcome it. Blaming the ref/injuries is something Connacht especially have a habit of doing and I wish we would get over it. You have to adapt your game to the referee and the players you have available.

  2. ORiordan

     /  May 12, 2014

    I will be interesting to see if the new European Competition has any impact on attitude to Pro12.

    While I can’t see Munster being out of the reckoning for qualification – that would be a catastrophic downturn – it looks like performance in domestic competitions will determine seeding for Europe.

    Although like a lot of things to do with the nuHEC, details are still sketchy.

  3. Barry

     /  May 12, 2014

    🙂 a fairly amusing post WOC – Well I hope you’re kinda right – I have a lump of cash on Glasgae at 9/2 to win Pro 12 – they have the squad depth this year and are highly motivated

  4. Sound Steve

     /  May 12, 2014

    It’s a pretty complacent and arrogant attitude if they don’t give it a good shot next weekend. I think you’d have to say overall it would reflect a poor season if they do limp out next weekend. Given the pitiful group they had for HC, the QFs would have been the minimum expectation. The performance against Toulouse was excellent, even allowing for Toulouse being atrocious, and they made a very good fist of it against Toulon, but is that good enough to say, “fair enough, we’ve done our bit, let’s start the summer holidays a bit early”? I hope not.

  5. A truly dire performance on Saturday, and impossible to have any real conviction that we’ll turn it around in Scotstoun. The less said about it the better.

    If, however, I were to scrape around for some hope, I would probably recall Munster’s most recent trip to Scotstoun, which was one of the Pro12 games of the season. Donncha O’Callaghan and POM (21 tackles!) were immense that night, in a match which was more physical and niggly than we’re used to seeing in the Rabo. I honestly thought at that stage of the season that we had copped on and were taking the league seriously for a change, and I think there’s a chance that the recent malaise is more down to Penney’s impending departure than a disrespect for the competition inherent in Munster’s psyche. At least I hope so. If we turn up and play to the level we did in the HEC knock-outs, I don’t think we’ll be beaten… But that’s a big “if”.

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  May 12, 2014

      The recent malaise is more down to Penney’s impending departure? Are they hoping that Penney’s replacement is not watching & judging these performances??!

  6. Yossarian

     /  May 12, 2014

    I thought reddan highlighted a lot of the problem the PRO12 is faced with. The media won’t really be on Munsters case over this but instead will talk about the Jeckyll and Hyde week to week turn around Munster are famous for doing as if it is something to be proud of.
    http://thescore.thejournal.ie/eoin-reddan-pro12-future-leinster-1443114-May2014/

    • There definitely seems to be a bit of a vicious cycle, where Munster don’t care about the Pro12, which means the fans don’t care about the Pro12, which reduces the importance with which the media perceive it, which gives Munster even less of a reason to go for it etc.

      I can imagine it’ll almost take Munster having the sort of season that Man United just had, where they *really* fall off the rails, before the rose-tinted glasses come off and they start to prioritise actually winning *something* rather than looking back at past glories to justify being OK with not winning anything.

  7. I think Munster are gonners. Since the hammering in Thomond two weeks ago I reckon Glasgow have their number. The Warriors are playing too well – see the smiting they doled out to Ulster the week before – and will be too motivated to let Munster steal this one away from them, Ligind-powers from the likes of Paulie and DO’C or not. Say what one likes about MO’C’s team – with which I’m far from happy – but at least we have displayed some degree of consistency – Toulon quarter-final aside – to grind out the results, even if relying on heavy doses of bosh at the expense of Leinstertainment to do it. My prediction therefore; Munster will come up short, after giving it their best shot, while Leinster will do whatever it takes to be at least one point ahead of the Ulstermen at the end of eighty minutes in the RDS. In saying that I would very much look forward to a Leinster-Glasgow final as the defining test of the Matt O’Connor “regime”.

    • I wouldn’t read a huge amount into the Thomond Park game against Glasgow, to be honest. It was a strange match and the scoreline didn’t reflect the parity between the two sides. Were it not for an abomination of an attempt at a tackle on Maitland by Zebo and a ridiculous decision to kick from Stander when he had Van Den Heever (!) outside him in open country, it would have been a three-point game. We matched them in nearly all respects outside of those two moments of pure headlessness, and we were barely out of third gear.

