Few players who have graced the Munster jersey over the last 20 years appreciate more what it takes to beat a top French team in their own country than Mick Galwey.
Before the famous victory over mighty Toulouse in the broiling heat of Bordeaux in 2000, the lion-hearted Kerryman had to endure one or two dark days against multi-talented French sides.
Accordingly, when it comes to Sunday’s semi-final clash with Racing 92 in the very same Stade Chaban-Delmas, Galwey speaks with the considerable value of experience and hindsight. And that’s why all of Munster should derive a huge degree of confidence from his positive approach to this latest massive challenge.
“I suppose the one thing that Munster have above any other team is that they need never fear anybody any more,” Galwey said.
“We have served our time at the bottom and at the top until we now have respect across all Europe. No matter who we play, they will respect us as we will them. I know a lot of people are saying it’s going to be very tough to beat Racing again and they certainly are in a rich vein of form.
“But the bottom line is that we are still Munster and we are still going out there to win. There’s a big prize there. The prize is to play in the European Cup final and we are good at taking those opportunities. Munster have a chance every day but I suppose it depends on a few little things.
“Obviously, I know they have lost a lot of players and it is important that all their top players are there. It would only be fair to say that our international players Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, they’re huge for us.
“We had to do without Keith Earls the last day and I can only hope that some of the lads who were injured are back in the frame.
“Of course it’s going to be a huge ask. Coming up at this stage of the competition against a team like Racing, especially down in France, is going to be very tough.
“On the other hand, though, we’ve been through all of this before and Munster have beaten Racing already this season. We’ve played them twice so they’ll be nothing new to us.”
Munster fans were understandably frustrated by the way the team started so slowly against Toulon in the quarter-final and even in their two games in South Africa.
Galwey ardently hopes that won’t be the case on this occasion but isn’t unduly concerned and believes the trip to South Africa could even be a help on Sunday.
“That was a different brand of rugby, it’s a different set-up, they have been away and I definitely think that bit of a break all the players had out there will stand to them,” he said.
“There are only so many times in a year that you can peak and this weekend will have to be one of them. If they are to beat Racing, they will have to be at their best and hopefully they will have learned from previous slow starts.
“It’s something they need to be very careful about, particularly if you’re playing against a team like Racing. If you get a slow start you mightn’t get the opportunity to come back.
“Against Toulon, to be only six points behind after the first 20 minutes or so was astonishing. They hung in there and took their opportunities. It was an amazing game of different cycles of play. Toulon scored, then Munster scored, Toulon again and we finished very strong. That’s all very fine when you’re playing at home but we’re away now and we have to be so consistent. You don’t get a second chance at this level.
“Both teams will be just mad to get into the final. Racing have a power of money behind them and they’re singing from a different sheet to ourselves. I was watching them in the semi-final against Clermont and I just felt that Donnacha Ryan was phenomenal, he’s one player I’d love to have back — or not playing against you, let’s put it that way. He’s out there to do a job and that job is to beat Munster.”
Yet again, Munster’s famous captain in the formative years of European rugby strikes a positive note.
“In South Africa, I think fitness and the whole lot told in the end which was phenomenal and was good for the lads. True, Racing have such a big squad and a big bench, they’re the ultimate big impact team. We have seen when they bring on substitutes, they’re bigger and better than the lads who are already there and that’s what we’ll be up against.
“There again, though, we are very lucky that we also have a good impact front-row. They came on and won the penalty that turned the game against Toulon and it’s great to see that.
“To be sure, we’re going to have to be at our very best and our key players will have to play well and some of our lesser stars are going to have to front up.
“The last day, the likes of Sam Arnold, Jack O’Donoghue, and these lads were phenomenal. I think if these lads front up again, we’re there with a good chance.
And ‘Gaillimh’ signed off: “Remember, we are Munster and fear nobody.”
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