Cork-Limerick divide not an issue for Munster

Cork-Limerick divide not an issue for Munster

Former CEO Garrett Fitzgerald has played down perceptions of a Cork-Limerick divide in Munster rugby.

Speaking exclusively on an Examiner Sport podcast, he says the province has followed best practice in implementing a single training base at UL, ending the previous dual arrangement that operated between Cork and Limerick until earlier this decade.

It's now a logical progression for Munster Academy players to relocate to Limerick, he says - although every accommodation is made for those who study in Cork.

"You would normally tell the player, this is in your best interests that you play at the highest level of the game to challenge you every week, and you make your training and education as easy as possible.

If my son was in the Academy in the morning, I would expect him to do that (move to Limerick) and to give himself the best possible chance.

"That would be normal for any university student. If you're living in Kilkenny or Waterford, what do you do? You move to UCD, Trinity, UCC, UL, this isn't any different."

Fitzgerald also pointed to Munster's record of supporting academy players who are studying in UCC, whose first team are currently fifth in Division 1A of the Energia All-Ireland League, to work within the academy at UL.

"There's a load of guys in UCC who have gone through the academy or are currently in the Academy. Everything is being done to help them by providing them with overnight accommodation in Limerick."

Merging the training bases has greatly enhanced performance levels, Fitzgerald added, regardless of location.

"We spoke to four to five different institutes who were interested in partaking in it but when it came to giving an answer if or when they could deliver it, UL delivered.

"It was a matter of where we could get what we wanted. If it ended up in Killarney, so be it. It was never a Cork-Limerick issue. It has greatly helped the performance of our people, it has driven higher standards, but that could've happened in Limerick or Cork or elsewhere."

Fitzgerald further dismissed suggestions of a growing disconnect between clubs and the province.

He pointed to the club roots that exist among those involved in the Munster set-up, such as team manager Niall O'Donovan and academy manager Peter Malone.

"I'd say it's closer in Munster than any of the other provinces.

"There's bound to be some disconnection... The clubs feel their best players are being taken off them, there'll always be a bit of a perception of that, but I think there's a good connect.

"There are challenging issues when the Academy medical fella says 'I don't want this fella to play' and the club doctor says 'I think he's fine'. But if he's under contract to the IRFU and Munter, Munster make the call. He's their employee."

Munster need to maintain that connection because of the wider spread of players coming into the province from areas like Waterford and West Cork.

"Munster need all of that because the population base is so small and there are so many people being sucked up into the greater Dublin area. It's a huge challenge."

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