Tuesday 23 January 2018

McGahan wary of throwing O'Connell into Ospreys fray

PAUL O'CONNELL'S return to Munster action for the first time since January has given the squad a "huge boost", says coach Tony McGahan, but the second-row is unlikely to start in next weekend's crucial Heineken Cup clash against the Ospreys, WRITES HUGH FARRELLY.

After recovering from the long-term groin problem that flared up in Ireland's defeat to Scotland last March, O'Connell came off the bench for the last 25 minutes of Munster's 16-9 win over the Cardiff Blues in Thomond Park on Saturday night, having played 40 minutes for Young Munster the previous weekend.

However, while thrilled to see the Munster captain back in action, McGahan hinted that it may be too soon to start him in a high-octane Heineken Cup encounter next weekend.

"We'll wait and see, it could be a bit of a stretch at this stage," said McGahan, who confirmed there were no fresh injury concerns after Saturday's game.

"We don't want to push him too early and we have very strong depth in the second-row. We'll assess all the information and make the best decision for Paul and the team, but when he's played just 65 minutes, he's not necessarily ready to start in a Heineken Cup game.

"It was fantastic for Paul, fantastic for Munster and fantastic for all the supporters to have him back," added McGahan.

"He's been gone for a very long time in the red jersey and to get himself back in the mix at this point in time is terrific; the squad has got a huge boost from having him back.

"He'll gather (game) time and accumulate that and be better for it in the long run."

Mick O'Driscoll started alongside Donncha O'Callaghan against Cardiff, the same partnership that featured for Ireland in O'Connell's absence during the November Internationals, while Donnacha Ryan is also available for selection this week having served the three-week ban he received for stamping in Ireland's win over Samoa last month.

Irish Independent

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