Retail therapy is the best medicine

THERE are supposed to be seven stages of grieving. It begins with shock, ends with acceptance and, along the way, passes through anger, denial, guilt, fear and depression.

There was plenty grief down Munster way this week.

Shock/denial: "Surely, not again. How did Wasps win that game? This was our year."

Anger: "What was Rob Henderson thinking?" and "The Munster backs wouldn't tackle Marilyn Monroe." (As heard on 96FM last Monday).

Fear: "Maybe, the last five years was as close as we'll ever get we'll never win the thing."!

Depression: "Pointless game. Turn over to the synchronised swimming."

And, finally, acceptance: "Wasps deserved it, they were the better team."

Yep, a rough week, and that was just the fans.

However, now the grieving process is over, it is time for rational analysis and planning for no-one truly believes Munster cannot win the Heineken Cup, even though it gets harder every year.

Some time ago, we wrote that Munster were becoming the new Ireland the following day Ireland stuffed England in Twickenham which made the assertion look a trifle overstated. However, sitting in the truly remarkable atmosphere at Lansdowne last Sunday, it was clear the HC now rivals the Six Nations as the Northern Hemisphere's premier tournament and Munster are the headline act.

The ERC have taken a bit of hammering over the years (largely justified) but must be lauded for creating the world's most vibrant rugby competition. So, how do we win the bloody thing?

First, we must accept Munster will never have the financial clout of the big English and French sides. They cannot simply buy their way to success and, if anything has cost them in the past few seasons, it is the lack of squad depth.

The critical point of last Sunday's match saw Munster 10 points up and needing to see out the game.

What was required was an injection of quality off the bench, similar to the injection Toulouse administered in the semi-final last season.

It could not happen: Pusey and McIlwham were not up to it; Flannery has great promise but is too green; Halvey's best days are behind him; Reddan is also too raw; while Holland and Horgan were already on the pitch. You will not win this competition without top quality frontline players and top quality back-up.

Nonetheless, I refuse to row in with the hysteria merchants calling for a complete overhaul of the squad.

One, we cannot afford it and, two, we don't need to.

The pack is of international standard, with an abundance of riches in the back row, it merely needs a bad-ass second-row to help out the two lads (Trevor Brennan springs to mind) and a prop to take the pressure off Marcus Horan and John Hayes.

The backs present a greater problem, but again, let's keep it in perspective.

This week, I have heard that Cullen is 'damaged goods', Kelly, Mullins, Holland and Horgan are 'past it' and that Peter Stringer has been 'found out'.

Whoa. Pause for the Angelus there, lads.

THERE is huge disappointment out there but the knee-jerk reactions to defeat must be controlled. These are proven performers, they have done it in the past and will do it in the future.

What is needed is a creative, game-breaking back to help them out and quality back-up for the man who, after the win over England, was described as "Ireland's greatest ever scrum-half".

Frank Murphy of UCC looks to have what it takes to become the regular back-up for Stringer but what is a genuine cause for concern is the dearth of other young players coming through from within the province.

Murphy, Stephen Keogh and Jerry Flannery show great promise, however it is a worrying statistic that, since Munster's odyssey began in 1999/2000, aside from Paul O'Connell, no other young player has broken into the squad and become a regular on the first team.

So, Alan Gaffney must go shopping for an affordable prop, second row and creative back and, while he has the credit card out, he should also look at purchasing specialist help in the areas of scrummaging and defence.

Between David Wallace's chicken pox, O'Gara's hamstring and some questionable refereeing, a lot of things went against Munster last weekend and yet they almost pulled it off.

With the right additions, this agony can end.

There was a joke doing the rounds in Dublin this week which went: "Why are Munster and a wonderbra the same?"

"All support and no cup."

Don't mind them, we'll have the last laugh.

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