THE longest, shortest drive home for Munster fans.
The journey on Saturday night from Galway. Behind them, departing Munster fans left a partying Sportsground.
One couldn’t but be struck by the similarities with the scenes witnessed at Thomond Park at the turn of the century.
Scores of exciting young fans milling about looking for autographs, lively music and singing coming from the marquees dotted around behind the back of the Clan Stand.
Connacht supporters huddled in groups, excited about the direction their team is taking under Pat Lam this season. It is obvious many are new recruits to the ‘green army.’ They will be back and more along with them.
Ironically, could Connacht’s success in reaching next season’s European Champions Cup prove a great opportunity for Thomond Park.
Given the growth in support levels for Pat Lam’s side, a capacity of 8,000 will not meet the demand for tickets from Connacht supporters for next season’s glamour pool fixtures against English and French opposition.
Could Connacht envisage switching those two pool fixtures at least to Thomond Park with its increased capacity, impressive corporate entertainment facilities, etc?
Meanwhile, the atmosphere among Munster fans who made the trip to Galway could hardly be more sombre.
Munster have lost before at the Sortsground in recent years, but not like this.
The province has two games to save its season.
Significant off-field changes are coming in the season ahead, but the minds of players, coaches and fans alike right now are firmly fixed on how Munster get out of their predicament.
The simple answer is that the misfiring side win their two remaining Guinness Pro12 fixtures against Edinburgh and Scarlets.
MUNSTER’S on-field discipline issues have cost them dear this season.
The side shipped two yellow cards on Saturday night against Connacht, albeit the one shown to James Cronin was contentious. The penalty count against Munster stood at 15 at full-time, simply way too high at this level of the game.
Munster have picked up eight yellow cards in the Pro12 this season. In a fiercely competitive competition, that is simply too high a burden to carry.
Munster’s discipline needs to improve. Ok, the side has not always gotten the rub of the green with refereeing decisions this season, but Munster need to get their house in order and stop just blaming officials for ‘poor’ decisions.
MUNSTER had 11 Irish internationals in the side for Saturday’s visit to Galway.
That amounts to a wealth of experience, even allowing for the absence of the likes of the injured Peter O’Mahony, Mark Chisholm and BJ Botha.
Seven of Munster’s internationals were called up by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt to a 24-hour camp this week.
That is one more than Connacht mustered. And the majority of those Connacht players called up only have a very small number of caps, unlike their Munster counterparts. With such an experienced side taking the field against Connacht, there is no way Munster should have so meekly surrendered their useful 14-6 first half advantage.
A NEW Director of Rugby – South African Johan Erasmus according to reports – is on his way to the province for next season, while head coach Anthony Foley has already agreed a contract extension.
However, uncertainty surrounds the futures of the rest of the backroom team, Mick O’Driscoll, Brian Walsh, Ian Costello and Jerry Flannery. The situation should be clarified.