MUNSTER loosehead prop, James Cronin, knew in pre-season that it would be tough to claim a regular starting place, with Dave Kilcoyne on international duty and three of the younger props snapping at his heels.
The Ballincollig man will start again tomorrow at number one, with Kilcoyne and Jeremy Loughman both injured, but the Highfield player won’t become complacent.
He has Ballyvolane’s Liam O’Connor and Bantry’s Josh Wycherley among five players battling for two places.
Loughman, O’Connor, and Wycherley have all impressed Cronin, but after putting last season’s injury nightmare behind him, he was determined to set down a marker in pre-season.
“In pre-season, the lads coming through were really good athletes and you’d nearly question yourself, going, ‘Jesus, these fellahs might pass me out’, but, nah, I was well able to keep up with them and I was happy enough.
“It’s good that these young lads push you and, when I was young, I would have really pushed the older props ahead of me, whereas, now, I’m getting over that hill.
“Jeremy, Liam O’Connor, and Josh Wycherley, they’re all good athletes. I remember, we were doing 150m runs and I was sticking with them, so I knew I wasn’t in a bad place.
“They’re all good players and it’s a really good place for Munster to be in, at the minute, that we’ve got two or three players per position. It’s a great place for the squad to be,” Cronin says.
Cronin is expecting plenty of Munster supporters in the crowd at Allianz Park tomorrow and says that celebrating any win with the 16th man will never get old.
The vibes from Munster’s loyal travelling supporters are always picked up by the players, no matter where in the world they are playing.
“Oh, it’s massive. We know that after going to Ospreys. It took us nearly 84 minutes to get the bonus point and that all helped, and going over, celebrating with them afterwards, that will never get old,” Cronin says.
“Even last Saturday, in Thomond, you couldn’t hear yourself think at some of the lineouts, because they get on top of you and, if we can hear it, I can only imagine what the opposition think, because we’re half-used to it, but it’s brilliant.
“I don’t know how, but we have supporters....when you see 100 people popping up in South Africa, you’re going, ‘How does that happen?’ But that’s the beauty of the club.”
Munster will have to play in tough weather conditions again tomorrow, but if they survived last weekend and Storm Aytiah, then they will survive anything and poor weather conditions have their advantages, as well.
“There were two games: the Maori game and last Saturday’s game were the two worst conditions that I’ve ever played in in Thomond.
“They can’t pass the ball that fast, so we can get off the line and get collisions.
“It was a real, dogged Munster performance and that’s what the place was built on. We probably didn’t do anything glamorous, but probably out-fought them a small bit more and that’s what the place is built on. Touch wood, it always will be,” says Cronin.
The element of surprise with a 4G surface will be gone for Munster, so that will take away any advantage that the Premiership champions had.
For Cronin, used to playing on one in Musgrave Park, it doesn’t matter and will probably suit his kick-chase game. That has always been one of his strong points and, in the first-half, before the storm fully kicked in, Cronin showed what a danger he poses as a prop, when chasing a kick, as Saracens full-back, Matt Gallagher, found out early on in the game.
“It doesn’t really bother me. Sure, we have one down in Cork now ourselves, so it’s irrelevant.
“I actually played in the last fixture we played over there and it probably would have been more of an unknown then, but now there are so many teams with 4G pitches, that it is what it is,” Cronin says.