Monday 9 December 2019

McGahan -- Munster must decide between Limerick or Cork base to have chance at glory

Munster head coach Tony McGahan has decided to return to Australia to be part of Robbie Deans' national management team
Munster head coach Tony McGahan has decided to return to Australia to be part of Robbie Deans' national management team

Hugh Farrelly

MUNSTER Rugby needs to make a decision on whether to make Cork or Limerick its base, or the team will continue to lose out, departing coach Tony McGahan warned last night.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, McGahan spoke of the regrets he had of "wasted opportunities" from his time at the Munster helm, but he also highlighted why the province needs a single base to maximise their chances of success.

McGahan bade farewell to his squad after a final review meeting in Charleville yesterday and is due to fly back to his native Australia tomorrow before starting work as the Wallabies' coaching co-ordinator next Monday.

While McGahan remains convinced that the foundations are in place for a new-look squad to restore the province to its former glories, he's adamant that process would be helped considerably by a single training base as opposed to the existing split between Cork and Limerick.

"I think it (twin bases) worked exceptionally well for a period of time, but my personal view is that I would certainly like to see one base," said McGahan.

"I know there have been talks and plans over a period of time and things are in the initial stages to get to that point and it would be a huge benefit to the playing group.

"Anyone who has worked in an office will tell you that having staff in different parts of the organisation is challenging -- you lose the ability to discuss and plan immediately in a face-to-face situation, which is so important."

Having assisted Declan Kidney in bringing the province to two Heineken Cup titles, McGahan took over as head coach in 2008. He led Munster to Magners League titles in '09 and 2011 but failed to make a Heineken Cup final, the major regret from his four seasons in charge.

"It is ... it was not unrealistic to expect a Heineken Cup in that time because we wasted three opportunities to make the final.

"There has been a big change in personnel since '08, but there were semi-final opportunities in '09 against Leinster and against Biarritz in 2010, I am not saying we would have won the finals but we had put ourselves in a good position."

"This year with a home quarter-final against Ulster, to set up a semi-final against Edinburgh, two sides that we know well, there was an avenue there also.

"I would have liked if things had worked out differently, but if you look at the guys coming through, the foundations are there.

"They will be better next year for the hurt they have experienced and are in a good place to get back to where they want to be. Whether it happens in 12 months or in two years, I don't think it is far away."

Meanwhile, Leinster prop Mike Ross says Leinster can win the all-Ireland Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday without Brian O'Driscoll if they have to.

"We have the depth of squad to deal with his absence," said Ross of the midfield maestro, who faced a similar race against fitness before last year's final success against Northampton in Cardiff.


O'Driscoll has declared he will be fit just days after undergoing minor keyhole surgery to remove some cartilage from his knee.

"The recovery has gone well over the weekend," said the Irish captain ahead of Leinster's tilt at winning back-to-back European crowns. "You'd want to have a limb falling off really not to be able to play in the Heineken Cup final."

O'Driscoll revealed that he twisted his knee last Thursday before having a "little trim" of the cartilage the following morning.

"I suppose in my head it was never an option not to be playing this weekend," added O'Driscoll, who expects to train fully for the first time this Thursday.

Fellow injury worries Gordon D'Arcy (eye), Rob Kearney (back) and Cian Healy (ankle) have also been passed fit to play, but Ross believes that his side could manage without their talismanic captain.

"Drico is a world-class player and his absence would hurt any team," he said. "But we had to make do without him for a long time in the pool games and until the quarters. We should still be able to cope."

Eoin O'Malley, who would not have made this week's match-day squad, will be out for six months after tearing knee cruciate ligaments in Saturday's Pro12 semi-final win against Glasgow.

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