| 8.4°C Dublin

McGahan's knockers need dose of reality

Munster and their coach are facing unprecedented criticism. Some of the critics are fair and balanced, but more, especially on the net, have shown little if any humanity.

I saw one of the worst knockers play in Limerick. The hero had his hand in the air at ruck time like he was about to shout 'me sir'. But his head was never rightly in the oven.

The critic called the line-outs on himself but he jumped like a penguin wearing wellingtons full of water. Afterwards I witnessed the rampaging forager tear open a bag of Taytos with his bare hands. Grrrrrrr.

Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald came out in favour of Tony McGahan. And this was no Premier League Judas Kiss.

Garrett is a man of great integrity. I remember him playing with passion and total honesty for UCC cup-winning teams, and we often shared a pint in The Star. He will be true to his word. Tony McGahan is safe for another year at least.

McGahan must rebuild. That's obvious. There's need for more pace in the pack, but the secret to Munster was they always won their own line-outs and scrums.

That hasn't been the case ever since the defeat to a poor Biarritz team in San Sebastian in last year's Heineken Cup semi-final.

So how does McGahan get the boys up for today's Magners League semi against Ospreys in the context of such stinging criticism?

How's about this, Tony?

"If I was coaching some young lad over there, I'd tell him his job is simple: to allow yourself to play football. That means when someone tells you you're s***e, you tell yourself you're good. When they roar at you for making a mistake, you tell yourself mistakes are human.

"When they scream at you for missing an open goal, you say to yourself, 'I'll score the next one'. Your job -- your job more than anything -- is to encourage yourself because you can't rely on anyone else to do it for you. Does that make sense?"

These are lines from Christian O'Reilly's wonderful play 'Here We Are Again Still', which is touring Ireland right now.

I spoke to the Harlequins owner after the Challenge Cup semi-final and it was clear his team had travelled more in hope than confidence.

The very mention of Thomond used to be worth 10 points. It still is, but every now and then the cheers of the Quins platoon could be heard above the thousands of Munster fans.

Thomond is a superb venue. The pitch, the design, the food and the function rooms are all top class -- but Munster spoiled us.

We must remember that most of those Heineken quarter-final qualifications went down to the last game, and two were miracles ratified by the Vatican FBI long before John Paul II was declared blessed.

It has never been easy. Bitch away after games if you like, but not during.

An uncle of my acquaintance brought his nephew to the zoo. There they were watching these big huge trunk-swinging elephants from either India or Africa in the elephant enclosure -- I suppose you'd hardly fit them all into Pet's Corner.

For sure you'd never see elephants walking with the Fresians in the wavy green grasslands of the Golden Vale, even on the farms of the few who dabbled with ostriches, deer and cheese making.

But the farmer's nephew was unimpressed. "Uncle Mikey," he said, "sure I shot loads o' dem on Playstation 3." So there's the world we live in. The score: Elephants nil Playstation 3.

McGahan has introduced some fine young players. Then again there are times when the Munster youngsters must feel like a bachelor who cannot get married until the old folks retire and he gets his hands on the farm.

Next season in the Magners the young lads need more game time, even when there are better players left out. Man-management will not be easy but there's no other choice.

Alan Quinlan didn't even make the bench for today. He has probably played his last game for Munster. It's so sad to see him go.

There were times when Quinny seemed to have a hand on every opposition player. He was at his best away in France when the rough stuff started. The harder the better. He never gave up but now his body tells him he has to.

Quinlan has been magnificent but such is the nature of sport. It can't be easy for McGahan. The coach has been in this camp for a good few years now. He must have called Alex Ferguson for advice.

As for the result of today's game, we will seek the answer on the whispering streets of a small town. Fitzgerald's excellent restaurant here in Listowel, the gourmet capital of Kerry, came up with an innovative business driver.

Purchase two meals and one of the lovely waitresses will toss a coin at your table.

If you win, the second dinner is free.

The story went out that Gamblers Anonymous booked Fitzgerald's for their Christmas Party.

I'll wager there's absolutely no truth in that rumour.

Today is a 50-50 game, but then again Munster never lose two tosses in a row at Thomond Park.

Irish Independent