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06th Jun 2023

Munster’s late surge sees them pick up a couple of end-of-season awards

Patrick McCarry

Brian Gleeson

“He has just been putting in serious performances.”

The Top 14 title is yet to be decided but the rest of the big trophies in European rugby have been handed out. Munster climbed back from a disastrous United Rugby Championship opening stretch to end up as champions.

As a result, that late Munster surge has swayed some of the late votes when it comes to accolades for players and moments of the season. Few would have predicted as much, back in early April, when Sharks dumped Graham Rowntree’s side out of the Champions Cup, putting 50 points on them in the process.

As it turned out, Munster embraced their ‘home-wreckers’ persona and won back-to-back-to-back knockout games to clinch their first major trophy in 12 years.

On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 51:05 below], Greg O’Shea and the panel wrapped up the URC season by handing out some awards, with Munster coming out on top in two categories.

Munster(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile)

Munster winger wins ‘Best URC Player’

During the debate as to who should get the show’s URC Player of the Season award, Hennessy argued that it should go to a player that made the final. That would then rule out Dan Sheehan, who won the official URC accolade but was rested from the semi-final defeat to Munster.

Hennessy put forward Jean Kleyn (Munster) and Manie Libbok (Stormers) as his two nominees, before Peat put forward a player that had not played a URC game in 2023 until he returned for the knock-out stages and had a huge impact.

“Tadhg Beirne, I’d go with him. Such a top player.”

Beirne played blindside in the away win over Glasgow, scored a try from the second row in the semi win over Leinster and was immense in the final against Stormers, securing the game’s final turnover. Noting that Beirne had been out of action with an injury, for over two months, Peat made Gavin Coombes her second nomination.

For me, it was Munster’s Mr. Consistent – “URC Player of the Year, for me, is Mike Haley. He’s been so good for Munster all season.”

It was left, then, to Greg O’Shea to settle it. “I was siding with Libbok, heading into the final, but the mistake he made near the end [having a kick charged down by Coombes] was crucial. If I was selecting him for the Springboks I’d be worried if I could trust him. He is a class player, though, and such an entertainer.

“If I was to pick a Munster player, though, it would be Shane Daly. He has been so consistent, playing well week-in, week-out. Sometimes the wingers get overlooked unless they are scoring lots of tries but he has just been putting in serious performances.”

Looking back on the season as a whole, and not being swayed too much by recency bias [although the knock-out games hold more weight], the Daly argued makes a lot of sense. The Cork native only missed three rounds of URC action all season, back in the early months, and has performed well in jerseys 11, 14 and 15.


MunsterMunster players, from left, Calvin Nash, Keith Earls and Shane Daly celebrate with the trophy after the United Rugby Championship Final. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile)

“That is mind-blowing. I’m still reeling”

There were also accolades, and honourable mentions, in a few other categories.

Women’s Player of the Year had shout-outs to Deirbhile Nic a Bháird (Munster), Keelin Brady (Ulster) and Cliodhna Moloney (Exeter), while the prize was won by Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury) after another solid club and international season. Amee Leigh Murphy-Crowe got Greg O’Shea’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year award.

There was a category for ‘Biggest Surprise of the Season (Good or Bad)’ and I went with Wasps and Worcester Warriors going bust, with London Irish also in trouble. My positive surprise was the Test re-emergence of Ross Byrne.

Hennessy’s positive surprise was Munster going from the brink of missing out of the URC knock-out stages, and Champions Cup qualifications, to winning the trophy. That won our ‘Never Stop Competing Award’. Another gong for Munster.

“For me,” said Peat, “it has to be Leinster ending the season with no trophies. That is mind-blowing. I’m still reeling.”


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