Free Pass

In the aftermath of Connacht’s win at Thomond Park, Murray Kinsella did a fantastic piece of analysis on Connacht’s skillset – and one worth reading if you haven’t done so yet. It has been a consistent feature of Connacht’s play this season – good on-pitch awareness and skillful play executed well. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the other provinces, who continue to stink the place out.

The most pungent right now is Munster, who followed up the defeat to Connacht with a lamentable defeat away to the Dragons. Without a doubt, missing their best two players (POM and Conor Murray) is a big blow for Munster, but the on-pitch ineptitude was pretty shocking – bar a questionable (at best) TMO decision, they never looked like beating either Connacht at home or the Dragons away. And, with all due respect to our Western Brethren and Stephen Jones’ local Pro12 muckers, that’s quite a come down for Munster.

So, you’d think everyone would be up in arms about it, asking tough questions about where they are going? What the gameplan is? Whether such an abundance of turnovers and gormless attacking is worthy of criticism? Not a bit of it – on Second Captains yesterday and in the IT today, Gerry was at pains to pin Munster’s issues on a host of extraneous factors:

  • “The Dragons have a decent home record and Rodney Parade isn’t an easy place to go” – cut me some slack, provinces would view this as a chance for 5 points in recent years
  • “Munster suffering more than anyone from fans’ post-RWC hangover” – not sure of the science behind this, but in 2007 and 2011, Munster seemed rejuvenated by having their Irish players back
  • “We know how hard Limerick has been hit during the recession” – not downplaying the impact of a savage recession, but it’s been pretty much nationwide, and the economy has been improving for three years now
  • “The 7.45 kick-off on a Saturday night in December isn’t helpful.” – really? A few years ago, Gerry was complaining that Munster didn’t get enough Saturday night kickoffs due to “English arrogance”

When we talk with Munster fans, we hear a very different suite of concerns, and we can’t help but feel a concerted effort is being made to avoid asking tough questions of our native coaches. When Rob Penney was Munster coach, Wednesday Night Rugby on Off The Ball with the now-SC team was at times a long diatribe against Penney’s selection/tactics from Thornley and Wood, yet there was nary a mention of any questions for the coach to answer when McDevitt had Gerry on yesterday. Equally, when Matt O’Connor was Leinster coach, he was the lightning rod (correctly, certainly by his second season) for criticism. Now, it’s just a collection of things that Foley can do nothing about – although there is a pretty coherent argument that dropping attendances are directly related to the faire on offer, which is not being explored.

Thing is – no-one wants to just beat up on people just for the sake of it, particularly when they have the status the likes of Axel and Leo Cullen have, but if we want our native coaches to develop, we surely need to hold them to account honestly. And in a world where Pat Lam has the likes of Denis Buckley and Ally Muldowney playing like All Blacks (sorry for using the term, but we feel it is appropriate here), Foley really should be doing better with the players he has, many of whom Lam would kill for. Time for some honest discussion.

Advertisements
Next Post

65 Comments

  1. ORiordan

     /  December 8, 2015

    On Off the Ball last season, I can remember Keith Wood jumping on Jezza for having the temerity to hint that Foley had some culpability for JJ Hanrahan heading off to Saints.

    Maybe Jezza is scared of his frequent co-presenter..? 😉

    If the journos are too scared to have a go at the locals, there is still a johnny foreigner in the shape of David Nucifora who they could ask some questions about.

    • Wood was nay impressed with Gerry’s opinion on the Lions last week haha!

      • mikerob2015

         /  December 8, 2015

        Absolutely! Jerry having a go at another of Wood’s sacred cows. I thought Wood did make a reasonable point that the Lions have remained the same; it is all the other rugby competitions that have been expanding and squeezing the season (and Ireland will be guilty of that as well if the rumoured Autumn International game against NZ in Chicago ends up happening)

    • Penny was shafted and his decision to go to Japan was driven by the inevitable opposition he had from the likes of Foley etc. Munster have a coaching team who are nowhere near good enough and the pious platitudes spewed out by Woods and Thornley do no service to themselves or the fans. Lam was subject to a torrent of snide remarks when he took over in Connacht, led by Francis and of course, inevitably Hook, yet he was given the time and support and we can see that now in how Connacht are playing. They gave us a rugby lesson in Thomond, we didn’t play badly, we were out played and out thought by a far better side.

