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"Good to end with win but missing out hurts badly"

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JJ Hanrahan, left, and Ivan Dineen, Munster, share a laugh as they applaud supporters after victory over Sale Sharks (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

JJ Hanrahan, left, and Ivan Dineen, Munster, share a laugh as they applaud supporters after victory over Sale Sharks (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

SPORTSFILE

JJ Hanrahan, left, and Ivan Dineen, Munster, share a laugh as they applaud supporters after victory over Sale Sharks (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

Axel hit the nail on the head after the game at the weekend - it was bitter-sweet. We were delighted with our win, but to miss out on the quarter-finals was tough to take.

There was an onus on all of the players and management to perform after the Saracens game. It wasn't acceptable over in London. We didn't shy away from it in the lead up to Sale and we can be happy with the way we rebounded.

Fair enough, both sides knew that they couldn't qualify for the quarter-finals, but I was impressed at the way the lads went about their business, punished their opponents, and took a good few of the chances that came their way.

If we are being critical, we left a few points behind us. We lost our discipline a little in the second quarter and probably deserved to be reduced to 14 men for a period, but once we got in at the break and refocused, I thought we were excellent.

Our first try was a well-worked move. Ronan O'Mahony did well to make yards down the left, and once we worked the ball wide the boys executed well.

Like Axel, I thought Ivan Dineen's performance was the standout. He has had a really tough couple of seasons through injures, so to see him take his chance on his first European game for Munster, was very pleasing.

Quality

Before the Sale game it was disappointing that the 'A' team couldn't manage to get past Doncaster and into the semi final of the B&I Cup, but they were a quality side.

None of us were in any doubt beforehand about the scale of the task facing us and as it turned out their cup form was a lot more accurate a yardstick than their league form.

It was a tough night for our young side, against a quality, traditional English team, but I'm sure the lads will all be the better for the experience.

We will be without a good few of the lads that featured against Sale as they go off on international duty for the next few weeks, but I'm sure we'll see one or two of them back before the competition if they are not included in Joe Schmidt's match-day squads.

I remember it myself, it was always good to come back and slot in with the lads if you missed out at international level.

We will definitely be keeping in contact with the Irish squad to see how the lads are going, but for those players not involved, we will be kept pretty busy ourselves.

We head off to Lanzarote on a five-day training camp with the boys tomorrow. After playing ten games straight in the last ten weeks, a bit of sun on their backs and some time together will do them no harm at all.

The fact that we have two weekends without a game means we can treat this trip as a mini pre-season camp. Lads will put in plenty of base work to get them through to the end of the season - that will all be needed with nine massive games still to go.

But before we head off we'll all probably be in attendance at the new Irish Independent Park to see how the Ireland Wolfhounds get on against the Saxons. We'll be particularly interested to see how our lads get on and if any of them can push their way into the match-day 23 for the Italy match.

It is a huge occasion in Cork to have this game as the first professional rugby match at the recently developed ground. I had a look round the place in recent week and the transformation is incredible, I think the lads will really enjoy playing there in the coming weeks.

We'll get plenty of chances to enjoy it with four of our remaining five home games taking place at Irish Independent Park, and I'm sure the place will be hopping tonight. Any time Ireland come to town to play England you are guaranteed a big occasion.

After the couple of weeks without action, it'll be straight back into the games when we get back from the Canaries, but we have some huge games just around the corner.

Cardiff first up will be tough - they have shown some great form in the last few weeks - and after that Scarlets away is always a tough trip.

Hopefully the blend of lads from the B&I Cup squad and the Champions Cup team will work well and we'll see us back to picking up points in the Pro12 and setting up a strong finish to the season.

Irish Independent