Friday 23 March 2018

Billy Keane: Lego rugby can provide the building blocks

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

It's all part of the plan. A plot as cunning as any fox's or as devious as a man chasing an only daughter with 600 acres of prime Golden Vale pasture going with her. A plan so intricate and well thought out, it has fooled everyone – except me.

I'm certain it's a plan. Munster were so bad against Cardiff in the Pro12, most pundits have written the team off.

If it isn't a plan then some say Munster's goose is not only cooked, but eaten and the carcass is boiling away in a big pot full of gurgling broth and carrots with a hint of rosemary. By the way rosemary is a herb or an herb with a silent 'h'. Not a woman. Cannibalism is something we are against, although I did notice a pub in Limerick advertising finger food after the game against Edinburgh.

The debate has gone on all week here in the South where talk isn't cheap. In Limerick, in particular, rugby talk is dear. They know their stuff. But there had been a lot of heavy duty and unfair criticism of Rob Penney and his team by that small band who like to eat their own.

That's the thing about this column. It's educational. Already, after barely more than 150 words, we have a recipe for goose soup and the Munster psyche.

The consensus is Munster must go back to go forward. The passing game is now so predictable, the opposition teams know all they have to do is fan out in a straight line and herd Munster out to the wing and into touch. Munster always drove on through the pack before delivering their precious cargo to the backs.

The Munster pack is a very good one and they are capable of grinding the opposition down. Anthony Foley knows more about the composition and steering of the rolling maul than any man alive. 'Inch by inch' was the Munster motto.

Maybe we overdid the bashing through at times. Penney must a find a balance and I would suggest a simple plan. Make ground with the pack. Even a few metres of go- forward means the backs can take the ball at pace and with positive momentum.

In a way, we are sentimentalists who find it hard to let go of the past. There are candles lighting in every Munster church for Paul O'Connell. His injuries are the result of years of toil at the highest level, but Munster must plan without Paul, at least in the short term.

I hate that word, 'transition'.

How long do you think a Kerry or Kilkenny coach would last if he said his team were in transition?

It might be alright maybe to put in a few awful displays in the league and it's fine to blood new players, but, come championship time, the transition is over.

Duagh won the North Kerry Championship in Listowel last Sunday before the biggest crowd at any sporting event in Ireland. The defeated Beale team gave their all. The tide will surely turn soon for the valiant Ballybunion boys.

It was 50 years since Duagh last won a championship. That's a long time to be in transition. The holy trinity of village pubs shook to the singing of their village anthems. Their team was magnificent.

All sport is local and local heroes they were one and all. Jason Carmody's citeoig strike from the white of the sideline and about 40 metres out sailed over. He didn't even take a run or a step. Just kicked it. Jason nearly took his eye out with the follow through.

The umpire had the white flag in the air the minute it left young Jason's boot. It's the best point we've seen since Maurice Fitz kicked that sideline over to draw against Dublin in Thurles.

Jason was playing his first game in a long, long while after a succession of injuries. Our good friend Kieran Quirke lifted the cup. No sounder man, but I wonder when Duagh last won 50 years ago did their people think it would be half a century before they won it again. Time is a thief and the clock never stops.

Munster must play in the now.

It's not a question, though, of out with the old and in with the new.

As in most things in life – and particularly in the subtle art of tightrope walking – it's all about balance. Maybe a bit more of the old is needed along with the new.

I'm going to shock you all now by forecasting a Munster win in Edinburgh in this do-or-die game for these lads who proudly wear their hearts on their crests.

What we need is a little more savvy.

Firstly we must win the game. There should be no talk of a bonus point early on. Let's play Lego rugby and build up a lead brick-by-brick.

I have this gut feeling Munster will somehow scrape through.

By the end of the month, the Vatican FBI will be in Limerick once again, seeking to confirm yet another miracle in Thomond Park.

Irish Independent

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