Paul O’Connell’s enthusiasm for his first day in a coaching role was perfectly obvious as he helped to coax and inspire a fine performance from the Munster Development/U20s side on their way to a 35-21 victory over an Ireland U20s selection at Thomond Park yesterday.
A fine attendance took full advantage of the glorious weather conditions and free admission to enjoy the splendid exhibition of rugby.
All the time, O’Connell sat beside head coach Greig Oliver in the east stand and cast his educated eye over a Munster performance which must have particularly pleased him in the first half after which they led 28-0.
The Munster forwards quickly gained the edge up front and within a few minutes of the kick-off, prop Rory Burke got the touchdown after a rolling maul and Conor Fitzgerald of Shannon landed the first of his five conversions.
Garryowen flanker Bailey Falloon then went over before second-row John Madigan and David McCarthy crossed to leave Munster comfortably ahead at the interval.
The Nigel Carolan-coached Irish side hit back in the second half with well-taken tries by Leinster trio Jordan Larmour, Caelan Dorris and Tommy O’Brien, all converted by replacement Ciaran Frawley.
Munster were forced to defend for fairly lengthy periods but still managed their fifth try by winger Greg O’Shea.
“It’s been fabulous working with Paul,” said Greig Oliver, himself a former Scotland scrum-half.
“He has been excellent since he came in. He oozes class and is very demanding and can lift the guys. It’s great for the boys to have the chance to get to know him and learn off him.
“A few of our guys played in the loss to Leinster last week and needed to redress the imbalance a wee bit because they were well beaten up there and weren’t happy with their performances. The main thing today was to see how they performed in the red shirt and they did so very well so hopefully they have pushed themselves up the ladder.”
S McMahon; L Coombes (Garryowen), D Johnston (Capt.), D McCarthy (Garryowen), G O’Shea; C Fitzgerald (Shannon), J Stafford (Shannon); L O’Connor, N Mulcahy (Shannon), R Burke; F Wycherley, J Madigan; B Falloon (Garryowen), J Daly (Castleisland), G Coombes.
D Barron (UCC), J French (Bandon Grammar), R O’Donovan (UCC), R Coffey (Shannon), E Mintern (Cork Con), J Lyons (Young Munster), A Molloy (Waterpark), S Fitzgerald. * Players without club affiliation are members of the Munster academy.
A Tynan (Munster); J Larmour (Leinster), J Kelly (Leinster), A McHenry (Munster), T O’Brien (Leinster); C Dean (Leinster), J Lennon (Munster); G McGrath (Leinster), S O’Hehir (Connacht), C McHugh, J Regan (Leinster), O Dowling (Leinster), C Dorris (Leinster), S Masterson (Leinster), M Rae (Ulster).
A Moloney (Munster), J Conway (Munster), C Connolly, C Gallagher (Connacht), R Dunne (Leinster), R Feehily (Connacht), C Frawley (Leinster), C de Buitlear (Connacht), C Kelly (Ulster).
Frank Murphy (IRFU).