      • Lam had to suffer snide remarks from Matt O’Connor also. On the occasion of Connacht’s visit to the RDS in season 2013/2104 the then new Leinster coach tried to blame his own team’s poor albeit winning performance on the opposition’s “negative” tactics. It was then I realised MO’C was a bluffer…….

  2. ruckinhell

     /  December 8, 2015

    As a Munster fan, each and every time I watch Munster I am appalled at the regression in the standard of play. Our basic skills are terrible in almost every facet of the game and there is clearly something wrong in the set up. We do not have a clearly definable style of play, there is no coherence in how we approach things.

    This isn’t just on Foley, the coaching team that he has around him is devoid of any experienced top level coaches. Which of them has spent any time coaching outside of Munster? One- Jerry Flannery with, er, Arsenal.

    This time 7 years ago, Munster were defending Heineken Cup finalists and had just opened a new stadium with a game against the All Blacks. There was huge demand for tickets, we had a strong, almost all Irish side (almost all Munster) complemented with a small handful of excellent overseas signings. Now we are a mishmash of provincial castoffs, dubious foreign signings and a very small kernel of decent home grown players. It’s not clear where the next quality players are going to come from and when you lose a JJ Hanrahan but retain a Duncan Williams it’s clear all is not well. We have a large stadium which is never full but which has left us with a huge debt and we have a poorly developed squad of players and a public who are clearly no longer enthralled by Munster rugby. People vote with their feet and the shocking attendances this year are symptomatic of the issue, not the cause of it as Gerry Thornley and Keith Wood allude to in their media appearances.

    For me, Munster has very clearly been the most poorly run province in the last decade in all aspects- financial, coaching, infrastructure and legacy planning. People will call for Foley’s head but he is also a symptom of the problem- an experienced coach in Rob Penney couldn’t keep the ship together and we couldn’t retain him. We then replaced him with a local coaching ticket and this was trumpeted as some sort of excellent development rather than a desperate solution to a problem of our own devising. The issues that face Munster are far deeper than the identity of the coach and far more difficult to solve than merely replacing him or his ticket.

    With regards to Simon Zebo, the question we should be asking isn’t will he renew a contract with Munster- it should be why would he? Answers on a postcard kids!

    • ruckinhell

       /  December 8, 2015

      *We were of course defending HEC champions in 2008- my despondency is trumping my memory

    • Yeah I know – the ubiquity of the phrase “return to traditional Munster values” was setting off alarms. Munster aren’t the only province appointing locals – look at Ulster’s professional game staff:

      http://www.ulsterrugby.com/branch/staff.php#.VmbRFHbhDcs

      • Amiga500

         /  December 8, 2015

        What are you trying to say here?!?!

        That Ulster’s world wide search for top class talent seems to hit a buffer somewhere around Lisburn?

        😀

        • Worse Bangor. Started with the local who appointed all the other locals. Appointing locals is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. Have respect for Doak who has recognized his lack of experience. However in reading the Murray Kinsella article a real issue is how the lack of personnel with a proven track record in developing basic skills at the junior levels at the provinces. The real eyeopener in the article is how much work is being done on basic skills by specialists who have been bought in. Can’t help wondering just how much set piece versus basic skills work is being done at the other provinces? When comparing the introduction of Stephen Mulholland at Ulster and Peter Robb at Connacht the latter looked well prepared and not out of place.

      • Yossarian

         /  December 8, 2015

        Leinster have followed suit. Is it no wonder Connacht look the best coached province? they seem to be the only ones who did a detailed search for a head coach.

        Leo
        Girve
        Fogarty

        all unproven, all proving to be out of their depth

  3. Absolutely spot on

  4. ehhweasel

     /  December 8, 2015

    Part of the problem is the anticipation that was felt around Munster for years before he was actually appointed, whichever coach, McGahan or Penney, it was always expected that Axel would take the reins and lead us to glory as he did in 2006. It’s quite obvious that it’s not going to work out that way but it would be rather devastating for the province if the Silver Bullet has no effect whatsoever- where do you go from there?!

    I think that’s why there is particular reluctance to aim criticism his way, because what else can we try if we accept that he’s not a miracle worker? Wait for ROG to be the next Silver Bullet?

    Leo is a different case in my opinion, he’s in so far over his head that I feel bad for him. He’s got no coaching experience at any level apart from hanging around the squad for an extra season after he retired (I know he was hired as forwards coach) and it looks like a real hospital pass.

