(Former Munster player)
When Ben Cronin was playing for Munster and Garryowen in the early 1990s, club rugby was soaring. Derby matches between the big three Limerick clubs -- Garryowen, Shannon and Young Munster -- attracted massive crowds and often sold out Thomond Park.
Back then, Munster rugby as we know it now was in its infancy but Cronin has fond memories of being part of the beginning of something great.
"I played my first game for Munster in 1991 against Pontypool in Wales, it was a big deal for me," he says. "The likes of Mick Galwey and Peter Clohessy were playing. We flew over and back on the one day and won the game. It was hard to imagine back then that Munster would grow into the huge phenomenon it is now."
Cronin's rugby career started when he went to boarding school in Roscrea. He took to the game straight away and got on the Junior and Senior Cup teams. From there he went on to play for the Munster under 20 team and Garryowen. He excelled for both and it wasn't long before he graduated to the Munster senior squad.
The No 8 played with the province until 1997 and during that time earned two caps for Ireland, both against Scotland in Murrayfield. In 1997, he moved to England to play with Orrell for two years before coming back to play with Munster for half a season. Cronin is now based in Waterford where he owns an internet company, GBR Direct.
From 2005 to 2010, he coached the Waterville under 21 team. He is still involved in coaching but not directly with any team; instead he takes one-off sessions in Waterville and Waterford City. The former Ireland international believes the underage set-up is strong in Waterford but is worried about the future of the senior teams.
"The numbers playing every week are big but it's only up to a certain age, the majority of them are giving up before they are 20. Things will have to be looked at again to keep guys playing longer. If so many of them are giving it up so young then there is something wrong."
Cronin is still a Munster rugby supporter and feels they should have the edge over Ulster today. "I think it will be close, but Munster will win. Playing at home is a massive advantage. They have the experience of winning games in Thomond Park, and are capable of grinding out a result."