TONY McGAHAN is confident Denis Leamy will be availablefor Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown with Ospreys at Thomond Park.
The Munster back-row forward is carrying a shoulder knock, sustained initially against Scotland on March 14 and then aggravated during Ireland’s Six Nations decider against Wales last month, when he came on as an early first half replacement for Stephen Ferris.
The Tipperary man has endured an injury-ravaged season, and has been forced to sit out Munster’s last two Magners League victories against Glasgow and Leinster.
However, Munster’s head coach is upbeat around the Ireland international’s return against the Welsh region this weekend. “At this stage, yes, he is available,” said McGahan. “The injury is around the shoulder region.”
Whether Leamy returns to the starting XV — possibly as a six — remains to be seen following Alan Quinlan’s sterling performance in the blindside position against Leinster, one McGahan described as “(his) best game of the season so far”.
“Alan, David (Wallace) and Niall Ronan certainly held their own against a very good back row,” added McGahan. “Alan is certainly up for a challenge and he enjoys playing against someone like Rocky (Elsom). He’s certainly not worried about CVs, he’s worried about Munster and getting the job done and I thought he was a tremendous leader (against Leinster).
“I thought it was Alan’s best games of the season, he really stood up and really took over the leadership role with the other forward members coming back from the internationals.”
Ian Dowling, who played his first game since January 25 came through the game unscathed, and is certain to line up opposite Ireland’s Tommy Bowe at the weekend.
However Tony Buckley is certainly out after damaging his ankle within minutes of coming on Saturday night.
McGahan also says Munster are in “pretty good health” as the days tick down towards their date with the self-styled super region of Welsh rugby.
The head coach has earned plaudits from players for the way he has managed his squad this season in both the Magners League and Heineken Cup and says Munster’s success is making team selection a more difficult proposition each week.
“Look it’s always difficult to make decisions but unfortunately that’s the position we’re in. At this stage we’re in pretty good health.
“All those guys — the guys on the bench and in the starting XV — have been tremendous through that (Six Nations) period. It is a difficult period, to have so many guys away for long stretches, and we had 17 and 19 players missing for the first two games, the Edinburgh and Dragons games.
“So to have the squad ticking over while the international players are to come back in is important and certainly it shows the strength in the squad and the belief we have in them.”
Meanwhile, Ronan O’Gara has painted a very positive report of the shape of the Munster team ahead of the Ospreys clash, delighting in his side’s ability to vary its points of attack.
The current European champions meet a side whose expansive approach has caused other teams problems in the Heineken Cup, but the Magners man-of-the-match against Leinster says every Munster player is really beginning to click heading into the business end of the season.
O’Gara returned to close to his best form against Leinster after he kicked three penalties and a drop goal at Thomond Park.
“We are posing threats all over the park, from 1-15 and we’re keeping the opposition guessing,” said O’Gara.
“I’m not so sure it was an emphatic performance (against Leinster). I think Tony (McGahan) might have one or two things to say about that.
“I thought there were times when we lost our shape, but I think the boys have some great ideas about how to play the game and this team is really buying into it.
“It was a good night, it was great conditions and a tough game. Obviously the boys are thrilled because it was a big result for us.”
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