    • D6W

       /  December 8, 2015

      Leo has escaped criticism so far, not sure why. In my case, it was because he was handed a poisoned chalice, and you can tell he is trying to undo all the damage done to our skillset and style of play by MOC. Albeit, unsuccessfully so far, it seems the players have forgotten how to catch and pass the ball. But the backs are running again, and one hopes the skills are still there to be reignited again.

      But the forwards? Leo really has no excuse.

  5. D6W

     /  December 8, 2015

    What is Nucifora’s role in all this. He is supposed to be Director of Performance, but in his 3 years the 3 supposedly frontline provinces have gone backwards, being beaten regularly by both Welsh and even Scottish provinces. And the supposedly 2nd tier province, with the non local coaching setup, are going great guns. Rob Andrew, anyone?

    • I think it’s limited. CEO of Munster, Garrett Fitzgerald, commented on how Foley was the stand out candidate for the job when he was appointed. CEO of Ulster, Shane Logan, spoke about completing negotiations with Doak when his appointment was announced. Similarly, Tom Sears spoke about the appointment of Lam when he was chief exec in Connacht.
      Nucifora’s role as I understand it is about putting structures in place that maximise the available talent, a lot of which I interpret as converting players from the amateur set up (schools, clubs) to the pro game. Nucifora began his five year term on 1st June 2014 so he’s less than half way through. One of his roles in the professional game is contract negotiation with players which seems to involve influencing a player to move to another province in order to flesh out the playing rosters across the provinces. I can’t make out from reports if he does this alongside executives from the provinces, I imagine he has to.

      • D6W

         /  December 9, 2015

        I bow to your superior knowledge on this. But I would then ask the question, what can be pointed to and said “Nucifora created/changed that, and now there is improvement”?

        • Yeah, I think his position’s role was designed to be the answer to that question!
          I was thinking after I’d replied that Nucifora (any Performance Director) really is the Union’s man whereas all the other examples were the provincial CEOs. The IRFU has devolved a lot of decision making to the provinces but the interests of each province aren’t always the same as that of the national game. The example that comes quickest to mind is where Ulster sign back rows from the UBL while Leinster have internationals not in the match day squad. It’s not in Leinster’s interests for them to move but it is in the national interest so Nucifora steps in at that stage and brings influence to bear.
          I suppose that from a concrete perspective, the thing that springs most readily to mind is the creation of a national 7s team. Is this improvement in itself? Or is it only improvement if it graduates players to full time professional contracts at 15s? Depends on your perspective.
          My interpretation of the reason for the role is that it establishes standards of professionalism and accountability rather than earlier arrangements where amateurs with provincial interests ran the professional game in the guise of the Professional Team Management Committee. Like a lot of these roles, that doesn’t always mean it’ll bear fruit, it means that you have someone to blame.

        • Also, contact negotiations were tidier and done at a better time of year for internationals

  6. Amiga500

     /  December 8, 2015

    Rob Penney had them going places. Squad developing and a style of play emerging.

    All that has been pissed away due to back stabbing, infighting and an irrational desire to have an Irish coach at the helm rather than learning under the tutelage of an experienced foreigner.

    Well… Foley has taken Munster back to their traditional values… circa 1980…

    • seiko

       /  December 8, 2015

      That is just not true. Penney left because he was offered a job in Japan for 3 years at 3 times the money. These 3 years will set him and his family up for life. By the way, unlike any other ex-coach of any club, one of his two favourite topics on twitter is Munster. He has said on twitter that he would like to come back to Munster.

      Similar rubbish was spouted about Laurie Fisher which were also of course, rubbish.

      • Amiga500

         /  December 9, 2015

        As opposed to the one year extension he was offered at the home of the brave and faithful?

        He was probably asking “Et Tu Garret?”

        • seiko

           /  December 9, 2015

          You mean the similar kind of 1 year contract extentions that Cheika & Schmidt (two successful coaches) were offered and took with Leinster?

          • ehhweasel

             /  December 9, 2015

            Seiko, is that the case? We’re Cheika & Schmidt both given 1 year deals? I didn’t know that and it changes my perception of the Penney departure entirely.

    • scrumdog

       /  December 15, 2015

      Nail on the head!

  7. While it appears to me (based on Munster’s performance and pretty much every interview he gives) that Foley doesn’t have a scooby what’s going on, aren’t there huge structural issues for Munster that mean he was up against it from the off (though admittedly McGahan & Penney seemed to have some sort of plan in place to manage the decline/transition)? Being from the upstarts up the road I don’t have the answers but maybe the Munster fans can fill me in:

    – Is Thomond too big, or was Munster’s main stadium just built in the wrong city?

