Thursday 18 January 2018

Munster comeback on cards for Murphy

Barry Murphy (left) and Doug Howlett in action during Munster's training session yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Barry Murphy (left) and Doug Howlett in action during Munster's training session yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile

Ian Bransfield

Munster centre Barry Murphy could be in line to make his first senior appearance for over a year as Tony McGahan shuffles his threadbare squad for tomorrow's Magners League clash against Ulster.

The 27-year-old Limerick man has been plagued by a succession of injuries over the course of the past 12 months but is back in the mix, having come through unscathed in the AIL last weekend. Murphy was on the mark for UL Bohemians in their league match against Lansdowne on Saturday and now comes into contention ahead of tomorrow's trip to Ravenhill.

"It's a positive that Barry is back in the mix," said team manager Shaun Payne yesterday. "Fingers crossed for him. Last season was obviously a disaster for Barry in terms of availability.

"The problem for him now is that he has missed the vast majority of pre-season training as well, so we don't want to be pushing things too early, but he is available for selection.

"We've had to see what the best tactic for Barry would be, would it be to come back into the starting squad or to get some extra game time. But there is a little bit of extra pressure on our resources at the minute, and all our decisions are tainted by that."

The exigency that Payne touched on refers to the unavailability of 21 senior players this weekend, leaving them with just 16 full-time professionals to choose from. Ten players are indisposed through injury, nine because of international commitments and a further two are still serving suspensions.

Illness is also prevalent in the camp this week, meaning that a match-day squad will not be finalised until 12 hours before kick-off.

In the absence of any other available options, Munster will call up six development players plus one academy member to supplement their match-day panel.

"The numbers aren't good for us," admitted Payne. "The resources of our squad will be stretched to the absolute limits. We'll be dipping a bit lower down the ranks but it is a challenging week considering how many players are being kept back by national management, plus our current injury scenario."

Munster will at least be able to call upon the combined services of Johne Murphy, John Hayes and Peter Stringer, who were all made available by national management.


Asked whether it was difficult to secure their release, Payne answered: "No, we get told who is released to us. It's not a bargaining situation."

In the case of Stringer, it seems certain that the Cork-born scrum-half will make his 200th appearance in red this weekend, a notable achievement made all the more remarkable given that he made his debut against Ulster 12 years ago, and also notched up his 100th cap against the same opposition five seasons ago.

"It's a very, very good achievement," said Payne. "Obviously, Axel (Anthony Foley) was the first to get there, and Quinny (Alan Quinlan) recently did it too. Strings has always been a little fella but he's also been very resilient, very determined in training.

"He's kept his chin up during what must have been a tough time when it comes to selection, having been at the top and then having to deal with Tomas (O'Leary) and other guys on the Irish team.

"But he's played very well over the last couple of weeks and put himself right back into contention again on a national level as well."

Elsewhere, there were no further fitness updates on either Keith Earls or Jerry Flannery, who are both being monitored day by day. However, there was good news for the province in the shape of Paul O'Connell, who took part in some training yesterday in Limerick.

Irish Independent

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