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The Last Munster Team To Win Silverware: Where Are They Now?

Former Munster players Niall Ronan, Paul Warwick, Lifeimi Mafi, and Danny Barnes. Pictures: Sportsfile
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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It's now 12 years since Munster last won a trophy. Leinster were the opponents that day as Munster triumphed 19-9 at a packed Thomond Park in the final of what was then known as the Magners League.

The victory - Munster's third title in the competition - stopped what would have been a Leinster double. A week earlier, they'd come back from 16 points down at the break to beat Northampton in a famous Heineken Cup final.

On Saturday, Munster have a chance to end their silverware drought when they face the Stormers in the URC final.

We've taken a look at the careers of those Munster players since that 2011 Magners League Final.

Munster team 2011 Magners League final

Felix Jones

Four years on from that final, aged just 28, Jones was forced into retirement due to a neck injury.

He quickly moved into coaching with Munster, initially as a technical coach, later becoming the attack coach. Jones left the province in the summer of 2019 and went on to be a part of South Africa's World Cup-winning coaching staff.

It was announced earlier this year that Jones will leave his role with the Springboks after the World Cup and join Steve Borthwick's England backroom team.


South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said it was "a big loss for the Springboks to lose a coach of Felix's calibre".

"He's been an asset to the Springboks in the last few years and the way he has evolved in his role and willingly took on additional responsibilities to ensure that the team functioned as optimally as possible in his areas of expertise, has been admirable," Erasmus added.

Jones initially joined the Springboks as a defence consultant. Later, he was based in the UK where he kept an eye on South Africa's European-based players.

Doug Howlett

The former All Black retired from rugby in 2013 but continued his relationship with Munster, becoming the province's Head of Commercial and Marketing.

In late 2019, Howlett departed that role, returning home to New Zealand.

"It has been an extraordinary 11 years living in Ireland and I will always treasure my time in this special and unique club, and in Irish sport, academia and business," he said at the time.


In 2019, Howlett was the high performance lead for the Cork hurlers under the management of John Meyler.

Danny Barnes

Two years after that Magners League final, Danny Barnes departed Munster for Newcastle. Three years on from that, aged just 26, he decided to end his pro rugby career. Barnes continued to play semi-pro rugby. He now works as a project engineer and lives in England.

Balls spoke to the New Zealand-born Kerryman in 2020 about his time with Munster, why it didn't work out for him there, and his time in England.

Lifeimi Mafi

The New Zealander left Munster for Perpignan in the summer of 2012. He spent six years with the French side before returning to his homeland to play a season with Manawatu. He retired from rugby in 2019.

28 May 2011; Paul O'Donohoe, Leinster, is tackled by Mike Sherry, left, and Lifeimi Mafi, Munster. Celtic League Grand Final, Munster v Leinster, Thomond Park, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Keith Earls

Now 35, Earls is still playing for Munster. In April, he became the 14th player to make 200 appearances for Munster when he came off the bench in a 22-22 draw against the Sharks in the URC. Despite picking up an injury in that game against the Sharks, Earls started Munster's URC semi-final victory over Leinster.

Last year, Earls signed a contract extension with Munster which runs until the end of the 2023 World Cup.

He also runs Eleven14 Coffee Roasters in Limerick.


Ronan O’Gara

After hanging up his playing boots in 2013, O'Gara embarked on a coaching adventure. It began with Racing 92 and took in time in New Zealand with the Crusaders.

He is now head coach of La Rochelle, and this season led the French side to their second consecutive Champions Cup final victory over Leinster.

Conor Murray

The scrum-half was just a year on from his Munster debut when he started the final in 2011. 12 years later and he's playing for the province. The 24-year-old's current deal with Muntser runs until the end of the 2024 season.

Marcus Horan

Horan was a Munster lifer, playing 14 years for the province. He retired in 2013 and now works as Player Development Manager for Munster. The Clareman helps young players transition to the professional lifestyle and older ones as they edge towards retirement from the game. He also works as an analyst with TG4 on their rugby coverage.

Damien Varley

Aged just 31, the hooker was forced to retire from rugby due to a persistent foot injury in early 2015. The Limerick man made 121 appearances for the province.

He now works in investment management.

John Hayes
munster team 2011 magners league final
John Hayes at home on his farm in Cappamore, Co Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Initially, the plan had been that Hayes would bow out following the final. However, he signed a short-term deal to serve as cover during the 2011 World Cup. His last game for Munster was on St Stephen's Day. 'The Bull' left the Thomond Park pitch to a standing ovation in a win over Connacht.

He now works on his suckler farm in Limerick.

Donncha O'Callaghan

The second row left Munster in 2015 but his career rolled on for another three seasons at Premiership side Worcester Warriors. Then in his late 30s, O'Callaghan was named Worcester Supporters' Player of the Year for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons. He retired from the game at the end of the following season having helped Worcester stay in English rugby's top tier.

He can now be seen on RTÉ's 'Ireland's Fittest Family' and heard on 2FM's breakfast show. In 2023, he was the performance coach in Davy Fitzgerald's Waterford hurling backroom team.

Paul O'Connell
munster team 2011 magners league final
28 May 2011; The Munster team, with Paul Darbyshire and his son Jack Darbyshire, celebrate with the cup after victory over Leinster. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Three weeks after the final, Munster players, staff, and fans were in mourning following the death of strength and conditioning coach Paul Darbyshire. The previous September, Darbyshire had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease. Fittingly, Darbyshire and his son Jack got to celebrate the victory on the pitch with captain Paul O'Connell and the team.

