Monday 19 February 2018

Munster well prepared for Ospreys clash minus talisman - Leamy

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

ROUND two of the Munster versus Ospreys bout is set to be box office next Saturday as the "little hangovers" and "little niggles" fester over the coming days.

Those were the words Denis Leamy used to describe the lingering sense of unfinished business after a combustible opening exchange at Thomond Park on Sunday. A red card for their talisman, plenty of incident for the citing commissioner to run the rule over and an Ospreys bonus point will make for a fascinating trip across the Irish Sea for Munster.

The No 8's face told the story yesterday -- pockmarked with scratches and heavily bruised -- as he spent his day off in Dublin promoting the ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) Ireland Guide to Brain Injury.

His initial shock at seeing Paul O'Connell sent off subsided when he saw the incident and, while he defended the club captain's disciplinary record, the Cashel native wasn't circling the wagons as he accepted the decision of referee Christophe Berdos.

Any bad blood between the two sides is bound to be revisited when they collide once again at the Liberty Stadium and Leamy accepts the loss of O'Connell will not help Munster's cause.

"Obviously there's little hangovers from what happened in the game," he said. "It's very fresh in everyone's mind and it adds a little bit more. Little niggles and stuff like that add to the occasion.

"It's just something that we're going to have to take as a one-off and go hammer and tongs at it. We have to make sure we prepare and are very, very focused and ready to take on a very good Ospreys side.

"Going to a place like the Ospreys, it would be brilliant to have Paul with us. That's a fact. But that's the hand we've been dealt and it looks like we won't have him."

Indeed, Leamy argues that because O'Connell has been out for so long with his groin infection, Munster are now adequately prepared for the scenario.

"It's not ideal losing a world-class player and it would have been the type of environment he thrives in and we'll miss him. Paul is a great pro and has an impeccable disciplinary record. It's very disappointing," he said.

"In one sense, it's a good thing that we haven't had him. We've learnt to play without Paul and Mick O'Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan and Ian Nagle have really stepped up. We're pretty well covered."

"Astonished" was how the Tipperary man described his reaction when Berdos produced the red card in the 69th minute on Sunday , but a viewing of the video has mellowed his surprise.

"He had to make a decision," Leamy said. "You can say it's harsh all you want, but he's given the red and it's time for us to move on."

It means Leamy looks certain to lead the side out at the Liberty, something he has embraced since Tony McGahan looked to him in O'Connell's absence earlier this season. The No 8 has not looked back since, earning a number of man-of-the-match awards, including one against the Ospreys.

His nine-month lay-off when out with a knee injury has focused his mind. A player as unfortunate with injuries as he has been knows about the fragile nature of a career at the top level. That has given him a desire to succeed while he still can as he gets to grips with entering his 30th year.

"You only have a certain amount of time in this game," he said. "I've realised over the last two years that I've wasted a lot of days on the sideline. I missed a lot of big games.

"It's made me hugely hungry to come back and win with Munster and be with Ireland and do what I can. I have to be selfish about it. I don't know how long more I'll be playing rugby but, from now until that time, I want to make sure I make the most of it."

Irish Independent

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