Rugby

The Munster Team That Beat Saracens In 2008: Where Are They Now?

The Munster Team That Beat Saracens In 2008: Where Are They Now?

Nine years ago next week, Munster reached their fourth Heineken Cup final with a nail-biting victory over Saracens at the Ricoh Arena.

With the two European giants set to square off at the same stage of the renovated competition at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, we cast our minds back to that fateful afternoon in Coventry in 2008, as Munster squeezed past their English opponents en route to their second European Cup title in three seasons.

Here's what the old Munster cast are up to these days...

15) Denis Hurley

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Munster v Saracens 2008
Hurley, whose father Gerry was on the bench versus the All Blacks in '78, almost repeated the feat 30 years later but for a late Joe Rokococo try.

With just seven senior caps to his name, the then-23-year-old started the 2007/08 Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm and kept his place through to the final against Toulouse. Eight more years saw him earn an Ireland cap in 2009 and a nomination for IRUPA's (now Rugby Players Ireland) Unsung Hero award in 2015.

Since his retirement in 2016, Hurley has done punditry for both Newstalk and RTÉ, and recently emigrated after a stint as assistant coach at Cork's Dolphin RFC.

14) Doug Howlett

Munster v Saracens 2008

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After capturing the hearts of his adopted province during the course of his five-year Munster stint - and picking up one Heineken Cup and two Celtic League medals to boot - Howlett returned to Munster in November 2013, six months after his retirement. He studied Enterprise in CIT while fulfilling his role as Corporate Ambassador at Munster before picking up a Masters in Business Administration at UCC.

Last November, he became Commercial Manager at Munster Rugby. Howlett is also the founding partner of a bio-diesel company in Argentina and vice president of a business development company in Ireland.

13) Lifeimi Mafi

Munster v Saracens 2008

Mafi has spent five seasons at Perpignan since his departure in 2012, scoring 16 tries. The 34-year-old 'Larry' has been a near ever-present since his arrival.

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Perpignan, however, have been campaigning in France's Pro D2 for the past three years. They're currently just three points off a playoff place, and Mafi has played 22 of their 27 games thus far, scoring two tries.

12) Rua Tipoki

Munster v Saracens

Having announced his Munster departure due to injury 11 months after winning the 2008 Heineken Cup, Tipoki returned to his native New Zealand and almost immediately signed up with the Nga Reo Tautoko (Voices of Support) programme, which is aimed at providing male role models for boys aged 14-16. Tipoki, whose family home was peppered with shotgun bullets when he was just five years old, stated his intention to keep Kiwi kids out of gangs.

Away from his social work, he made his rugby comeback in 2011 when he signed with for the Ruatoria-based East Coast team, captaining them to a Meads Cup the following year.

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Tipoki made life-long friends in Munster; none more so than Ronan O'Gara, who went on to name one of his sons 'Rua', supposedly in honour of his old Maori mate. Tipoki returned to Thomond Park for the first time in seven years when Munster hosted the Maori All Blacks back in November. He's currently the Service Manager at Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou - the organisation which runs the aforementioned Nga Reo Tautoko youth development programme.

11) Ian Dowling

Munster v Saracens 2008

One of Munster's great cult heroes of the mid-to-late noughties, Dowling was forced to retire with a hip injury in 2011. He had studied Sports Science in UL six years prior, and was set to go on to do physiotherapy in Trinity before being awarded a development contract at Munster.

He currently runs Ian Dowling Physio in Raheen, Limerick city, and in late 2015 became physio for the Tipperary footballers - all of this despite being a devout Kilkenny man. He remains in that backroom role to this day.

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10) Ronan O'Gara

Munster v Saracens 2008

Radge drew the curtain on his record-breaking career in May 2013, announcing his retirement in his inaugural Irish Examiner column. Two months later, he joined Racing 92 as assistant coach. He extended his contract until 2019 last May, but the general consensus is that the great man will return to Munster either before or after his current deal with the French club expires - O'Gara himself finally hinted as much during an emotional but typically humble interview following his return to Thomond with Racing.

Joe Schmidt recently confirmed O'Gara will be part of Ireland's backroom staff for their summer tour, bolstering the notion that his permanent return home is inevitable.

SEE ALSO:The day ROG broke the hearts of the men who hired him in France; was this the moment Racing's coaches realised they needed to hire Ronan O'Gara?

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9) Tomás O'Leary

Munster v Saracens 2008

With two Heineken Cups to his name, the former Cork Minor hurler departed for London Irish in 2012 after an injury-plagued few seasons at his home province. Sadly, O'Leary was forced to undergo back surgery shortly after his arrival at the Madejski, which set his Premiership career back considerably.

