Leamy targets Challenge Cup glory
April 26, 2011
Denis Leamy is determined for Munster to end their season with some European silverward © Getty Images
Denis Leamy is desperately hoping that Munster can make amends for their early exit from the Heineken Cup by lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Irish province this season failed to make the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the first time in 13 years, losing out to Toulon by a solitary point in the battle for top spot in Pool 3.
However, they bounced back in style, defeating Brive in an epic encounter in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup, and now face Harlequins at Thomond Park on Saturday for the right to play either Clermont Auvergne or Stade Francais in the tournament decider in Cardiff on May 20.
"This semi-final is really important," Leamy said. "We have the chance to win a piece of silverware and it is vital that we do everything we can to make that happen. Obviously we were disappointed that we went out of the Heineken Cup but it's a chance to win a European trophy and we'll be going after that.
"It could be easy to be snobby about the Amlin Challenge Cup but when you look at the quality of the sides that were in the last eight, three or four could easily be in the Heineken Cup. And there are some very good cup teams left in it - it is a very good competition and you have to do all the hard work to get there.
"It would be very special if we could go on and win it. Obviously it's the first time we've played in it but we have the chance to create a little bit of history. It's a trophy and, as we have set a target of winning two this season, if we don't do that we'll be gutted.
"People are coming up to us in the street and asking us about the game and that's always a good indicator of the excitement around the game.
"We haven't seen a whole load of Harlequins but just from playing them over the years we know they have some quality players and are a quality side. They have guys like Nick Easter and Mike Brown who are playing really well at the moment and there is no doubt that they are a top side and that it will be a tough game."
Munster boss Tony McGahan also rubbished the suggestion that the province would not take the Amlin Challenge Cup seriously.
"The Amlin Challenge Cup is extremely important for us - especially after we missed qualification for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup," he said. "We needed to re-set ourselves and our targets for the rest of the season and ultimately that lies with the Amlin Challenge Cup.
"We had a hard away win against Brive, now we have Harlequins at home and we are well aware of how well they are travelling in the Aviva Premiership. They have certainly added to their game and have some form players, particularly Nick Evans, Danny Care and Nick Easter.
"They possess a great threat from the backs and, like all good sides, they are really well balanced. They have the ability to play a number of styles and find a way to win. That's what they're doing particularly well in the Premiership.
"We are not looking to soften the blow of missing out on the Heineken Cup, it's about re-setting ourselves and there's an opportunity to win some silverware. That's a major focus for us; we can't keep looking back at negatives. As much as it's been talked about we left that behind at Toulon.
"It's really important for this squad as we're about competing and getting results. That's what professional sport and professional rugby is about and we have to meet expectations that really are a driving force behind us.
"There are some high quality sides still in it and, if you look through the semi-finalists, Harlequins, Clermont, Stade Francais and ourselves, you have four sides that could easily be running out in a semi-final of the Heineken Cup.
"The credibility of the Amlin is evident from that and it was evident last year, especially once through to the final knock-out stages. There was a great final between Cardiff Blues and Toulon in front of a fantastic crowd in Marseille and I'm sure the sides lucky enough to get through this time will replicate that."
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