Sunday 25 February 2018

Hanrahan happy to atone for Edinburgh error as new generation etch names into history books

Munster's Ian Keatley
Munster's Ian Keatley
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THE red jersey comes with great expectations, and no one knows that better than the young players who now inherit it.

The new generation who share a dressing-room with Paul O'Connell grew up watching on as the province conquered Europe and now want their own part of history.

On Saturday night, JJ Hanrahan etched his name into the annals with his magic moment. Whatever he does next, that try will be remembered.

It was a special day for a player who comes with a big reputation thanks to his World Junior Player of the Year nomination in 2012, but is being forced to bide his time, a player who wouldn't have been brought off the bench but for Keith Earls' apparent concussion.

After his poor kick led to Tim Visser's try and an opening-day defeat to Edinburgh, Saturday was seen as redemption for the individual, but it was also about the emergence of a team.

Nobody at the club is fooling themselves that they are the finished article just yet, but despite the turnover of players, the retirements and the inexperience left behind, they can still win tight matches on the road.

And where once the reliable boot of Ronan O'Gara got them over the line, on Saturday it was the twinkle toes of one of his successors.

"It's massive for us," Hanrahan said. "I was kind of thinking there in the team room just before we went out that Munster did it here a couple of years ago in Perpignan and they got a win.

"I was like 'Jeez it would be great if we could do something like that and be remembered as one of those teams.'

"Hopefully, when we're here again, be it next year, be it five years' time... that some other young fella is coming through and they're kind of thinking the lads before us did it and that will be great for us.

"It's good learning that we can come here and experience the atmosphere, feel the pressure and perform under it. It's a massive confidence boost.

"The one thing we have been doing in the Rabo as well, luckily we have been winning games.

"It might be ugly but we're still winning them and we're working on our performance all the time."

The Kerryman's moment of brilliance happened so quickly the replacement couldn't quite recall the detail.

Playing at full-back in place of the injured Earls, he passed the ball to Denis Hurley and then trailed the winger and Tommy O'Donnell down the tramlines.


His faith was repaid when Tipperary man O'Donnell off-loaded into his hands and he did the rest.

It was a sharp contrast to that moment in Murrayfield when his loose kick led to disaster.

"It's completely different, isn't it?" he said.

"The biggest thing personally from all this for me is just, in a way, repaying the boys for letting them down in Edinburgh.

"Making that mistake is part of learning, part of growing, but to be able to luckily get on the end of something like that is brilliant."

Coach Rob Penney admitted that his 21-year-old fly-half is impatient for his chance, and the clamour for his inclusion will grow now.

But the player himself was fulsome in his praise of the Cantabrian coach and the style of play he is slowly but surely implementing, which came to such fruition in those manic closing stages.

"Rob has done a brilliant job," said Hanrahan.

"He has educated us all in a different style of rugby and it's not that it's an absolutely different spectrum altogether.

"He's teaching us to play heads-up.

"Maybe in the past we might have stuck with type and stayed with 'around the corner' but now we're trying to get fellas to be able to do both and Rob is a massive part of that," he explained.

"We're all learning and enjoy being able to play both styles of the game in the one game plan."

Irish Independent

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