Thursday 18 January 2018

McGahan shuns ref bashing

David Kelly

David Kelly

The calm between the storms.

Following last Sunday's incendiary affair at Thomond Park, Munster completed their only contact session of the week in Cork Institute of Technology facilities yesterday ahead of their Heineken Cup re-match with the Ospreys in Swansea.

Their physical preparedness is undeniable. Much of this week's challenge will be in the mind.

Hence, yesterday there was little of the spikiness evidenced after Sunday's bruising win from Team Munster, merely a myopic focus on ensuring that they maintain their progress in this mine-filled Pool 3.


Introspection trumps indiscretion, within Munster at least. McGahan could be forgiven, for example, some apprehension that the Ospreys' accusations of illegalities by Munster's tight-heads could influence Saturday's French referee, Roman Poite -- especially as Monsieur Poite has had a rocky history with Munster in the Heineken Cup.

The unflappable McGahan, however, remains unperturbed.

"No, any referee is always going to play a part in the game," he said. "You just hope they don't play a major part.

"Everyone remembers games that have gone extremely well and when the referee has been a very minor part of that. We hope that's the case this weekend."

Last week, Cardiff coach David Young echoed the Ospreys' complaints about tight-heads not scrummaging squarely before his side's defeat to Northampton, also under Poite's control. Despite benefiting from two early free-kicks, Poite thereafter recognised the English side's superior power. McGahan is hoping a similar trend prevails at the Liberty Stadium.

"The scrums are probably not an issue from our end," he said, eager to deflect controversy. "It's really not in our nature, it's not the way we go about things.

"We'll just get about our business and do our talking on the field and let our actions speak there. From my end there's definitely no purpose served in trying to influence and have cuts off individuals."

Indeed, McGahan was positively gushing in his praise for last weekend's vanquished opponents, even though he expects the Ospreys to alter their much-criticised claustrophobic game plan, particularly now they are faced with a must-win tie in front of their demanding supporters.

"Any side that wants to be competitive at the top end of Europe, or any competition, needs to have different ways to play the game," he said. "I certainly think they've evolved with the competition and their playing group have different ways of getting results.

"That's a really positive sign and positive statement about the club itself, and the coaching structures they have, and the quality of player that they have.

"We'll plan for both plans of attack for them. Like ourselves, you put a lot of analysis into last weekend's game and you're really quite sure that you're there or thereabouts in terms of how you went about your business, and I'm sure they would too.

"They only missed out by six points, so I'm sure they felt they were close enough last week and maybe if a few things went their way they could have maybe gained the result.

"I suppose they also think that if it isn't going well and they're not working towards what they first believed in, that they have the ability and the players on the field -- it's one thing knowing about it and another thing doing it -- to change course and go a different way to get a result."

Given that any spread of match points were theoretically available during last Sunday's enthralling death throes, particularly following Paul O'Connell's dismissal, you'd sense that Munster have the momentum.

McGahan isn't too eager to be lured into taking that bait but his side's battle-hardened experience at the business end of qualification will surely infuse them with confidence.

"It's always difficult to know where the momentum lies," he confessed. "We've been on both sides of the process, with an away game first and a loss and still picked up an away losing bonus point.

"That puts you in a good frame of mind so I'd imagine Ospreys are certainly carrying that into the game.

"They've got a tremendous record at home in the Heineken Cup so they'll be going in with a lot of confidence and I'm sure that they felt that they had certain stages of the game where they had the capabilities of getting a result.

"Ourselves, we certainly know we're in a really tight pool, that with the history of winning games at home, it really builds and if you're behind at the end of round four in the last 15 or 20 minutes and you know a home loss is going to tip you out of the pool, pressure can make you do things that you really don't want to do.

"We just have to make sure that we navigate our way through the first 60 minutes and put ourselves in a great position to be able to do that."

Another storm is inevitable. And only the calmest will prevail.

Irish Independent

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