O'Connell's Munster career ended at the conclusion of the 2014/15 season when he was released a year early from his contract with the IRFU to sign with Toulon. However, due to a serious hamstring injury suffered against France at that year's World Cup, O'Connell never played for the French side. Confirmation of his retirement from the game came in early 2016.

In 2018, O'Connell moved into coaching, joining Stade Francais but stayed there for just a season. He is now Ireland's forwards coach, a role he took up before the 2021 Six Nations.

Donnacha Ryan

The Tipperary man left Munster in 2017 to join French side Racing 92. He was a two-time Champions Cup runner-up during his time in Paris.

He retired from playing at the end of the 2020/21 season and took up a coaching role alongside his former teammate Ronan O'Gara at La Rochelle.

20 May 2023; La Rochelle assistant coach Donnacha Ryan, right, with his former Munster teammate Jerry Flannery after the Heineken Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and La Rochelle at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

David Wallace

The backrow retired from rugby at the end of the 2011/12 season due to a knee injury picked up in a World Cup warm-up game against England the previous year.

He now works as Chief Commercial Officer for construction industry firm i3PT.

James Coughlan

The Corkman left Munster at the end of the 2013/14 season and joined Pau. He spent three years as a player with the French side before moving into coaching. After two years as a coach with Pau, he moved to Provence. Coughlan is now a defence coach with Toulon, after a spell with Brive.

Coughlan, who will leave Toulon at the end of the 2022/23 season, does not have another role lined up.

“If something comes up during the year, it comes up," he told the Irish Times ahead of Toulon's victory over Glasgow Warriors in the Challenge Cup final.

"If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not going to stress too much about it. I’m not bitter. That’s the job we’re in. I’ll do my master’s and bits and bobs, and get my head out."


Mike Sherry

The hooker retired from rugby in 2019 aged 31 after 10 years of playing for Munster.

"The prospect of possibly picking up another contract was something I was very much pursuing but the longer it went on, the more I realised my body was telling me to stop," he explained.

"I've ignored existing injuries for a long time, but I can no longer do so. The maintenance involved in just being able to train let alone play has taken its toll on my body these last couple of years. I would love to continue playing but I simply can't anymore. I feel I'm physically incapable of getting back to my best and I want to be healthy for my young children."

He now works for Waystone and is also a coach with Garryowen.

Wian du Preez

The South African left Munster in 2013, initially returning home to South Africa. He signed for Lyon later that year and spent three years with the French side. Aged 33, he retired from rugby in 2016 and became a financial advisor.

Stephen Archer

The tighthead prop is now in his 14th season with Munster. In late 2019, the Corkman became the 11th player to reach 200 appearances for the province, and three years later, on his 248th appearance, he became the province's second most capped player ever.

13 May 2023; Referee Frank Murphy, with Munster players Peter O'Mahony, left, and Stephen Archer during the United Rugby Championship Semi-Final match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Denis Leamy

Due to a hip injury, the Tipperary man was forced into retirement a year after the final aged 30.

He went on to work with Rockwell College, Garryowen in the AIL and Munster underage teams. He was also part of the backroom team when the Tipp hurlers won the 2016 All-Ireland title.

Leamy joined Leinster as their elite player development officer in October 2019. In January 2021, he joined the Ireland U20 coaching team, and moved to the senior coaching team at Leinster in October 2021.

He returned to Munster as defence coach ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Niall Ronan

The backrow was forced to retire from rugby in April 2014 due to a knee injury sustained during a Munster training session the previous October.

munster team 2011 magners league final
19 February 2017; Niall Ronan of St Colmcilles in action  during the All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football Championship final. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ronan subsequently completed a degree in strength and conditioning. He founded Titan Wellness in 2015, a company which runs health and well-being programmes for organisations.

In 2016, he won a Meath IFC title with St Colmcilles and dedicated the victory to former Munster teammate Anthony Foley who had died a week previous. Colmcilles lost the 2017 All-Ireland IFC final to Westport.

He was also the strength and conditioning coach with the Meath footballers for three years during Andy McEntee's time as manager.

Peter Stringer

The scrum-half's final game for Munster came in 2011 against Ulster. Later that year, he went on loan to Saracens and then to Newcastle. He joined Bath in 2013, Sale in 2015 and Worcester for the 2017/18 season where he played alongside Donncha O'Callaghan. Aged 40, Stringer retired from rugby in 2018.

He has worked as a pundit with RTÉ on their rugby coverage. He is also the co-owner of the F45 Training, a gym in Cork.

Paul Warwick

The game was Warwick's last appearance for Munster. The Australian left for Stade Francais that summer. He spent two years in Paris before joining Worcester for the 2013/14 season. Aged 33, he was forced to retire from rugby in May 2014 due to a neck injury.

Warwick spent a year as part of the coaching staff at Worcester after which he returned to Australia where he now works as a PE teacher in his native Brisbane.

Johne Murphy

After five seasons with Munster, the Kildare man retired from rugby in 2015 aged 30.

He is now the director of rugby at Newbridge College and also the CEO of Stride Racing.

Tony McGahan (Head coach)

The Australian left Munster at the end of the following season to become defence coach for the Wallabies. In 2013, he was appointed head coach of Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels. He joined the Queensland Reds as an assistant coach in 2017.

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