      I rate Glasgow quite highly but it’s important not to overstate how good they are. They finished bottom of their pool in the HEC, and were only slightly unfortunate to do so. As mixed a bag as Munster’s performances have been this season, I very much doubt that it’ll be a case of coming up short after giving it our best shot. If we give it our best shot, i.e. a performance to match the levels of the Toulon or Toulouse games, or even the Scotstoun game, we’ll win. The question is whether we’re mentally prepared to do that.

  8. I kind of hope Glasgow win this year, they have the squad, the coach, and the flair to make it an exciting victory and it would be good for the league to open up the competition a bit. Sorry Munster fans.

    I think its a little funny that the performance versus Toulon has started to be retrospectively viewed as a close loss, but Munster were barely holding on for vast portions of the game. No one seems to remember how brutal the scrums were and that Toulon monstered Munster in the few (one???) scrum where the ball actually got put in.
    What about the manic, headless 10 minutes or so when Laulala was throwing the ball around like it was volleyball, begging Toulon for an intercept?
    What about fatty armitage’s almost try? Zebo did well to get across and disrupt him but any other 8 or back with that ball would have lifted their legs rather than dragging his foot over the line and the try would have been given.

    I don’t mean to say that Munster can’t match and surpass Glasgow if they bring their top form but for me the Toulon game is not the blueprint for success.

    • There’s nothing retrospective about the assessment that it was a close loss. It’s ridiculous to suggest it wasn’t. Your hypothetical scenario where Laulala threw intercept passes and Zebo didn’t complete the cover tackle on Armitage didn’t actually happen. (I’d also take issue with the notion that Munster’s scrum was “monstered”, given that Wayne Barnes literally said he’d given Carl Hayman the benefit of the doubt when he was folding like a deck of cards, but that’s a side-issue.) There was one score in the game with 78 minutes on the clock. Ian Keatley had the opportunity to put Munster ahead around the 60-minute mark. By the only relevant metric, the scoreboard, it was a close loss.

      That said, I’d agree that the Toulon game is not necessarily the blueprint for success. Aspects of it were good enough, but the inaccuracy in attack, in particular the errors which led to Munster coughing up points immediately after scoring, needs to be removed. We’ll see whether it is.

  9. Bobby T

     /  May 12, 2014

    Bizzare pre-emptive pontification and apportion of attitude from you guys.
    I reckon James Cronin will wake up next Thursday and decide on coco-pops rather than porridge and eggs, cause he has no respect for his dietition when he gets 6 hours sleep rather than 8.
    Fair enough making a prediction that they might lose but to begin to decide that is because they are not professional enough to care is an odd piece of ‘bloggerism’. Why not actually do a bit of analysis on the games they have played.
    Yes they played rubbish v Ulster but where exactly? What happened in the scrum where they should have been dominant, etc.? It wasn’t purely down to a lethargic attitude. I assume none of the Ulster players deserve any bit of praise either? Heaney and Allen looked very sharp for two young players for example.
    Claiming they meant ‘business’ against Edinburgh is equally ridiculous. Did you guys watch that game? They came out of the blocks practically ready to gift Edinburgh the game, playing absolute tripe and allowing Edinburgh offload like they were the All Blacks. It just happened that Edinburgh are actually that terrible that they let Munster piss in a few easy tries that most J2 teams would have knocked in and completely crumpled.
    Perhaps the game that might actually provide some decent insight into the game versus Glasgow might be their last game against……..Glasgow? A pathetic match where both teams played shocking rugby yet Glasgow thumped us on the score-board because they took their chances where Munster didn’t.
    On pro 12 form Munster look utterly useless over the past month or two but they have done enough to get themselves to the semi and they will be different in a ‘cup-rugby’, as are all the provinces – its in the Irish nature – its how our schools rugby is run and its how are national games are run. We are not a nation with a league mentality (IMO).
    I suspect Munster will show up this weekend and it should be a cracking game, which I will find it hard to call the winner of, as unlike yourselves I think Glasgow are an excellent side capable of beating Munster, Leinster and Ulster even when they show up. They are practically the Scottish international side, except better – they have a few overseas lads thrown in and they actually play with a discernible game plan!

