• Home
  • /
  • Latest News
  • /
  • An Old Conflict: Donal Lenihan Warns About The Apathy That Could Endanger Munster Rugby

An Old Conflict: Donal Lenihan Warns About The Apathy That Could Endanger Munster Rugby

An Old Conflict: Donal Lenihan Warns About The Apathy That Could Endanger Munster Rugby
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
Share this article

In the first half of the 1990s - before the Heineken Cup arrived into our lives - Limerick rugby people were often contemptuous of the Munster setup.

At that time, there was a widespread belief that there was a pro-Cork bias among the selection committee. This sense of grievance, by the way, carried over the to national team where Limerick people alleged a pro-Dublin bias in selection. Witness Richard Harris moaning about this in a video tribute to Mick English as late as 1998.

The most often cited complaint was the repeated snubbing of Young Munster flanker Ger Earls, one of the most respected players in the All-Ireland League and Dad of Keith.

It was the AIL into which all their energy was pored. The high-watermark of the competition's fame arrived in 1993 when Young Munster beat St. Mary's in the final in Lansdowne Road in front of 20,000 fans. Interestingly, St. Mary's No. 8, a man called Brent Pope, was sent off for throwing a punch

Limerick clubs won the All-Ireland League seven years in succession between 1992 and 1998.

When Paul O'Connell was asked, in the final days of his career, whether he wished he was a bit younger so he could carry on playing, he surprised the interviewee by saying he wished he was a few years older.


That way, he'd have played in the glory days of the AIL, the competition which enthralled him as a kid. (In which case, he'd have probably missed out on a few Ireland Six Nations successes but there you are...)


Historian Liam O'Callaghan - who attended Munster's first Heineken Cup match against Swansea in November 1995 - told us the chatter on the terraces that day revolved around the upcoming AIL fixtures rather than the match that was unfolding before them.

It's all changed violently since then. Around the turn of the century, Munster Rugby became synonymous with Limerick. Munster's legendary record in Thomond Park played a part. They didn't lose a European match in the ground for 12 years until Leicester came and won in 2007. Before that, their only home loss had come in Musgrave Park in 1997.

According to Donal Lenihan, one of the grandees of rugby in Cork, it is Munster's capital city which now feels ignored by the province.


He spoke to Second Captains about his recent autobiography, covering his lengthy international career and his time as Ireland and Lions manager.

And he talked about the current Munster setup has helped stir up apathy towards the province in Cork.

I think... is there an anti-Munster feeling in Cork? Yes, there is.

I get it all the time. There isn't a week that goes by where someone doesn't stop me in the street saying 'I've stopped supporting Munster Rugby'.

I say 'Why?' And the reply is that the whole focus is Limerick. The stadium is Limerick, the centre is Limerick, they play in Limerick. There's four PRO12 games a year in Cork - you get Zebre, Cardiff, Dragons and we get a token (match against) Ospreys or Glasgow.

The real worry  that I had is when Munster played Edinburgh (in Limerick) at 3.00 in the afternoon and there was a crowd of less than 7-8 thousand there.

In the old days, when I was driving home, the traffic going back to Cork, it would take you hours. Now? It's not an issue.

How the pendulum has swung since the pre-professional era. Do we see another Limerick-Cork power struggle looming on the horizon? We await the response from the vocal Limerick support.

Read more: Ireland's First Ever Rugby World Cup Anthem Was Even Worse Than Ireland's Call...

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are now subscribed!

Share this article

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com