Murray crowned player of year as tributes paid to Munster coach
Published 09/05/2014 | 02:30
Munster now hope to end a roller-coaster season on a winning note as the province paid tribute to departing coach Rob Penney.
The tributes to the 50-year-old Japan-bound coach came as Munster named Ireland and Lions scrum-half Conor Murray (25) as their 2014 Player of the Year.
The Limerick player said that he was "deeply honoured" by the award, which was presented at a gala ceremony in Cork.
"In this Munster squad at the moment there is real talent... this year there was a real belief in ourselves. Going forward we have laid good blocks to build on and win trophies," he said.
Munster Rugby and Independent News & Media have a long-term partnership agreement which has already seen the rebranding of the province's Cork home as Irish Independent Park.
Munster now hope to win the RaboDirect Pro12 as the team face Glasgow Warriors in the semi-final.
Penney was hailed for his faith in Munster youth development and a positive philosophy that delivered two successive Heineken Cup semi-finals. Penney, who joined Munster in 2012, admitted that leaving the province was a difficult decision to take given the potential of the squad.
"I have to take this opportunity presented to me and prioritise my family and personal circumstances," the coach said.
The past 18 months has witnessed a transformation of Munster's squad with the retirement and departure of a number of legendary players including Ronan O'Gara, Marcus Horan and Doug Howlett.
Tributes were also paid to Niall Ronan (31), who confirmed he has now decided to retire following a serious injury which required surgery and lengthy rehab. However, the retirements have been offset by the emergence of a galaxy of young Munster stars including Tommy O'Donnell, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo.
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony said the future is very bright for the province.
"It was disappointing to miss the Heineken Cup semi-final (through injury) but the surgery went well and I'll be doing rehab over the summer," he said.