Donnacha Ryan: 'Trophy drought a massive motivator'
Donnacha Ryan targets silverware as he senses 'something really special' developing in Munster
Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30
Donnacha Ryan knows what it's like to go through a transitional period with Munster.
He has seen four coaches come and go during his 10 year at the province, but he says that the appointment of Anthony Foley has a different feel to it.
Foley has brought with him a back-room team that includes two of Ryan's former team-mates, Mick O'Driscoll and Jerry Flannery.
Rob Penney's two-year spell with Munster culminated in grumblings from the supporters as his game plan brought about an unstructured unfamiliarity that the fans simply weren't used to.
Say what you like about the Kiwi's tenure, but in terms of personnel, Penney has left behind an excellent platform from which Foley will be expected to build.
It's for that reason that Ryan says that this so-called 'new era of Munster rugby' doesn't quite feel all that new - at least not to the players.
"I wouldn't really call it the start of a new era because we still have the same core group of players," the former St Munchin's College student points out.
"Axel is bringing in a fresh way of looking at things and it's a clean slate for a lot of lads. We're looking at reshaping our thought processes and how we execute certain things.
"It was the same when Rob took over from Tony (McGahan), it's about adapting to what's being asked of you."
Foley and his coaching staff collectively accumulated 524 appearances for Munster during their time as players, and given that the previous two coaches were from the southern hemisphere, there is a feeling around the province that this season will see a return to the more a traditional style of play.
"There's definitely that familiarity element with Axel that has helped with the transition," Ryan says.
"He has brought in Brian Walsh, Fla and Micko and we know what they demand of us. It's good for guys to be able to build new relationships with coaches.
"Having played with Fla and Micko over the years, you know what they demand from themselves and from those around them. They've always had a huge work ethic as players and you can already see that that won't change as coaches.
"They'll look to impose themselves and their philosophies on the squad and that rubs off on the players, because everyone has a huge respect for them given what they've achieved in the game."
Ryan himself will be eager for a fresh start as he looks to put an injury-ravaged season behind him.
The 30-year old suffered a knee ligament injury in the Heineken Cup win over Gloucester last October and endured further spell on the sidelines after damaging his foot against Treviso in March.
Ryan's injury problems cut short his season, which meant that he missed the majority of Munster's European and domestic campaigns as well as Ireland's Six Nations success.
"It was an extremely frustrating season. There's no point in saying otherwise," he concedes.
"I was constantly itching to get back out there but the body just wasn't right. It was tough watching it (the Six Nations triumph). Of course it was. But I was genuinely delighted for the lads.
"I had been up in Carton House training before the England game so it was nice to get a taste of the atmosphere but time was always against me."
During his absence, Ryan has seen Devin Toner become an integral part of the Irish side, while fellow Tipperary native Dave Foley has emerged as a serious contender for a spot in the second-row at Munster. But Ryan is experienced enough not to look too far ahead and for now, his focus remains on returning to full fitness and forcing himself back into Munster's starting XV.
For a while last season, it looked like the lock would be playing his rugby elsewhere. Having flirted with the idea of joining Perpignan, he ended speculation by signing a new three-year contract in December. So how close did he actually come to leaving his home province?
"I looked at my options like any player would, but when I spoke to the coaches my mind was made up. It wasn't a difficult decision. Munster is my home and it's great to be close to be family in Nenagh," he says.
"There is something really special developing in Munster and I want to be a part of that. When I came into the side, the likes of Wally (David Wallace), Fla and ROG (Ronan O'Gara) all passed priceless information on to me and I feel that now it's my time to do that to the younger guys coming through.
"You need to have a good appreciation of what it means to wear the red jersey and we have so many exciting talents in the squad that hopefully some of my experience can rub off on them."
It may not be a new era at Munster but there is a massive desire to return to former glories. By the time this season reaches the business end, it will have been four years since they last won a trophy.
"We always want to win trophies. They're the standards that we've set for ourselves and we have to strive for that. We're just as disappointed as the fans," says Ryan. "It's been hard to take but it's a massive motivating factor for us to get back to where we should be."
The responsibility of bringing silverware back to Munster ultimately falls on Foley's shoulders but there is a clear sense that they are all in this together.