David Kelly - (Chief sports analysis writer)
Have Tony McGahan and his staff delivered for Munster?
Based on his own assertions and the demands of Munster supporters, the McGahan management has not delivered because they have not maintained their pre-eminence in the Heineken Cup, the competition that truly defines them. They have declined, not improved. The problems have not all been down to McGahan -- aside from the players, the back-room staff, principally Laurie Fisher and Jason Holland, have yet to demonstrate that they have the expertise to dovetail effectively with the head coach.
Have the senior players delivered for Tony McGahan?
The alarming increase in indiscipline this season has been simply derived -- when a team's performance dips, the efforts to stem the tide result in increased mistakes and indiscipline. Hence the scrum -- where John Hayes has been unable to live at the highest level of competition -- has been exposed. In turn, David Wallace and Ronan O'Gara have struggled to carry the load, while ridiculous indiscipline from Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan signify a team struggling to maintain its former eminence. Doug Howlett's Christmas shenanigans completed the misery; that senior players allowed such a situation to develop reflected poorly on the group as a whole.
Have the overseas players delivered for Munster?
Howlett has done little to ensure that he will be offered another extension to his contract. Munster may have to cut their losses and shore up other areas of the pitch that need manifest re-construction, such as the front-row or midfield. The jury is out on new prop Peter Borlase, but initial indications aren't favourable and the fetish for South Sea Islanders in the midfield has to be stemmed. Strangely, Paul Warwick, one of the few successes, has been allowed to leave before his 30th birthday.
Is this the end of the line, or is there a next generation set to take over?
There is a next generation of players if Munster do what Leinster have done, and allow them to gain the necessary experience. A young, unheralded side managed to defeat Australia only a few months ago, and the lessons learned when a similar side took the All Blacks to the brink two seasons ago must now be taken on board. Players such as Ian Nagle, Billy Holland, Ivan Dineen, Scott Deasy and Duncan Williams are just a few of the players who may benefit if given their head. We don't know yet how many players can come through because there hasn't been enough faith invested in them.
Is Tony McGahan the right man to take Munster forward?
Yes. McGahan's reputation as a coach, forged under Declan Kidney's Heineken Cup-winning reign, has been overshadowed by issues surrounding team discipline, flaws in player recruitment and errors in back-room selection. Munster must decide whether to cut and run. It is doubtful whether they will do so, and the lesson absorbed in Leinster, who persisted with Michael Cheika, despite even more embarrassing premature exits in the Heineken Cup, may be instructive. McGahan (left) has impressed with his honesty and he will need to realistically appraise his limitations in terms of player selection and recruitment.