    – The Liginds (POC, DOC, Hayes, Stringer, ROG, Stringer etc. and so on and on and on) came out of the club game in the late 90s. Has Munster ever had a functioning academy or a schools production line (two of Connacht’s best prospects, Parata and Dillane, hail from Cork and Kerry respectively)?

    – When at their best Munster justifiably had about half the 20+ central contracts then available. Most of their first team weren’t being paid out of their own budget, so you can see why they could afford top notch foreign talent. They also had a waiting list for season tickets. Did this lack of budget pressure give rise to bad business practices (like paying fringe players too much, or retaining players who should have been let go) which exacerbated matters when finances tightened?

    – How can Munster be making eyes at the likes of Stephen Moore when Simon Zebo and others haven’t been re-signed?

    – Connacht seem to have free-rein on Exiles over the years (obviously there is an association from the amateur days) be they adult or underage players (Swift, McCarthy, Flavin, Muldowney, Marmion, Bealham). Are Munster not allowed compete, or was it the case they didn’t need to in the past and they choose not to now?

    • mikerob2015

       /  December 8, 2015

      I’m not sure about your last point about Connacht and exiles: Ulster have Arnold, Black, Browne, Herring, Reidy, Ross, Rowley, Tuohy and Windsor in the squad as IQ players born outside Ireland. Ulster may also have a bit of advantage for younger exiles coming from England as the universities are all in the same admissions system.

      However the lack of quality home grown forwards in Ulster is a concern hence the province is importing some distinctly average exiles to plug gaps.

      • Had no idea Ulster had so many Exiles on board. Thanks for that!

      • Rocky

         /  December 8, 2015

        Yes, but Ulster have four NIQ players plus Herbst as a project player. All the Exiles are Irish qualified and it is in great doubt whether or not most of them are as good as some of our own young players. Ross is Irish so not an exile.
        Connacht have 12 NIQ players – that’s a totally different thing and it’s wrong to confuse the two issues. The also have some players, like Ulster and Munster, who are now IQ by residency

        • Ok let’s knock this briefing-against-Connacht-as-soon-as-they-win-a-couple-of-games nonsense on the head right now.

          Connacht have 6 currently NIQ players: Naoupu (NZ), McGinty (USA) and 4 “projects” in Heenan, Fox-Matamua, McCartney and Aki. So one more than Ulster, one fewer than Munster.

          There are 9 other foreign born but IQ players in the squad: Marmion & Bealham came through our academy; Roux & White were signed from Leinster; Adeolokun has lived in Ireland since he was ten; Muldowney & Pewhairangi were Exiles; Ah You and Poolman were projects.

          Hope that clears things up for you, don’t believe everything you read on the Ulster/Munster/Leinster (delete as applicable) fan forum, and best of luck with the day job on the Trump 2016 campaign.

          • mikerob2015

             /  December 9, 2015

            McGinty isn’t a typical NIQ either given that he was born and brought up in Ireland but lost his IQ status when he represented the USA.

          • Yossarian

             /  December 10, 2015

            Cooney was signed from Leinster.
            Delahunt is from Offally
            Connolly went to Newbridge
            Robb went to Blackrock
            Buckley went to Blackrock

          • What’s your point Yossarian? We’re discussing NIQ players and you point out that (a) Cooney (presuming it’s John not JP you mean) was signed from Leinster (b) 3 of the Connacht academy are from Leinster (off the top of my head so are Moloney and McKeon) and (b) Buckley, like many other Connachtmen such as Sean O’Brien, Cormac Brennan, and Oisin Heffernan (he stayed in Leinster I think) played in the (far superior) Leinster schools cup. Did you reply to the wrong comment?

        • mikerob2015

           /  December 9, 2015

          Ah, but Ulster have 2 Rosses! B Ross is an IQ exile and “with respect to” C Ross is the one born in Ireland.

