David Corkery previews Munster v Leinster: Underdogs could badly do with a derby win

Munster and Leinster clash on St Stephen's night with the Reds firmly on the back foot
David Corkery previews Munster v Leinster: Underdogs could badly do with a derby win

Munster fans would love to beat Leinster today. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

MUNSTER against Leinster, the derby that defines who the kings of Irish rugby truly are.

I don’t think Ulster or Connacht would concur with my opening proclamation, however if we are to judge who has contributed more and dominated the sport ever since the game turned professional, I have no case to answer and the great folk from the north and west have no case to fight.

Back in the late '90s and early noughties when Munster were acquiring trophies like they were going out of fashion, the Brown Thomas bag-wielding chaps from the capital were scratching their heads and wondering what they had to do to turn the tide of dismay.

If you entered the Leinster dressing room during this period, what you would have seen was an assembly of toned and chiselled players that probably had more individual talent and skill on their left baby toe than the entire Munster squad put together.

They were all great guys and their playing intentions were commendable, but what they lacked in abundance was a reason to call themselves a team.

A massive amount of my playing career is nothing but a blur to me however, what I can recall is pre-game meetings where we watched videos of key Leinster players butchering clear try-scoring opportunities because of their incapability to play as one.

They played as individuals and in a sport where you are totally dependent on the players you share a bus, dressing room, and a pint after the game with, if you don’t play as one, you will very quickly be found out and just like the lions in Africa hunt their prey, your opponents will isolate your individualism, separate you from your flock and feast off your inners.

I don’t exactly know how Leinster went about transforming their playing culture, but it probably had a lot to do with a wave of younger players like Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, and Brian O’Driscoll no longer accepting mediocrity in a sport that commanded excellence and resolute commitment.

As a result Leinster now find themselves sitting on top of rugby’s Everest and they are the envy of every other professional club in Europe if not the world.

Their systematic processes may not be flawless, but they are not that far off it and what impresses me most is how they can very quickly change, embrace, and adapt their game plan to suit an ever-evolving sport.

It used to pain me to say it, but now that time has softened me and the lessons of life have educated me.

I have no issue with proclaiming Leinster as the current and worthy holders of the crown of Ireland because they fully earned it.

Over the last few weeks, Munster have dogged out some very worthy performances, both in victory and defeat.

Wins against South Africa A, Connacht, Edinburgh, Northampton, and a losing bonus point defeat to Toulouse have propelled Graham Rowntree’s troops out of first gear, and into third.

Munster’s Jean Kleyn wins a lineout. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster’s Jean Kleyn wins a lineout. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

They now have a massive opportunity to shift up again and repay those who have stuck by them over the last 13 years of obscurity.


To play against any side on the hallowed surface of Thomond Park is very much a privilege, but to do it when the stands are packed to the rafters and the terraces are bursting at the seams with Munster supporters is an honour that very few will ever have the privilege of doing and I hope that the players realise this.

I sincerely hope that the privileged Munster players who are selected don’t look at this game as just another game in the list of fixtures, because I am 100% certain that winning a game of this nature has the ability to give Peter O’Mahony and his players a shot of adrenaline that beating no other side would give them.

Munster’s Keith Earls with George Furbank of Northampton. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster’s Keith Earls with George Furbank of Northampton. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

During the week I was irritated to read an article in which Leinster’s Ross Maloney used words such as “entertaining, worthwhile, pretty sweet, brilliant” when referring to playing in Thomond Park.

He also stated that: “It’s an enjoyable game to play in and win”, and while I admire his honesty, as a Munster man it killed me to see that the once revered venue has lost the fearsome reputation it once had.

I once recall former Leinster and Irish powerhouse Victor Costello, telling me that the thought of playing in Thomond Park sent shivers down his spine because he knew what kind of pain he would be in the following day. Clearly, that kind of anxiety is now a thing of the past and teams nowadays actually enjoy the experience.

Only a fool would bet against Leinster winning this game, but if Rowntree and co ever wanted an opportunity to really kickstart the province’s revival, beating the world’s most efficient side in front of an overflowing Thomond Park wouldn’t be a bad way to continue their good run.

This is not a game of rugby, it’s a way of life!

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