O’Donovan confident Munster on the rise again

Newly-appointed Munster manager Niall O’Donovan is optimistic the province will regroup to become a major European force again.

O’Donovan won’t have a coaching role in Munster’s new set-up but does have an in-depth knowledge of the type of quality coming through the ranks, and he likes what he has seen over the last couple of years during his work with the Munster A team.

He believes the British & Irish Cup victory last season was a marker laid down by the province after quarter and semi-final victories on the road, against Ulster and Leinster particularly.

Although O’Donovan begs for patience from the fans, years of experience tells him something good is going to happen from Tony McGahan’s recent youth policy; he believes incoming coach Rob Penney will be impressed by the level of raw young talent available to him.

“I would be excited about where they can go to. Having worked with academy players and the A side, I can see some great guys coming through and the A team, as a team, was magnificent last year. The semi-final against Leinster was as good a game as you could have asked for; nobody gave Munster a chance because of the perceived quality of the Leinster side but the collective performance that day was magnificent. I have no doubt that the quality is coming through; we all need to be patient though, we have to let them (players) out, let them perhaps make mistakes but learn from it and become better players.”

The province has named a 47-man provisional squad for next season with the emergence of several quality young players giving cause for optimism.

The arrival of Casey Lualala and James Downey, the recovery from injury of the talented Troy Smith and availability of several really talented youngsters, allied to the return of Doug Howlett, puts Munster back up there in terms of what they are capable of achieving.

Ian Keatley has been deputising for Ronan O’Gara and will start the season as his stand-in again, but new coach Rob Penney has further options for the number 10 jersey — Scott Deasy was given opportunities in the last couple of months and did well, while JJ Hanrahan, following an amazingly successful IRB Junior World Cup campaign, could make the transition from centre to out-half.

Munster 2012/2013 Squad — Props: BJ Botha, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, S Archer, M Horan, W du Preez, C Condon, A Cotter; Hookers: D Varley, M Sherry, S Henry; Locks: D Ryan, P O’Connell, D O’Callaghan, I Nagle, D Foley; Back row: P Butler, S Dougall, B Holland, P O’Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan, T O’Donnell, Dave O’Callaghan, B O’Mahony.

Half backs: P Stringer, C Murray, D Williams, C Sheridan, R O’Gara, I Keatley; Centre/Wing: C Lualala, J Downey, D Barnes, S Deasy, JJ Hanrahan, T Smith, I Dineen, K Earls, S Deasy, D Howlett, S Zebo, J Murphy; Full-backs: F Jones, D Hurley, S Scanlon, L O’Dea.

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