Paul O’Connell: Munster need a production system rather than seeking quick fixes

Munster legend Paul O’Connell wants the province to develop a production system to develop talent from grassroots and schools level and not rely on ‘short term fixes’.

Paul O’Connell: Munster need a production system rather than seeking quick fixes

With continued speculation over the possibility of young star Joey Carbery moving south for more game time, O’Connell admits Munster’s priority should be to take a leaf out of the Leinster playbook in terms of how they promote from within.

The former Lions skipper also insists Munster “are not that far behind” in the quest for silverware.

“I’m not a massive fan of players moving around the provinces,” said O’Connell.

“I think it’s just a short-term fix for Munster if players come here.

“We have to put in a production system underneath from the club game and from the schools game to match other provinces.”

“Maybe we won’t ever be as good as Leinster at it but we do need to try something.

“I chat to people all the time about short-term fixes, about signing players from other provinces, and signing players from other countries.

“It’s a short-term fix and we need a long-term fix that can produce talent and sustain the province going forward.

“Rugby is a very tough game. If you are emotionally connected to the team you are playing for, you have a far better chance of being successful.

“And you have a far better chance of being emotionally connected to a team you are playing for if you come up through that province and wanted to play for that team all your life.”

Munster have struggled at out-half this season due to the inconsistent form of both JJ Hanrahan and Ian Keatley, as well as the injury problems with last season’s starting No. 10 Tyler Bleyendaal.

O’Connell added that Munster need to have consistency in the pivotal position.

“It is a position where we have struggled,” he admitted.

“We have had players that have played really well from time to time. Like Ian Keatley. Tyler (Bleyendaal), when he has been fit, has played really well there but we haven’t had the consistency that other teams have had, like Johnny Sexton at Leinster.

“I think Munster just need to find someone that can play at a really consistent level. Whether that is the guys they already have or whether it’s someone new, that’s up to the coaches to figure out.”

However, O’Connell insists Munster are not as far away from success as people may fear.

“Things are always exacerbated by how well Leinster are doing,” he said. “I think Munster aren’t that far behind. They have been in two Champions Cup semi-finals in the last two years.

“Munster are not where they were at 10 or 15 years ago but I do think Leinster doing so well has exacerbated things.

“I don’t think we are producing the players that we used to produce.

“It’s a real shame to think that Munster were so strong in 2006 and 2008 and we didn’t capitalise on it.

“The All-Ireland League is where we produced players and it’s not producing the players it once did.

“The standard has improved but I don’t think rugby has the same connection with the clubs that we need to produce fantastic young players.

“It’s a big challenge as you have to produce serious homegrown talent and we are struggling to do that at the moment for whatever reason.”

O’Connell is part of the Irish coaching team for the U20 World Cup that begins in France today, a tournament that sees Ireland play the hosts (tonight), South Africa, and Georgia.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” O’Connell said. “We will have three and a half weeks full time work with the players. A game every four days will be quite challenging, certainly from a rugby point of view.

“I think we have some great young players in the Irish system, great strength in depth.”

“The guys are really excited about it. A few weeks away at a World Cup playing for Ireland. It’s what every young fella would want. It’s a great level to be involved in for me anyway. It’s a great way to dip my toe into coaching and teaching. You get to work with players that are really eager to be there. Some of them are on small Academy contracts and money hasn’t blinded them yet. It’s a really nice, enjoyable level to be involved in where everyone is really enthusiastic. I’m enjoying it.”

Meanwhile, Declan Kidney is set to return to Munster — as director of rugby with London Irish.

Kidney, who steered Munster to two European Cup titles, will take charge of the Exiles in a pre-season friendly at Musgrave Park on August 17. The game will also mark the first fixture on the newly modified 3G pitch at the Cork venue.

The teams will compete for the Jack Wakefield Memorial Trophy, which is contested every time London Irish play an Irish province in a friendly. The trophy is named in honour of a young London Irish supporter who died in 2005.

Premiership runners-up Exeter Chiefs will be the opponents at the same venue on August 24. Both matches kick off at 7.30pm.

The Chiefs enjoyed an excellent campaign in the Premiership and topped the regular season table, winning 17 of their 22 games.

Aldi ambassador Paul O’Connell signs the Aldi Doodle wall during the Aldi Community Games. Picture: Diarmuid Greene.
Aldi ambassador Paul O’Connell signs the Aldi Doodle wall during the Aldi Community Games. Picture: Diarmuid Greene.

Children can learn so many life skills from sport

Children should have the opportunity to participate in “every sport they can”, according to Paul O’Connell

O’Connell highlighted the importance of events like the Aldi Community Games, which were hosted in Limerick last weekend, in the battle against childhood obesity.

“I competed in the Community Games when I was young and I loved it. Some of the best memories of my life. The first time I went was when I was six and your parents didn’t really go with you so I went with my friends in the swimming club and a few mentors.

“I love it and I’m delighted Aldi have gotten involved and are boosting its profile a little bit and putting it back into the consciousness of people. The more things like the Community Games are put in front of parents faces the better. There are so many opportunities for kids to play sport and to be physically active,” said the Aldi ambassador.

“You have so many opportunities for kids now to take part in sport and get them off computer games. It’s really important and it’s down to adults and parents to lead the way and teach kids about being physically active because there are massive problems with childhood obesity.

“Taking part in events and being part of a team from a young age helps you learn so many life skills. It’s so important but it’s down to parents and mentors to motivate the kids and bring them out to take part. My boy plays gaelic football, he plays soccer, a bit of golf, and plays rugby as well. It’s hugely important for kids to take part in every sport that they can.”

Paul O’Connell was speaking at the Aldi-sponsored Community Games Finals at the University of Limerick.

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