The rumour mill went into full flow last night with speculation that Tony McGahan will leave Munster at the end of the season in order to take up a role as Australia’s defence coach. An official announcement is expected from the Australian Rugby Union on Friday, and Munster curiously withdrew their confirmation of the deal earlier today. It looks like we may have to wait a little longer for concrete details. Munster have offered McGahan a two-year extension to his deal but the Australian’s move home looks to be signed and sealed.
McGahan first arrived at Munster in 2005, taking up the role of Defence Coach. The following season his importance was increased with an expanded brief of Defence/Skills/Backs coach. His subsequent role in helping Munster to win both the 05/06 and 07/08 Heineken Cup titles cannot be understated. Declan Kidney has always been more of a manager/organiser/motivator than an actual coach and McGahan’s ideas and attitude on the training ground were vital.
With Kidney moving on to the Ireland job at the end of that 07/08 season, McGahan was always going to be a smart choice as his successor. He has always been and still is respected and well-liked by the senior players. His appointment has been a relatively successful one, with two Celtic/Magners/PRO12 titles as well as two HC semi-final appearances. Last season’s failure to progress from the pool stages was a well-documented blip.
This season, McGahan has done well despite the constant reminder that he is in charge of a side ‘in transition’. Looking at the facts – 6 from 6 in Pool 1 of the HC, 3rd in the PRO12 and Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo all established first-choice players – it’s clear that McGahan has done a good job. His promotion of these Munster Academy graduates is particularly praiseworthy.
Those facts don’t however illustrate some of the poor rugby Munster fans have seen this season. The first half of the season was a slog, with some uninspiring displays in which Munster looked like a side torn between two styles of play. Credit to McGahan though, performances have steadily improved, culminating in the unforgettable dismantling of the Northampton Saints. This improvement has won McGahan plenty of fans in recent months, to the extent that many will be disappointed to see him go.
However, the majority of fans are unlikely to be distraught at the news. Most Munster fans will welcome a change of leadership at the province next season. Everyone will have their own favourite candidate for the job, and there have been some interesting names bandied about. The traditional ‘Munster way’ would point to an internal appointment, but this might be the time for Munster to look elsewhere. Fresh ideas and different approaches could add impetus to a team that will need to identify its own style of play next season, with new faces joining and some old heads moving on.
McGahan will be determined to leave the province on a high. The pressure is in many ways off his shoulders for the remaining months of the season, and hopefully that relief will transfer to his players on the pitch. Munster fans will hope to bid farewell to McGahan on April the 19th at Twickenham.
Will you miss McGahan? Do you think he’s done a good job at Munster? Will the change for next season be welcome? Comment below with your opinion, and your who you would like to see in charge next season!
Keep on eye out for our profiles of some of the candidates to take over at Munster for next season! Coming soon…
Photos courtesy: Ivan O’Riordan.