McGahan buoyed by Munster spirit
January 22, 2011
Fly-half Ronan O'Gara converted all four of Munster's tries during their win over the Exiles © PA Photos
Munster head coach Tony McGahan felt that his players salvaged some pride from an otherwise disappointing Heineken Cup campaign by producing a dramatic late comeback to see off London Irish 28-14 in Limerick on Saturday.
The two-time champions were widely lambasted for their performance in last weekend's defeat by Toulon, a result which ended the province's proud record of having made the last eight of the tournament for the past 12 seasons. As a result, they were under pressure to deliver a morale-restoring performance against the Exiles.
Munster looked set to suffer what would have been only their second defeat at Thomond Park in Heineken Cup competition when Sailosi Tagicakibau crossed for a converted try on 68 minutes which helped the visitors into a 14-7 lead. However, Munster responded with three tries of their own in the time remaining to put some smiles back of the faces of their 'Red Army'.
"We were playing for our lives really," said the Australian coach. "We were playing at home with a tremendous record, which has been gained over a long period of time with a lot of guts, spirit and passion.
"We certainly weren't ready to give that up. With our record at home it was important that we gave a performance. It's been a tough week and although this result doesn't mask previous performances on the road, it certainly leaves a lot to build on."
Munster's come-from-behind win, which saw them seal second place in Pool 3, could yet see them salvage a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup but McGahan admitted that qualification for Europe's second-tier tournament had not been his primary focus.
"The Amlin Challenge Cup certainly wasn't our driving force. We didn't speak about it or hang our hat on it. Our driving force was getting a result here at home and all that that entails," he said. "The next stage was always about today, 80 minutes, and trying to get some, though not all, redemption from last week."
Meanwhile, London Irish boss Toby Booth was left lamenting his side's misfortune at being landed in a group with Munster, Ospreys and Toulon.
"I wasn't actually at the draw. I was on holidays and when the message came through, I thought I had been drinking," he said. "Munster were top seeds in tier one, the Ospreys were seeded top of tier two, we were seeded top of tier three, and Toulon were top seeds of tier four. Mathematically you can't get any tougher than. Whether that is right or wrong, that is the situation. That is the luck of the draw I'm afraid."
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