    • BFBB

       /  December 8, 2015

      Some good points above.
      A- There are a multitude of factors for this and a bit of contextual perspective may be required. The 25K stadium wasn’t built with pro-12 games in mind. It was concluded that up to 4 European games per year + 1 touring side / lower tier November international / etc. would be accommodated in Thomond most years, providing a stable base for operations. A number of factors have impeded on this – not least the deal the IRFU have struck forcing all internations no matter how small the likely attendance into the Aviva (a stadium with only twice the capacity but over 14 times the build cost!). The above aside the attendance numbers look much worse on TV due to the size of the stadiums, however the average attendance for Pro12 games at Thomond this season is slightly higher than the RDS and approx 1K less than the Kingspan (admittedly smaller stadiums). The Treviso HEC game was in fact a higher attendance than Wasps in the RDS or Sarries in the Kingspan which. Also without stating the obvious; the population of Munster is significantly lower (approx 1million) than either Ulster or Leinster and with the general relative success of the counties in GAA has as much if not more competition for support base.
      B-All bar one of the players you mentioned came through the schools system they just happened to play club also as the two were always intertwined – in fact I believe it is the new trend away from this that is costing Munster somewhat. Not least to say that the Munster club teams have been decimated in recent years with any decent player under 30 plying their trade in Dublin as they are also in need of a full time job. The individual schhol in Munster have rarely been as strong as Leinster however the Munster schools team had up until recently been very competitive and sometimes dominant.
      C-Most definitley
      D-Because they had a positional crisis. Contract negotions are cyclical in nature.
      E-I’d agree with that assessment. Munster do still have a good production line and it is illogical to ignore this to scout Exiles – No offense to the players mentioned above but most of them were pretty late bloomers and there wasn’t exactly a fight over their signature at underage level-perhaps the level of responsibility they are afforded in Connacht where (up until recently) the competition for places has traditionally not been as strong?

      • Amiga500

         /  December 8, 2015

        “however the average attendance for Pro12 games at Thomond this season is slightly higher than the RDS and approx 1K less than the Kingspan (admittedly smaller stadiums).”

        Ah here!

        You are counting absent season tickets as attendees? That chicken will come home to roost next season when ST sales are through the floor.

        In terms of numbers through the gates, the OarDeeS and RavenSpan have (admittedly by looks alone) much greater attendances weekly.

        • mikerob2015

           /  December 8, 2015

          I thought all the provinces (indeed all Pro rugby teams) counted season ticket holders as attendees? The RDS and Kingspan have about 7k lower capacity than Thomond so a near capacity crowd at RDS or Kingspan will always make them look fuller than the same number of people at Thomond.

          • Rocky

             /  December 8, 2015

            Again, I have to say that the figures for Ravenhill are (this season) actual attendees, with an average of more than 15,000. Absent ST holders are not counted.

        • BFBB

           /  December 8, 2015

          I did note a bit of contextual perspective is required and in this case “admittedly by looks alone” is exactly what I am talking about. You may be correct re season ticket holders, however as pointed out above the comparative average attendances are all counted on the same basis. There are season ticket holders who cant be f*cked getting to every game in Dublin and Belfast too. You are looking at a larger stadium with approx the same amount of people and “those cows are far away”.
          I don’t really care all that much who has the bigger attendance. It is low in all the provinces at the moment (barring Connacht understandably) and is possibly more a function of the proven poor quality of the Pro12 in general.

          • All Pro 12 attendances are tickets sold, not bodies through the gate, and therefore semi-fictional. At the Munster Connacht game, the official attendance was 15,143. Multiple press reports gave the numbers actually in the ground as a shade over 9400.

            Notwithstanding the fact that Connacht would kill for such attendance figures, (a) the stadium was barely 1/3 full for an InterPro (b) allowing for a conservative estimate of 400-500 Connacht fans, over 40% of Munster ticket (season or other) holders for the game didn’t bother showing up (c) the “credibility gap” between the reported and actual attendance is larger for Munster than the other provinces (absolutely and in percentage terms) and probably the biggest in the Pro 12.

            This year crowds are down across the Pro12 but it’s probably fair to say Munster are worst affected.

        • @CompleteBore

           /  December 9, 2015

          I’d agree with you on Ravenhill up to recently. The usually uncomfortably packed terrace was fairly sparse on Friday night (when they’d have made a handy wind-break) and the stands looked to have more gaps than usual too. While they’re still reporting nearly 16,000 attending. And tickets are still on-sale for the Toulouse game this Friday which is slightly unusual, so they may feel the pain soon also.

    • osheaf01

       /  December 8, 2015

      The road from Cork to Limerick is poor, so it’s a major hassle going to Munster matches in Thomond, from Cork. You can probably get to Dublin quicker. Not sure this is rugby’s fault, but there’s a big infrastructure problem.

