MUNSTER’S new coach Tony McGahan last night expressed his hope “to fulfil the expectations” of the province’s rugby mad fans after being officially unveiled as Declan Kidney’s successor.
Provincial chiefs, formally announced that McGahan will replace new Ireland boss Kidney as Director of Coaching next season, as revealed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner.
Munster Chief Executive Garret Fitzgerald admitted that there was huge interest in the role at the helm of the European Champions.
Said Fitzgerald: “We received a huge number of applications from home and abroad. A lot of very experienced people applied. It was a very, big decision and one that was not taken lightly.
“Tony has been involved with us during a period that saw him play an integral part in our Heineken Cup success and consistency in the Magners League. In that time he has displayed all the qualities that we believe are required to keep Munster to the forefront, and we wish him well in the challenging times that lie ahead. The guy has a lot of respect from players and will bring a new dimension to the whole scenario.”
The Munster CEO also poured cold water on suggestions that McGahan will have any involvement with Kidney’s national set-up due to his heavy workload with the province.
“There was talk of that happening. But he has taken on a full time role here so it is highly unlikely he will have the time to work at national level as well. If it arises we will discuss it with Tony,” he told RTÉ Radio last night.
Speaking from Sydney where he is on holidays, McGahan expressed delight: “to be chosen for the position’’. He added: ‘‘It is a great honour to be asked to lead one of the top clubs and biggest brand names in world rugby. Having been involved with Munster for the past three seasons, I fully realise what the expectations of all Munster supporters are,” he said.
But an excited McGahan was also optimistic and noted: “With a solid group of senior players at my disposal, plus an exciting batch of young players coming through, a talented management group and strong administration, I hope to continue and fulfil those expectations in the short and long term.
“I am looking forward to the challenges ahead, both in Magners League and Heineken Cup competitions.”
Meanwhile, McGahan paid tribute to his predecessor. “I have enjoyed my time working under Declan and would like to wish him all the very best in his role with the national side,” he said.
One of McGahan’s first tasks on his return from Australia will be the appointment of a forwards coaching to replace Jim Williams.
Fitzgerald agreed that: “The Director of Coaching will have huge input into his team and we will work with him and decide who that person is.”
The CEO also revealed that Munster may consider signing a player in the off season, but “only if the right person is available.”
Two Munster greats, Donncha O’Callaghan and Anthony Foley last night gave McGahan a ringing endorsement.
Said O’Callaghan: “It’s a welcome appointment from the players’ point of view; we know what to expect and Tony has huge credentials. He’s am honest guy who doesn’t pull any punches; I suppose you could call it Australian bluntness, but it’s good because there are no grey areas as to what he does and doesn’t want.”
The second row credited McGahan with a dramatic improvement in Munster’s defence in the last two seasons. “He brings a lot more to the party than defence, but he contributed to a hugely positive improvement in that area. Now that he is in complete control, he will introduce further innovations; he is that type of coach and he will want to make his own mark.”
Munster legend Foley described McGahan’s promotion from defence and skills coach as “an excellent decision”.
He reasoned: “Tony has made a huge contribution to the success of the squad, he’s a very hard worker, has great ideas and commands the total respect of the players.
“Tony made a huge impact very quickly after joining up with us; he burns the midnight oil in terms of work and he has the knack of getting the best from the players. He ticks a lot of boxes for Munster, and I’m sure his appointment gives the squad something huge to build on.
Foley added: “He has an impressive knowledge of the game, he’s a great organiser in defence and has brought a considerable amount to Munster’s attack as well; basically he brought in lots of new ideas and different methods which were embraced superbly by the players, particularly this season.”
Foley added: “Tony was very proactive from the start of his tenure in Munster; he helped increase our line speed and made the individual players take responsibility for their actions. Basically, anything that happened on the pitch was reviewed comprehensively and that proved to be of immense benefit to individuals and the squad as a whole.”
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