“I think the word legend gets thrown around a lot but certainly from an individual point of view he’s certainly one of the very best I’ve coached.”
And so the curtain came down on the Munster career of Alby Mathewson. The Kiwi arrived, last season, as short-term cover for injured scrumhalves and ended up staying 15 months. He’d stay longer if he could, and if Munster were allowed keep him.
The IRFU allowed Mathewson to stay on until the conclusion of the World Cup, even allowing for the possibility of Conor Murray and Ireland making it to the final week, but the ride stopped at Thomond Park on Saturday night. Typically, he came on and did a fine job and left the pitch with back slaps but little else in the way of fanfare.
He will be sorely missed.
Following Munster’s 21-21 draw with Racing in the Champions Cup, head coach Johann Van Graan said:
“Like Pete [O’Mahony] said, Alby has been the standard-bearer for the last 15 months for this team. I’ve coached for 17 years in professional rugby, nine at the Bulls, six at the Springboks and two at Munster, and if I had to pick one player that shows others what professional rugby players should be like, it is Alby Mathewson.
“We will miss him very much and he’s a Munster man for always now and we can’t thank him enough. I think the word legend gets thrown around a lot but certainly from an individual point of view he’s certainly one of the very best I’ve coached.”
Munster’s already stretched squad will be tested severely over the coming two months after losing Mathewson and with the ankle injury Jeremy Loughman picked up at the weekend. Dave Kilcoyne is ‘a few weeks’ off returning to play and there is no set date for Joey Carbery (ankle) to come back yet.
It was put to Munster captain Peter O’Mahony that Munster are not as ‘well resourced’ as Leinster but that is skirting past the phenomenal success of their inter-pro rivals’ academy.
“Em, it is way above my pay grade unfortunately to be commenting on,” O’Mahony replied. “That is certainly a question for maybe our CEO [Garret Fitzgerald] or Johann. It’s nothing to do with me.”
As he rose to leave the press conference, O’Mahony was asked if he wanted Mathewson to stay.
“I’d love him,” he said, “but it’s nothing to do with me again, unfortunately.”
In fairness to the IRFU, Munster can call on Nick McCarthy, Neil Cronin and Ireland U20 scrumhalf Craig Casey now that Mathewson is moving on. The veteran 9 may be snapped up again sharpish as he has proved he can deliver at elite level.
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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined by Jerry Flannery in the House of Rugby studio to look back on a winning weekend of Champions Cup rugby, and the imperious form of Leinster.