      Sacking Penney was catastrophic – and I said so at the time. A classic example of Irish insularity.

      • seiko

         /  December 9, 2015

        He wasn’t sacked. He at first accepted an extention, then changed his mind because of the life changing offer he got from Japan.

        • Was he not only offered a one year extension though? Hardly motivation to stay, leaving aside serious financial temptation

          • seiko

             /  December 9, 2015

            All IRFU contracts seem to be initially a 2 year contract with an option of a 1 year extension (which seemingly Penney had agreed to extension) then changed his mind and went to Japan.

            The point is he wasn’t sacked (as being claimed here) and he has left Munster on good terms – so much so that he has said on twitter he would like to come back if he could.

          • I’ve also seen those in the know claim that there was a two-year offer on the table when push came to shove. He left for his own reasons.

  8. Yossarian

     /  December 8, 2015

    I thought Thornley complaining about a Saturday 7:45 kick off was a misprint!!! Friday evenings aren’t ideal….Sunday afternoons are a poor time……. i would Love to know when Gerry would like to see matches played!?!

    Falling attendances for Munster and more recently Leinster are symptomatic of what is going on on the pitch. A poor pricing policy doesn’t help either. Leinster v Ulster tickets were in the region of 60/70 Euro to sit along sidelines instead of behind the exposed posts. Far to pricey for the average fan when the show is so poor.

    • seiko

       /  December 9, 2015

      7.45 pm kick off is too late when you have to travel long distances on poor roads in the middle of December and more than likely bad weather. It doesn’t suit families either – way too late for kids to be out.

      • Amiga500

         /  December 9, 2015

        So what time would suit?

        Tell Garrett Fitzgerald.

        • seiko

           /  December 9, 2015

          5pm on Saturday night would suit. Its BT Sport & Sky who need to be told.

  9. andrew097

     /  December 8, 2015

    It seems Irish Rugby has caught the de skilling malase. What was so depressing about our exit in the WC was the young Argentina players looked more skilled and better decision makers and as it pains me to say we even looked out coached. Three of our top teams are being undone by poor performance of catching and passing.
    Meanwhile the team that has least resources but are stressing good basic skills and decision making are doing well. This would appear a obvious path to take but Irish rugby culture has always had this problem. The amount of times we have turned games through a dropped pass or a poor kick are many.
    When Leinster was coached by JS this appeared cured but Ireland dont play anything like Leinster played, you can understand its because its a different team but we look like we have gone backwards by the end of the WC
    Three of the Pro 12 teams look like a shadow of just a season or two ago and no excuses its the coaches who set the skill sets.

  10. The drop off in skills along with the abysmal performances and the failure to bring through the academy players – Conan and Furlong being the exceptions – did for Matt O’Connor. As such I thought the decision to let him go was the right one and still do. When then the likes of Ewan McKenzie and Tony Browne weren’t interested in the job, it fell to Living Legend Leo. Okay, our ERCC performances have been suboptimal, but at the same time I think progress is being made week in, week out. Whatever about Leo and Fogs have little or no coaching experience, I reckon Girve knows what he’s about, particularly when it comes to the backs. The A team he coached successfully for a number of years played beautiful rugby, dare I say it, “the Leinster Way”.

    I do think Leinster’s international players are suffering a post-RWC hangover. The expectation to make the semis on the back of two 6 Nations titles was huge. To then crash out in the quarters like every Ireland team before them – and in such catastrophic fashion at the hands of Argentina – brought the likes of Sexton, Heaslip, Church back to earth with a severe bang. I’d be surprised if they weren’t suffering a crisis of confidence. Joe had them believing they were world beaters and the world proved different. To pick yourself up after such a disappointment must be tough and doesn’t just happen at the flick of a switch. I reckon Cullen’s Cubs will make the Pro 12 play-offs: If they can do enough in the ERCC group stage to hobble Toulon and prevent them getting a fourth gold star, I’ll be happy. And sure who knows, we might still manage a miracle in the Stade Mayo and keep our European dreams alivel!!!