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  May 12, 2014

      Your first sentence has given me a headache!

      • It’s the English rranslation of the Polish Eurovision song. True story.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  May 12, 2014


          Just when I’d gotten this image out of my head 😦

    • “Why not actually do a bit of analysis on the games they have played.”

      Or why not look more thematically at a longstanding issue that Munster have never got around to addressing?

      • Bobby T

         /  May 12, 2014

        Because statements like ‘Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray – best in their positions in Europe – do not look at Lewis Stevenson and Michael Heaney and find their hearts pumping’ mean absolutely nothing as you have just made them up entirely. Looking at something thematically is fine if you are going to base it even remotely on fact.

        • You don’t agree? I doubt O’Connell sees Stevenson as a competitor .. unlike, say, NWJMB

          • Bobby T

             /  May 13, 2014

            Its just a massive assumption, like most of the article.

  10. Leinsterlion

     /  May 12, 2014

    Could this be a changing of the guard? Connacht closing the gap(through solid recruitment and coaching) on Leinster and Munster or rather Leinster and Munster dropping their standard(but for once off performances both have been largely poor this season) and Ulster becoming the pre eminent Irish province?
    I couldnt watch the Munster match, had it recorded but after sitting through MOCball the day before I had no intention of watching another 80 mins of garbage. Toulouse and Racing beckoned, which if anyone was watching, its obvious they dont believe in concussions in the Top Quatorze, that Munster loss must have finally unhinged Noves..

    A painful weekend of rugby, Strauss injured, Leinster playing pure muck. One positive was SOB’s return at blindside, hopefully he gets a full pre season and Leinster and Ireland can have a return to imperious 6 play next season.

    • That concussion incident is the worst I think I’ve ever seen on a rugby pitch. Novés and the Toulouse doctor should both lose their jobs over it, and that doctor should lose his licence. Unbelievable, shocking, extraordinarily dangerous behaviour.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  May 12, 2014

        I think Noves has lost it, did you see the team he picked? Doussin at ten with McAllister at twelve, the front row, they tried to play the better rugby(Racing were awful) but his selections hamstrung them. That Fritz incident should bring a massive fine, I think Noves has done for himself, either he or his coaches will pay for this season failure, poor recruitment and selection in key positions has hurt them all season and I see they have just signed a 6/7th choice NZ hooker for next season to back up their reserve reserve Bok hooker.

        The ref/linesman should also be punished for letting him back on the field

  11. It’s hard to know if the players really don’t care about the Pro12 or not. To be fair, the facts can certainly be made to fit that narrative, at the very least – and losing to that side we sent south on Saturday is absolutely disgraceful. Well done our academy-heavy ragtag bunch, I’ll certainly take the win, but horrific from Munster.

    If – and it’s only if, if for no other reason than I struggle to accept they’d be so blasé about the league – they do see it as second rate then Munster is barely a rugby team, let alone the Better Province. All that work for nine games of effort a year? That would be disgraceful.

    As for internet fans saying “it’s only the Pro12” as has been mentioned above – I didn’t see any of that myself but plenty of fans downplay defeat and talk up victory for their team as a matter of course. Doesn’t mean the sentiment is truly felt.

    From my perspective, I love going to Ravenhill for the Pro12 and I’ll be beyond delighted if we manage to win the thing this year (I expect we’ll lose to Leinster, as we tend to do in Dublin).

    • I’ve always felt that the attitude to the Pro12 is a bit sniffy down in Munster. It’s certainly seen that way by the fans, largely because they threw themselves headfirst into the ‘European crusade’ when Munster were the first province to become successful in it.

      But there’s plenty of evidence that the players take a similar view, not lesast in ROG’s autobiography and in various soundbites from him where he dismissed the matches as ‘warm-up games’.

