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McGahan clinging to ropes as pressure rises

The Limerick taxi driver wants to sum up the feelings of the ordinary Munster rugby folk.

"Coach of the year? That Tony McGahan, it should be out the door he is!" he fulminates, just before the door is shown to us.

Feelings are running high down south, so much so that Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald sought to publicly distance himself from the growing clamour of people, including some ex-players, who believe the Munster head coach should be handed his cards.

Rugby's vote of confidence may not possess all the proverbial dreaded import beloved of its soccer equivalent; still, the CEO was clearly moved enough to publicly confirm what most of us already knew, principally that McGahan's job is safe for another year at least.

What happens after that is anyone's guess. Given that Munster still can't fathom why their European hopes disintegrated so alarmingly this season, any future predictions are necessarily hazardous.

Understandably, McGahan wasn't eager to extend his boss' public discourse about his future job security. "I don't have anything to add from Garrett's notes," he said when initially pressed.

Still, given that Munster begin next season without their frontliners for at least two months, McGahan's position would seem to remain perilous, particularly if the conspiratorial whispers indicating a putative post-World Cup return for old favourite Declan Kidney to link up with current assistant Anthony Foley hold any water in this rugby-mad territory.

"Coaching is a very difficult game," McGahan continued, when asked whether he would like to remain in charge to undertake what is clearly a difficult period of transition for the two-time European champions.

"I don't think you get the affordability to look any further ahead than where you are at. This week is about the semi-final of the Magners League against the Ospreys. So, I just have to get my mind around that and concentrate on that. The future can be decided upon after this game."

Guaranteeing the regime for another year may offer a certain sense of assurance, but, as has happened this season, any dip in performances will once more invite a level of scrutiny that is likely to cause more, not less, distraction. "We'll worry about next season when it comes to it," maintained McGahan, admirably stoic despite the whirlwind of opprobrium being heaped upon his shoulders of late.

"There is no use talking about my future or where the club is or where we are going. We, hopefully, have two very big games ahead of us, and that's all we'll concentrate on. Reviews can wait until hopefully after a final.

"I just want to focus on the semi-final. Those sort of things can add to the drama of the week. For me personally it's not the place or time to be putting that on the players and the club. I'll certainly have no problem addressing those things after this week.

"There are certainly a lot of positives there from this season. I know they are not written about at this point in time, but when you look at the season as a whole, some of the results and some of the exposure that young players got, the selections that have occurred over the last period of time compared to other sides... you make your own decisions from there.

"You look at it as a whole and we'll certainly address all that."

There is enough to address before "all that" and central to any review will be a serious look at recruitment, particularly in the midfield area where Munster have been poorly served this season -- as a glance at a series of fractious combinations deployed all season instantly reveals.

Stephen Donald's name appeared on the radar once again yesterday and despite predominantly starring at out-half or full-back, he could be an option should McGahan follow up the player's latest come-and-get-me plea.


The 27-year-old yesterday confirmed he's interested in a move to the northern hemisphere and that he will make a decision within the next month.

Capped 22 times by the All Blacks, Donald is currently with the Chiefs in the Super 15, but is out of contract after the World Cup.

"Nothing is decided," he said. "Obviously I love living in New Zealand, but there does come a time when you want to go and I've just got to weigh up when that time is.

"In the next month or so I'll probably park up with the family and, hopefully, other people whose opinion I value and decide. Obviously, it's pretty tough to give up the All Black dream."

If Donald seems less than enthusiastic about a career move, Alan Quinlan's desire could never be questioned, but he may have played his last game for Munster after being omitted from what could be the last squad announcement of the season. Donnacha Ryan does make it, despite missing Tuesday's training session with a back strain.

Ospreys coach Sean Holley declared last Sunday that Quinlan is the one player he and his players really fear in the Munster squad, so presumably a few wry smiles will have greeted his shock exclusion from this week's fifth renewal of this fiery rivalry.

Munster rugby is, indeed, changed utterly.

Irish Independent