  11. eoinybones

     /  December 8, 2015

    Not sure about those attendance stats. According to Statbunker, the 2015/16 Pro12 averages are as follows: Ulster = 14,609, Leinster = 13,033, Munster = 10,289 and Connacht = 3,514. http://rugby.statbunker.com/competitions/HomeAttendance?comp_id=504

  12. Shane

     /  December 8, 2015

    I agree with your main point Munster management is been given a good chance by the media but has a life long munster support I’m not panicking just yet. There is always a speed bump in every season fingers crossed munster are over it now and can battle on until we get Pom and Tod back.
    The one point I do take issue with is your take on the economy in Munster. Your right “limerick ” is slowly climbing out of slump but nowhere near as fast as Dublin or Galway. But the thing is Munsters is not just limerick. It is not a case of jumping on bus and off you go thomand. The price of fule and time it takes to get to a game from rural areas is never factored in by must people who are quick to judge.
    To be honest I’m kind of sick of people who don’t live in munster and West Ireland telling me the recession is over.
    Yes numbers are down but it’s not just Munsters last few game’s in the rds had poor numbers too the difference is rds holds 18000
    Thomand is 26000 it’s always going to look bad in such a big stadium.

  13. Looks like Foley is going down the provinces vs. national team route. No more than MOC, I do not expect this to end well for him.
    http://www.the42.ie/irfu-provinces-munster-leinster-connacht-2490961-Dec2015/

  14. I was getting a fair bashing from people online early in the year for saying that I much perferred going to Connacht matches than watching Ireland ones. And lets be frank here the Irish provinces are trying to play the way Ireland does. Its quite simple.

    I wonder if short term success might have blinded up to where rugby in the country is going.

  15. A well-observed piece generally, but I cringed at this:

    ‘“We know how hard Limerick has been hit during the recession” – not downplaying the impact of a savage recession, but it’s been pretty much nationwide, and the economy has been improving for three years now’

    This is a little glib. Wiki material incoming (CSO website wasn’t working): Dell’s Limerick plant alone was worth around 2% of the entire Irish GDP when it was in operation, and when it closed in 2009, Limerick straight away lost about 1,900 jobs, with more lost due to spin-off effects. Limerick was also especially reliant on the construction sector (the effects of which you can see in the hulks of half-constructed buildings on the Childers Road). The upshot of all that was that Limerick’s unemployment rate reached 28.6% in 2012, twice the national average at the time.

    The recession was obviously nationwide, but its effects were felt far worse in some places than others and the recovery, such as it is, has not been evenly spread out across the country. Limerick was hit incredibly hard, as anyone who lived there or spent any time there at all during that period would know, and while things are turning around, the loss of young people and real income among the permanent residents of the city was massive and disproportionate to other places in Ireland.

    Rugby is pretty insignificant by comparison to all this, but it has suffered knock-on consequences. At club level, the Limerick sides have had a rocky time over the last few years, losing a lot of their best young players to emigration or the move to the capital. For Munster, the serious decline in disposable income in Limerick has almost certainly played a significant role in the decline in numbers attending games over the last few years, both home and away. How significant, it’s hard to say.

    The concern from Munster’s perspective is that this decline in numbers is not being reversed as economic fortunes improve, and for that I’d be inclined to agree with the rest of the article. The team is in bad shape under Foley et al, and while I’m not totally pessimistic about turning it around, the performances in big games to date haven’t given me a great deal of faith. Retaining Penney would have seen us in a better place, at the very least for big matches when we almost invariably performed during his tenure, but I’m not sure that was possible. That being said, I don’t know if I’d like to see journalists with knives out, but it’d certainly be refreshing to hear someone call out Keith Wood for his long-standing Axel cheerleading campaign at least!

  16. paddyo

     /  December 9, 2015

    Is part of the reason that the set up of the new European cup is worse than was there previously? Irish teams and supporters really loved the European cup in the past and that was the access point for lots of people to jump on the old bandwagon, but there is quite a bit of apathy towards it at the minute. Previously there was pashun, misty psychic energy ebb and flow/heroic deeds on far away lands/ whatever your having yourself. You might say that’s purely down to performances but I’m not so sure. Each province does have their own, different problems just now, but I’d argue there’s also a combination of:

    1. The TV carve up – people are being priced out of it a bit. People I know, who would have followed every game in the past now just aren’t watching the games, or else they seem to be doing it illegally. TV audiences have their own problems and are not really what the provinces might want, but if you or your kids, or your mates aren’t seeing it on TV, are you likely to go buy a ticket to the pitch?

    2. The way they are slimming down the European cup to increase competition/reduce the number of teams you need to share the money with is dramatically different to the super rugby model which is adding teams all the time. What is it next year super 64s or something? Part of the attraction is that it was such a tribal competition. Less people are watching it than might be because their teams aren’t bloody in it! It would be better to expand the European cup to a 32 team competition by integrating much of the challenged cup into it in my opinion. Four groups of eight. That’s not aping soccer, it just makes for a tidier competition and might allow a greater degree of certainty in setting budgets and wot not for all concerned too.

