Thursday 24 May 2018

Mark O'Driscoll: This is a final - and if we win, we face another final

Munster head coach Anthony Foley (right) and technical advisor Mick O’Driscoll during training at UL Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Munster head coach Anthony Foley (right) and technical advisor Mick O’Driscoll during training at UL Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile

Mark O'Driscoll

This is as big a test as the players, coaches and staff of Munster have ever faced. I certainly don't remember a time when Munster have been in such a do-or-die situation, but I'm confident we will come through the challenge.

I think everybody understands the situation around qualification for the Champions Cup and the financial implications of not getting there.

In fairness to the players, given the pressure that everybody is under, they have handled it remarkably well. They are looking forward to the game, they know that this is a real make or break for a lot of them.

This weekend is a final in my eyes - not a semi-final. If we lose it we are as good as out of the Champions Cup next season, so it's last chance for all of us. We have a final this week, and if we win that we have another final against Scarlets.

We don't care if it's a one-, ten-, or 20-point win. It doesn't matter - we just need to win, be it ugly or pretty. We have to come away from Irish Independent Park tonight with four points and nothing less will suffice.

And the preparation has been good in the last fortnight. Since last week, training has been excellent, and I think the lads are going into the game with a bit of confidence.

Considering everything that happened in the previous two games against Connacht and Leinster, I believe we can finish on a high.


Lately, we have done some things really well, but unfortunately we have also done things quite poorly at times too.

It's all about winning this game, so consistency over the 80 minutes is vital.

There is definitely a realisation in the squad that this is a must-win game. Guys see that they have to stand up at this stage, and the prospect of not playing Champions Cup rugby would be a big hurdle to get over.

Anyone with international aspirations needs to be playing at the top level of the game - it is very hard to play outside the Champions Cup and slot back into the international scene.

Everyone realises the importance of it, for their own ambitions and for the ambitions of the province.

As someone with a bird's eye view of the season, I know that we haven't played the way we wanted to play for the most part, but at the same time we are not getting the same amount of support that we are used to either. It is a Catch-22 situation: you need to give supporters something to shout about, but it's hard to win without them at the same time!

With that in mind, it would be good to see a full house tonight,. That will make it a difficult night and atmosphere for Edinburgh; and for the lads who have worked very hard, it would be a real lift.

I'll be the first to say we haven't played as well as we should have for the last while, but it would be a huge boost for the players to go out and see a packed Irish Independent Park there to help them achieve what would be a huge win.

On any normal Pro12 weekend this would be a tough home game, but Edinburgh will certainly put it up to us tonight. We expect to see more of the same from them: they are a very physical, direct team, and what they did in the first half against Leinster is what we expect to see from them in Cork.

But when the pressure came on them at the RDS and they went behind, they started throwing it around and they are capable of winning that way too. They will always be a very difficult team to beat: they have a top class pack - they are up there with the best scrums in the league. We know we'll have to perform in that facet of the game tonight.

It was announced this week that I won't be involved next season in a coaching capacity, and I can honestly say I have really enjoyed my time.

No doubt, it has been very difficult at times, but being realistic, I cannot continue to juggle my coaching responsibilities and my work life, especially with the training base moving to Limerick.

I am very grateful to Munster for the opportunity, and I definitely want to get back into coaching at some level in a year or two.

Right now my hope is that we can finish off the season with a couple of good wins and the lads that are here next year will have something huge to look forward to.

Irish Independent

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