David Corkery: Munster on a roll but fans are wary of another false dawn

Reds need to keep up momentum in Pro14 clash with Ulster
David Corkery: Munster on a roll but fans are wary of another false dawn

Munster huddle at training this week before facing Ulster. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

SATURDAY, 5.15pm: Ulster v Munster.

NO matter what kind of sport you are affiliated with, the expression 'consistent excellence' is something you would like your team to be heavily associated with.

From turning up on time, wearing the correct gear, eating the correct foods, getting enough sleep, knowing the plays and most importantly preparing yourself mentally for the tasks that lie ahead is what we call 'controlling the controllables'.

What this means is that everything you can control and falls within your remittance as an individual you do so at the highest possible level. Then, if everyone conducts their working day in this manner, the end goal becomes far more achievable.

James Cronin. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
James Cronin. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Since October 3, Munster have amassed a run of nine straight victories and when you factor in the two postponed games against Benetton and Leinster, it could easily have been eleven.

Consistent runs like the one Munster find themselves on do not just happen by chance. They manifest because of a combination of impeccable planning, hard work and a very clear understanding of where each and every one of the available squad are in terms of their individual readiness.

The highlight of the year thus far for Johann van Graan and his players was the very unexpected victory against the star-studded Clermont in the Heineken Champions Cup. 

The manner in which the Munster players stuck to their guns and managed to claw their way back from a 19-point deficit was simply incredible. 

Yes, you could point the finger at the lack of commitment offered by the hosts, but as soon as Munster found a way of holding onto the ball, Clermont had no appetite for the fight and they fell away like cowards.

That might seem a bit excessive. However, rugby is a sport where you need each and every player to have your back when the shite hits the fan and all I saw on that day was a bunch of highly-paid individuals jumping ship.

The only problem with obtaining a victory in this miraculous fashion is that van Grann and his players have now shown what they can do and there is a heavily weighted expectation amongst Munster’s faithful that silverware is now imminent.

FALSE DAWNS

Over the last decade, Munster rugby has blown from white-hot to baltic blue and there have been many false dawns along this journey.

The refreshing vigour offered by the new faces that have immerged is just brilliant and players like Craig Caesy, Ben Healy, Gavin Coombes and the Wycherley brothers have afforded Munster a whole new aspect to how they can go about playing the game.

Munster finally seem to have taken on board the lessons offered by Leinster and they are realising that when these young men are leaving school, they are no longer spotty little boys with inferior physiques. They are now emerging as men with confidence that far surpasses their tender age.

Munster’s opponents for the tie against Ulster, might not be able to offer up the same kind of winning statistics that van Graan can throw about however, what they can boast is beating them in their last three outings.

Unbeaten up to the point before narrowly losing to Toulouse and Gloucester in the Champions Cup, Ulster coach Dan McFarland may not find himself on the same plateau as his Munster adversary. Yet Ulster are 100% on an upward trajectory and they will undoubtably ask questions of Munster’s defence.

Jordi Murphy of Ulster celebrates late in the Guinness PRO14 win over Connacht. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jordi Murphy of Ulster celebrates late in the Guinness PRO14 win over Connacht. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Last week when both Munster and Leinster found themselves with a weekend off because of a Covid cancelled game, Ulster had the pleasure of rolling around in the mud of the Sportsground and had an impressive victory over Connacht.

Former Leinster and Bristol fly-half Ian Madigan displayed a kicking masterclass and tries from Player-of-the-Match, Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney strengthened Ulster’s position at the top of Conference A.

Ulster may not have the same strength in depth in their squad as both Munster or Leinster and when you glance through their team sheet you will see a lot of unfamiliar names.

One player that the Munster backrow will need to keep a very close eye on is former All Black scrum-half, Alby Mathewson.

Mathewson who has assumed a father like role within the Ulster camp is a player who likes to lead from the front and if he is afforded any kind of exploitable gaps, he will have a go.

Upfront I would expect Munster to dominate especially in the scrum, but please don’t think that this game is a foregone conclusion.

Even though the impressive Kingspan stadium will not have the same kind of audible atmosphere as it normally shrieks, playing in Belfast is not an easy task and this Ulster team are a very tight unit.

Weather permitting. It should be a good tight and entertaining game.

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