Munster’s 2006 Heineken Cup Heroes – Where Are They Now?
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Can Munster add a third European cup to their trophy cabinet this season?
After several attempts always falling at the final hurdle, Munster finally lifted the Holy Grail in 2006 in front of a packed Millennium Stadium. Over 80,000 Munster fans stuffed themselves into the Cardiff stadium to see their province finally life the famous trophy in a narrow victory over Biarritz.
As we enter a new era of Munster rugby under Rassie Erasmus, we thought it would be a perfect time to look back at Munster’s most famous era and see where they are now.
15. Shaun Payne
The safest hands in rugby. Shaun Payne was a cult hero at Munster and became team manager in the summer of 2007, whilst remaining as a player for his final season. He remained in this role until 2012 when he returned to South Africa.
14. Anthony Horgan
Horgan was Munster’s all time leading try scorer up until Simon Zebo overtook him last season. Horgan continued playing until 2009, winning a second Heineken Cup in 2008. Since retiring, Horgan has stepped away from rugby and until recently was the manager of Flannery’s pub in Cork.
13. John Kelly
Kelly was the first player to retire from the famous side that lifted the Holy Grail in 2006, retiring at just 31. Kelly remains an integral part of Munster however as he heads up the professional game committee.
12. Trevor Halstead
The crash ball specialist, Trevor Halstead never took a step backwards in his life. The South African remains the stuff of legend here in Munster and will go down as one the club’s greatest imports. He retired in 2007 and returned home to his native South Africa. Last seen at the South African Investec coaching academy.
11. Ian Dowling
Dowling is another man who had his career cut short, but remains a cult hero in Munster. The winger played on for a number of seasons following the victory including the Munster’s second Heineken Cup in 2008 before a hip injury cut his career short in in 2011 aged just 28. Currently working as a physio in Limerick, operating out of the Body Building in Raheen.
10. Ronan O’Gara
O’Gara remains one of the greatest player’s of Munster’s golden era. The Cork native retired in 2013 following a devastating Heineken Cup semi-final loss. He has since gone on to forge a hugely successful coaching career with Top 14 side, Racing 92. O’Gara began as kicking coach but has worked his way up to defence coach, lifting the Top 14 title last year and narrowly missing out on another European title, this time as a coach. The outhalf is expected to return to Munster at some stage in his career in a coaching role.
9. Peter Stringer
There’s a special place reserved in Munster for Peter Stringer when he finally retires and returns home. Stringer left Munster in 2013 to make way for an up and coming Conor Murray. He continues however to defy the odds, being named Sale’s player of the season last year at the ripe old age of 38.
1. Marcus Horan
Horan continued with Munster until 2013 before hanging up his boots. He added another Heineken Cup in 2008 and became only the seventh Munster player to earn 200 caps in 2011. Horan is currently a pundit with TG4 among other things.
2. Jerry Flannery
Another player whose career was cut short because of injury. Went on to lift a second Heineken Cup in 2008 before missing out on the Lions in 2009 because of injury, where he was favourite to be the test hooker. Since retiring in 2012, Flannery has a hugely successful pub in Limerick and is still part of the Munster set-up as scrum coach.
3. John Hayes
Ireland’s most capped front-row was another man that lifted the title again in 2008. Made several attempts to retire in the coming years, but simply couldn’t due to Ireland’s lack of tighthead props. Eventually retired in 2011 and has since returned to his farm in Cappamore.
4. Donncha O’Callaghan
Another huge fan favourite down these parts of the country. Left Munster in 2015 in search of more game time as he felt he still had something to offer. Currently plying his trade in England with the Worcester Warriors.
5. Paul O’Connell
The former Munster, Lions and Ireland captain finished up with Munster at the end of the 2015 season to take up a two-year deal with French giants Toulon. Faith however ensured that O’Connell would remain a one-club man as he suffered a devastating injury at last year’s Rugby World Cup that cut his career short. Returned to Munster in an academy advisory role and has done some coaching with the A’s. Also has several business interests.
6. Denis Leamy
Leamy started six in the final in 2006 before taking over the eight mantle from Anthony Foley in the coming seasons, including the second triumph in 2008. Another player who suffered from a series of injuries in years after, Leamy failed to recover from a long standing hip issue and retired prematurely in 2011. Leamy is currently head coach of Clonmel RFC.
7. David Wallace
Widely regarded as one of the best sevens the game has ever seen, Wallace went on the play until 2011 before a long-standing knee injury finally got the better of him in a Rugby World Cup 2011 warm-up game, forcing him into early retirement.
Wallace remains in the game, doing some media and punditry work as well as some coaching with Rockwell College. He also has a number of business ventures including Mr. Simms sweet shops in Limerick.
8. Anthony Foley
Munster’s longtime captain retired at the very top following their 2008 win. Foley went straight into coaching with Munster following retirement, starting off with the academy, before being given the head coach job in 2014. Sadly passed away on October 16th 2016.