Saturday 21 April 2018

Our Glasgow pain cannot overshadow bright future

James Cronin
James Cronin

Ian Costello

AFTER working our way into two semi-finals and not winning either of them, you'd have to say the season ended in huge disappointment.

In particular, our league form was good all year and at one stage we realistically looked like finishing top. But unfortunately our form dropped a little bit, and it was always going to be a tough ask to go to Glasgow and become the first away winners of a semi-final.

It was no surprise how good they were. They were excellent both sides of the ball and we just weren't as clinical and as accurate in attack as we needed to be.

We had a very good start and we kept lifting the momentum, but after our first try, a few things went against us. I think that they rallied a little bit after that and they chipped away at the scoreboard. In the end, we just couldn't keep them under pressure deep in their territory to get rewards, and that was probably what cost us.

But we cannot be too hard on ourselves, either. Looking at the season as a whole, there are plenty of positives for us to take into next season and beyond.

As a squad, we had a really good run in the middle of the season and played some quality rugby. We showed a lot of doggedness and resilience in some of our earlier games and, in particular, the games against Glasgow and Scarlets stand out as times when our defence was outstanding and we forced a result.

On the back of those, our performances improved as the confidence grew, and we became more dynamic and accurate in our play, probably most evidently against Cardiff and Toulouse.

Another significant positive was that we also proved we've huge depth in our squad. The emergence of a lot of quality young players into the senior side has been a real boost.

James Cronin had a fantastic year, and he's been rewarded with a call for the Irish tour to Argentina, which is an incredible achievement for him. Duncan Casey has also had a fine first season. Dave Foley has gone quietly about his business, with excellent performances in big games and was training with the Irish camp this week, Sean Dougall really came into his own, and CJ Stander became more effective as the season progressed. Conor Murray continues to improve and become a real central figure in the team, while Andrew Conway, Keats and JJ, among others, have all shown their potential. There is plenty to be positive about.

Now that we have no silverware to play for, the next couple of weeks will be all about strength and conditioning. We'll have guys getting a few weeks' quality work done before they go off on their tours, while other guys will be using this time as an extra two weeks of pre-season.

But also, it will be the last few weeks of working with a few of the players. James Downey, Casey Laulala and Ian Nagle are moving on, while Niall Ronan unfortunately has to retire. I wish them the best in the future, and we all want to thank them for such a significant contribution to Munster Rugby. I think it's particularly important to highlight the massive contribution made by Niall throughout his distinguished career at Munster.

As well as players moving on, we will be losing some of the coaching staff also, as Rob Penney and Simon Mannix depart. They have made a huge impact here and the work they have put in over the last couple of years has been immense. I'd like to wish them all the best in the next stage of their respective careers.

Everyone is aware of the make-up of the Munster coaching ticket for next season. I'm delighted to continue to be a part of Munster Rugby going forward at what should be a very exciting time. I'm looking forward to the challenge of the new role.

I've worked with Axel for a number of years and we've similar philosophies on how we think the game should be played and are aligned on coaching methodology and processes. It's always exciting to have new people around you with new ideas, and new ways of doing things.

But we still have plenty of work to finish this season, we have a few weeks' work to get us ready for next season and hopefully we'll see the fruits of that from September onwards.

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