He returned in 2015, making 18 appearances before joining Montpellier as a medical joker replacement for the injured Benoît Paillaugue. In January it was announced that O'Leary would remain at the Top14 club as opposed to return to Munster from what was initially a loan spell. Now 32, O'Leary has made six appearances for Montpellier since his arrival in the winter.

Forwards

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1) Marcus Horan

Munster v Saracens 2008

After retiring in 2013, Horan made a quick transition to underage coaching both at Shannon and Munster.

He has enjoyed three spells in his current role as Munster Rugby's Player Development Manager, combining this - and his recent Senior Head Coach gig at Shannon - with his popular punditry work for TG4, RTÉ and radio stations throughout the province. In his Rugby Players Ireland role as Player Development Manager, Horan provides career assistance to Munster players past, present and future.

He also owns and manages a number of properties in Limerick.

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2) Jerry Flannery

Munster v Saracens 2008

Following his rather heartbreaking retirement in 2012, Flannery completed a Masters in Sports Performance at UL. A year later and he was off to Arsenal, where he performed the role of strength and conditioning coach with the club's academy.

An iconic figure and missed back home, he returned to Munster as scrum coach under his dear friend Anthony Foley in 2014, and remains in that role to this day. He also owns a thriving pub in his native Limerick.

3) John Hayes

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Munster v Saracens 2008

Still farming away and minding his own business, the legend.

4) Donncha O'Callaghan

Munster v Saracens 2008

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Now 38, but incredibly still getting it done at Worcester Warriors, where his leadership and performances are quickly establishing him as a club legend at his second consecutive side.

O'Callaghan's on-field Indian summer notwithstanding, the undoubted highlight of his Worcester career came on a recent return to Ireland, when he hung his young 'Tinder predator' teammate - and indeed housemate - out to dry on TV3's The Clubhouse.

5) Paul O'Connell

Munster v Saracens 2008

Naturally still a legendary Thomond Park figure, O'Connell O'Connell rejoined the province last July in a part-time advisory role with the Munster Rugby Academy.

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He has also spent time with Harlequins and Grenoble, but made his coaching debut for Munster last December when he assisted Greig Oliver as a Munster Developement XV took on an Ireland under-20 selection at Thomond Park.

O'Connell also owns commercial firm Nellcon Ltd, which turned a profit of €1.38m last year, as per The Irish Examiner.

6) Alan Quinlan

Munster v Saracens 2008

Since his retirement at the end of the 2010/2011 season, Quinlan has enjoyed a highly successful career in punditry.

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Now a mainstay on Sky Sports, Quinlan also writes a weekly column with the Irish Independent and presents the sports coverage on Newstalk Breakfast.

He's also a brand ambassador for Ulster Bank, and embarks on a media tour of the country with the RBS Six Nations trophy every winter.

7) David Wallace

Munster v Saracens 2008

Having done rugby analysis and punditry with organisations such as Aviva and STATSports Technologies since his 2012 retirement, Wallace was recently appointed Bank of Ireland's Business Development Manager for the Munster region. Wallace's BOI appointment coincided with the bank extending its sponsorship of Munster Rugby until the 2023/24 season. In his new role, Wallace will report to former All-Ireland-winning Tipperary hurling manager, Liam Sheedy.

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The back row great is also a shareholder in confectionary store firm Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, and a board member with Special Olympics Ireland.

8) Denis Leamy

Munster v Saracens 2008

After the Cashel man's premature retirement due to a hip problem in 2012, Leamy returned to his old stomping ground Rockwell College, as assistant and forwards coach. He departed having coached Rockwell to their 26th Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2015, and took the reins as Head Coach at Clonmel RFC.

Leamy's stock as a coach has risen exponentially since. Now 35, Leamy led Clonmel to their third Munster Junior League Division 1 title on the spin last month with a 21-5 victory against Limerick’s Abbeyfeale at Clanwilliam.

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He was also part of the backroom team as the Tipp hurlers won the All-Ireland last year.

Substitutes

Frankie Sheahan

Purchased property and founded the Pendulum Summit after his retirement in 2009.

Federico Pucciarello

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'Freddy' owns the bio-diesel company in Argentina which Doug Howlett invested in.

Mick O'Driscoll

Went on to coach his former school, Pres, and owns Home Instead Senior Care in north Cork.

Donnacha Ryan

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The only man from the 2008 semi-final squad who's still at it.

Peter Stringer

Has enjoyed an Indian summer in the English Premiership. Currently at Sale Sharks, aged 39.

Paul Warwick

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Retired aged 33 after suffering a concussion while playing for Worcester. Completed a Masters in Sports Coaching and is now Head Coach of Brisbane Grammar School in his native Australia.

Barry Murphy

Switched his focus to music after retiring aged just 29 through injury. Now singer and bass player for acoustic folk rock band Hermitage Green.

SEE ALSO: Ranking The Top 10 New Zealanders To Ever Play For Munster

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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