      • solidalarry

         /  May 12, 2014

        “Warm-up games”? – staggering!

      • Bushmills

         /  May 14, 2014

        I think you will find Ulster were the first province to be successful in Europe.

    • Its a media thing as well. The annual Leinster Munster clash at the RDS is often referred ot as a tune-up/warm-up for the next round of HC fixture. This attitude seeps into the fans, especially in Munster where such a huge emphasis is placed on the HC

      • The media don’t exactly sell the product – but, then, that’s not their job. Some of the guff written about the AP is cringeworthy. My French is non-existent so can’t talk about the domestic Top14 coverage. Do we really want our press to become slavish cheerleaders? I’d say no, except they are already, just with a different agenda.

        It’s incumbent on the players to be a bit more positive, like Reddan in the Score piece Yossarian linked to above, and call out media bullshit and/or produce a bit of bullshit of their own. ER’s point that sometimes the media call games light when he’s been wrecking himself can’t be something he alone feels (especially as he plays nine).

        Objectively speaking, Munster’s performance at the weekend is hardly an endorsement of the league. However, Wasps conceded 74 unanswered points at the weekend in the world’s most competitive league, while the Top14 game I watched on Friday was certainly dramatic, but low on quality (even if there was a lot of hard yakka from both teams).

        • I agree that commentary of other leagues can border on vomit inducing (looking at the guardian in particular for that mentality) but it shows the mindset, unless all stakeholders (players, media, coaches) start treating the league with a bit more respect then the fans will not care either. Its why I’m looking forward to seeing what the Sky Sports Hype machine will bring.

  12. It’s not just Munster. The last few years the fans of the Rabo teams in Scotland, Wales and Italy have gotten to see very little of BO’D in the flesh, anytime Leinster were over to visit.

  13. Ro

     /  May 12, 2014

    Its only tje Pro12! eeeh it our bread and butter. Its what me, as a season ticket holder, go to watch week in week out. It means a hell of a lot to me. Can Munster win in Glasgow? Of course thay can but I doubt they will. Can Ulster win in the RDS? You bet but that will depend on how Leinster play the game. If we can play a full game at a tempo and quality we started the game in Ravenhill then we will host Glasgow in the final. If not it could be a first final in Scotland. For me Glasgow are the form team and they (and Ulster) wont fear anyone. Both have come close previously in the RDS(Glasgow being very unlucky on their two previous visits) and I am sure feel they owe us one. Personally I love the pro12 and am hoping for two more home games! Come on Leinster!!!!!

  14. ORiordan

     /  May 12, 2014

    For some figures I’ve seen for Leinster in 2012, 65% of their gate money came from Pro12 games and 35% from HEC games so there is no getting away from the financial significance.

    Munster’s Pro12 attendances were down almost 10% from last season and they are now the third best supported team in the competition after Leinster and Ulster.

    I’d hope that Munster’s bean counters are stressing the importance of the competition in terms of results (a home semi is worth at least a couple of hundred thousand EUR) and getting bums on seats throughout the year.

  15. Andrew

     /  May 12, 2014

    Think the teams, media, the league itself have a lot to answer for in relation to th Pro12
    If you listen to the English lot they are never done talking up how brilliant their league is, looking for stats to prove it. Ie the most competitive in the universe.
    Pro 12 probably has more internationals, more tries I don’t know but it is a great competition, lots of great rugby, only thing missing is a plate or bowl competition for the next four teams and the next four. Giving. Everybody a chance to grab a prize on the lat day. No harm for tv no harm for publicity. The Pro 12 three great prizes I can hear a English consultant say, no shout.

  16. Fergal

     /  May 12, 2014

    But, but, but…at least we bate the Best Team in Europe, eh, LeinsterLion?
    Said Best Team in Europe crashed out of the Top 14 to Racing Metro at the weekend, of course, to miss the semis for the first time in around 20 years…and Clermont lost Their Home Record.

    Agree that is all smells very 2012-ish and that Glasgow would put 40 points on the rabble that played last Saturday night.

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