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20th Jun 2020

Dave Kilcoyne recalls ‘changing of the guard’ moment on Munster’s team bus

Patrick McCarry

Dave Kilcoyne

“That was the changing of the guard, I think.”

Looking back on it now, Dave Kilcoyne smiles broadly as he recalls the chaos that unfolded in the back of the Munster team bus, nine years ago. It was the moment when several of his current teammates earned their stripes, even if they took a few lumps along the way.

Look at the Munster senior squad now and the likes of Kilcoyne, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and Stephen Archer are the established men. Back in 2011, they were part of a talented Munster ‘A’ side that fancied themselves as the young bulls.

In a previous episode of Baz & Andrew’s House of Rugbyformer Munster centre Barry Murphy recalled that squad day out and a stand-off between the senior players and the brash up-and-comers. He commented:

“We went out on the bus and we stopped off halfway for a drink. We went to leave an hour later and all the young players had safety belted themselves into the back row, where all the hard, old-school boys usually sit.

“It was the likes of Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Keith Earls, Dave Foley, Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell, Mike Sherry. It was brilliant. They put on their safety belts and they had megaphones and signs, as if they were a union. It was like, ‘HELL NO, WE WON’T GO!’

Kilcoyne joined Murphy and Andrew Trimble for the latest House of Rugby episode and expanded more on that tale, and the training ground scraps between sets of players that would not back down an inch.

Dave Kilcoyne in action for Munster during a Guinness PRO14 match against Leinster in 2017. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Kilcoyne, at one stage, feared his chance with Munster may have passed him by. However, Ian Costello, his director of rugby at U.L Bohemians, convinced the head of the Munster academy to give him a chance, and he did not look back.

In his early days with Munster, Kilcoyne had to settle for Munster ‘A’ and British & Irish Cup games – as well as training ground tilts – to prove himself to his coaches, and peers. As a loosehead, he was battling with the likes of Marcus Horan, Wian du Preez, Darragh Hurley and Dave Ryan for that No.1 jersey.

With the likes of BJ Botha, John Hayes, Damien Varley, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy and David Wallace still on the scene, it was a formidable pack he was seeking a spot in. The younger players would use the B&I Cup to hone their game and form their own bonds. Kilcoyne recalls:

“We had a very good B&I Cup side. It would have had the likes of Archer, Mike Sherry, Peter O’Mahony, Dave O’Callaghan, a lot of lads that would have went on… Dave Foley, Ian Nagle, Conor Murray, a lot of lads that would have gone on to play for Munster.

“And those sessions then between the ‘A’ side and the senior side… I’ll always remember Dumper (Alan Gaffney), who would have been in charge and Axel (Anthony Foley), then, the scraps that used to be at training between the B&I Cup side and the senior team… it was just an incredibly, incredibly tough team to break into and every session was just very tough.

“You had to really earn your stripes back then to break into the team. I think that stood to a lot of that crop of players, going forward. The like of Peter O’Mahony, the likes of Conor Murray, Sherry, Archer, etcetera.”

Munster performance analyst George Murray, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Stephen Archer, Dave Kilcoyne and Mike Sherry during a squad training session in September 2013. (Credit: Sportsfile)

The scraps were not confined to the training grounds, in Limerick and in Cork. Back on that Munster team bus, the stand-off escalated quickly. Kilcoyne comments:

“I actually think we had that chant going, ‘Get The Corpse off the bus!’ or something crazy like that! That was the changing of the guard, I think myself, calling Paulie ‘The Corpse’!”

Murphy recalls that All Blacks legend Doug Howlett, who was in the Munster squad at the time, turned to Paul O’Connell – the captain – and said, “Wouldn’t happen on my watch, mate.”

That was all the incentive that O’Connell needed.

“He just gathered Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll and John Hayes,” says Murphy. “Paulie just went back and they moved them, let’s say.”



Catch up on all our episodes from the past two seasons and our interviews with the likes of Conrad Smith, Victor Matfield, Simon Zebo, Sean O’Brien, Drew Mitchell, Jean De Villiers, Finn Russell, Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Brown, Brian O’Driscoll, Tana Umaga and much, much more.


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