AS Munster embark on a Magners League mission to subdue Italian hopefuls Treviso at Thomond Park tonight – fresh from their European victory over Toulon last week – Mick O’Driscoll and his team-mates can feel happy with themselves.
The pessimism which followed the back to back defeats to Leinster and London Irish are now but a distant memory and O’Driscoll hopes that the province can receive full credit now that it is due.
“We probably have been harshly criticised at times this year; at the end of the day we’re on top of the Magners League and we’re at the top of our Heineken pool, so there isn’t a whole pile more we could have done.”
However, O’Driscoll wasn’t complacent either and recognises there is room for improvement.
He acknowledged, for instance, there was a huge level of disappointment at their defeat to Leinster in the AVIVA Stadium. And the pain still lingers.
“That still hurts; they have five successive wins. You don’t want to have a run like that against any team, particularly against Leinster. But you’ve got to get up, get over it and go out and play a game the following week.”
That following week brought another challenge that Munster were unable to overcome – the away Heineken Cup clash to London Irish. O’Driscoll came off the bench for the last 20 minutes and he was pleased to see a response late in the game with a try that yielded a crucial losing bonus point.
“It was frustrating to lose that one – it was a game we felt we could win — and that’s no disrespect to London Irish. We had plenty of possession in the game. I think we had up to 75% possession in the second-half and we only scored one try. That was the really frustrating part. We just had lots of errors, we gave away lots of silly penalties and made silly mistakes.”
But with O’Driscoll playing a man of the match role, Munster bounced back with a vengeance against the French Super 14 leaders Toulon in last weekend’s vital Heineken Cup tie.
O’Driscoll revealed: “There was a good feeling in the camp from the start of the week; it was a must-win situation and we have found ourselves in that situation before. It probably brought the best out of us although other things had to come right too. All those little bits and pieces that had gone wrong over the previous couple of games just seemed to come together. I think it was an exceptional performance but of the type we’re always capable of producing.”
O’Driscoll explained why the concession of an early converted try didn’t rattle the hosts.
“Experience is undoubtedly a hugely important factor in the Heineken Cup. People talk up the Guinness Premiership, the French Super 14 and the Magners League, but they don’t equate to the intensity of the Heineken Cup, although the Magners League is, I feel, getting close to it. From a Munster perspective, we have ten, maybe 12 guys who have played a huge number of games, they’re up there in the top 20 group in terms of games played in Europe. That has to count when the going gets tough.
Munster aim to maintain momentum when Treviso come calling to Thomond Park tonight in the Magners League.
And O’Driscoll stressed the Italians will be treated with as much respect as anyone else.
“They (Treviso) have done pretty well and for us the Magners League is of huge importance; we want to stay at the top of the table, last weekend was great but come Monday morning the focus was on this game.
“As a player, that’s the way it goes, that’s how it is, you’ve gotta get up and get on with it, after a good win or a defeat it’s all the same and the next challenge will be as big as the last.”
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