Belfast Telegraph

Magners League: O’Connell out to show Munster's demise was greatly exaggerated

By Hugh Farrelly

Saturday January 22, Thomond Park, 12 minutes left on the clock and Ryan Lamb has just converted Sailosi Tagicakibau's try to push London Irish into a 14-7 lead.

The previous week Toulon had ensured Tony McGahan’s men had failed to make the last eight of the Heineken Cup for the first time in 13 years.

Munster are in free-fall.

Paul O'Connell stood tall as the players gathered behind the posts for the restart and galvanised his troops.

O'Connell and his men scorched to a bonus-point victory with irresistible intensity and tempo, roared on by a crowd relieved to have tangible evidence that there was still heat in Munster's fire.

That victory set the tone for an impressive run of Magners League performances that made light of the absence of a clutch of top players on Six Nations duty and left Munster with a 12-point lead at the top of the table.

It has been a pretty impressive recovery and yesterday in Limerick, O'Connell stressed the importance of that London Irish result as he geared up for Saturday's showdown with Leinster — the next significant stage of the healing process.

“We were out of the competition, but we came away from that game with a very good feeling and it's moved on,” said O'Connell.

“We've played very well since then and captured a bit of form. We've played very well since then and captured a bit of form. There have been poor performances, Treviso was a poor one, but we're moving in the right direction.

If frustration was a driving force in January, it will be equally relevant in April as McGahan's men strive to end a run of five defeats against a Leinster side whose stunning Heineken Cup progress highlighted Munster's failure and who are seeking to reel in their southern rivals in the league.

“It will be very disappointing if we don't beat them,” acknowledged O'Connell.

“Six times in a row would be tough for everyone to take, supporters, staff and players. We'll be going out and giving it everything on Saturday.

“Since the Toulon game we've improved, we're a lot happier with how we're playing and what we're doing. It's just another game, that's the way we're trying to keep our preparation: trying to keep it to another game, and come the day there will be plenty of spice.”

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