    3. The as hoc nature of the whole thing is hurting it’s credibility too. That is maybe teething issues – fair enough, but when the bath chairman (is he also not on the organising committee of this prom too?) starts mouthing off that these cancelled games just can’t be played….before there’s been any consultation within the organising partners…..and then eventually they do indeed be reorganised…….it just starts to look like attempts being made at a personal fiefdom. It’s hard to get as excited by that.

    Obviously the Irish teams just aren’t playing so hot right now either. That’s their lookout and they gotta take that on the chin and find solutions to their problems. For what it’s worth (not much), I reckon they all will in time. Also, little of this fully explains the drop off in pro 12 figures. Maybe I get a bit more annoyed about all this than most people, but in the marquee competition it does feel like they’ve killed the goose that laid the golden egg a bit. The ripple effect of that…..at best it isn’t helping.

  17. Ger

     /  December 10, 2015

    Fankie Sheenan on Monday OTB displayed a very similar view to the above piece. He had nothing bad to say about his old pal Foley. If the IRFU want irish coaches well enough. But lets be honest. These Irish coaches are not any good. Lastly No one mentions that there seems to be cronyism with in this munster staff. Do any of munsters coaches have real qualifaciation to stand on?

  18. Mary Hinge

     /  December 10, 2015

    I would be giving Foley and co the benefit of the doubt in Munster until we see how they do against Leicester at the weekend. However they could really do with a result. I know he’s made some comments recently about the primacy of the national side over provincial sides at the moment affecting what he’s trying to do at Munster, but he’s unlikely to have too many people with Ireland for this Six Nations!

  19. Just before he decide to move on, JJH was wheeled out at a press conference before a big game in which he was not picked to play subsequently. Seemed to me at the time to be a strange way to treat players.
    I’m waiting patiently to see if a certain Winger who was hauled out in front of the press this week will suffer the same fate.

  20. Roundy

     /  December 10, 2015

    Success at club level does not guarantee success at International level. Just look at France. Also poor club performances does not guarantee poor International performance – just look at Wales. As supporters we want it all, success at club and International level. While I agree it will be difficult to keep pace with the moneybags clubs in France and England I do feel Leinster (and probably Ulster) could. Not sure about Munster. Leinster have a catchment audience of almost two million to tap into. Obviously not all rugby supporters but a successful Leinster team could attract much bigger crowds as we have seen in the past. Ulster too have a steady fan base and a large catchment area with which to grow. The problem is you need success to attract the bigger crowds. Can the current coaching tickets at the provinces give us that success? To be honest I doubt either Foley or Cullen have the smarts to deliver a euro title. Both could get a Pro12 title but that in itself will not attract the big audiences. Lam has done wonders for Connacht. You have to wonder what he could do with the resources available at the bigger provinces. While the IRFU have been successful in keeping Irish talent playing in Ireland I think the exodus from Wales and Scotland will leave the Pro12 as the poor relation on the domestic league front. With that in mind, euro success is crucial if we are to continue the policy of retaining our best talent and attracting bigger audiences.

  21. Doak and coaching team, Cullen and coaching team and Foley and coaching team have shown repeatedly they are woefully out of their depth. Foley in particular is turning out a team devoid of ideas, devoid of faith in their systems and devoid of trust in their flyhalf…..and seriously, any coach who thinks that wee Duncan Williams is related to a professional rugby player needs sacking. You’ve got Tony Ward (and others) shouting from the roof tops about Irish coaches for Irish jobs, well three of our provinces are currently f*cked because sub-standard coaching tickets got jobs because of an accident of birth. If we were serious about developing coaches we’d be dispatching fellas off to do internships etc overseas, bringing coaching expertise in to develop our own coaches. There is no guarantee than an overseas coach will prove to be successful but you can sure as hell guarantee that pushing inexperience native coaches with no/limited coaching pedigree forwards will fail, and not just here in Ireland.

  22. Rob

     /  December 18, 2015

    Can I just say, this site and all the contributors prove an exception to the rule. Normally the comments section is a No-Go area for normal minded people, let alone somewhere you might get valuable insights. Congrats to the commentators above for such excellence! 🙂

%d bloggers like this: