A Leinster Light Shines, While More Darkness Falls Upon Thomond Park
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Munster’s defeat at the hands of Leinster in Thomond Park on Sunday was their fifth straight defeat. Amazingly three of those defeats have come at ‘fortress’ Thomond Park. Three losses in a row at the famous ground is something Munster fans thought they would never experience, but yesterday’s crushing blow means Munster now find themselves sliding downhill at an astronomical rate.
At just twenty years of age Garry Ringrose set Thomond Park alight with a moment of brilliance that has none other than the great Brian O’Driscoll campaigning for a Six Nations berth for the youngster. Leinster once again look to have created a real star as their academy once again proves its worth. The excuse that many Munster fans have been using in recent years is the fact that they have been unable to cope with the loss of talent. Munster’s glory days have slipped away in recent memory as stars of old have hung up their boots. The difference is Leinster are continuing to create new stars, Munster are not.
Is it arrogance or poor decision making? When Munster were at their best their fan support was something the world of rugby had never seen. Thousands upon thousands would flock to every game, home or away. The people in charge at Munster rugby however perhaps saw this as a cash cow. A chance to build a state of the art stadium with increased capacity and facilities that would forever create a global Munster Rugby brand. There was once a time when the Munster Rugby jersey was the second biggest selling jersey in the world behind only the mighty All Blacks.
Players began to grow old, talent was allowed to slip away and the commercialisation of Thomond Park and the Munster Rugby brand became more important that the AIL clubs and Munster academy. The AIL fell and Munster A was born. Munster was to become it’s own private, commercially viable entity. It was no longer about Munster the geographic province. It was about Munster Rugby ®.
While trying to build this entity off the back of the players success in the Heineken Cup in 06 and 08, Munster Rugby were perhaps too arrogant, or too blind to see that in order to stay a the top, they must keep producing world class players. Ronan O’Gara, David Wallace, John Hayes, Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan to name but a few, were all not only Irish internationals, but British & Irish Lions. The problem is- time was always going to catch up with them. They were never going to be around forever. To be the best in this beautiful game, you must constantly create talent of the highest order. You must also give talent their right to prove themselves when they’ve shown they have that something special just like Leinster have done with Garry Ringrose. Just like Munster did with a young Ronan O’Gara, Leinster once again with Brian O’Driscoll. Just like Munster didn’t with JJ Hanrahan. The last time a group of stars came from the Munster Academy was around six years ago. That era produced the like of Conor Murray, Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony. These guys were the last real super class to come through, before the Munster commercial entity took over.
Munster’s current problem goes far beyond Anthony Foley and his coaching team. They are a part of the problem, but it goes much deeper. The people at the top have created a black hole for themselves. They saw an opportunity to capitalise and make more money, but it didn’t go according to plan. The Banks in Ireland created a similar black hole for themselves not too long ago. The problem is, I don’t think the people can bail Munster out.
– Jason Hennessy