Sunday 17 December 2017

Munster misery as stars face European knockout

Paul O'Connell is likely to finish his career at his native province.
Paul O'Connell is likely to finish his career at his native province.
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

MUNSTER are facing a major injury headache for next Saturday's crunch Heineken Cup visit to Gloucester as they count the cost of last night's attritional derby defeat to Ulster.

Damien Varley, Donncha O'Callaghan and Cathal Sheridan are almost certainly out of the pivotal Pool 6 clash at Kingsholm after suffering first-half injuries in the 29-19 loss.

All three casualties come in positions where the province are already down numbers, with Mike Sherry's knee injury placing extra importance on Varley's fitness.

Duncan Casey is the only other hooker registered in the Heineken Cup squad and Rob Penney last night confirmed he would look to bring another No 2 into their squad, probably Niall Scannell, after Varley injured a foot.

Conor Murray's return could come in time to ease the blow left by Sheridan's knee injury, while O'Callaghan has also injured a knee that sees him join Donnacha Ryan on the second-row injury list and Dave Foley could start in his first Heineken Cup appearance next week.

"Donncha and Cathal both had knee strains, while Damien has a plantar fascia issue with the sole of his foot," Penney said. "There is a chance for Conor, there always was. Hopefully, the work that the medical team has been doing comes to fruition."

There was better news for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, whose two contenders for the No 7 jersey, Chris Henry and Tommy O'Donnell, came through an intense battle without a hitch.

Last night's win sees Ulster go third in the Pro12, while Munster remain top despite their first defeat in 10 games.

Irish Independent

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