The media has been flooded in recent days in the aftermath of the Thomond Park faithful’s treatment towards Munster miss-fit Ian Keatley. The twenty eight year-old was of course withdrawn by coach Anthony Foley with just ten minutes to go against the Leicester Tigers upon a grim evening of missed kicks and tackles, to a telling, ironic cheer around the ground last Saturday.
Since that moment, the airwaves have exploded and it has all left Munster Rugby in a state of embarrassment. However, in my opinion, this explosion of negativity in the media is nothing but rubbish and there are glaring reasons to think so.
First of all, it is undebatable to say that Keatley had, for the third game of major significance in a row, a horror show. An off-day can happen to anyone but on the night, even the man himself was eager for the ground to open up and swallow him, judging by his body language at least. The Dublin-born ten had reason too as he missed three crucial kicks, one in front of the posts, and a basic tackle which lead to the Tiger’s game changing try, all before Murray and Zebo took over touch-finding duties for a finish. There is no doubt that he is disappointed with his performance and like everybody else he will want to bounce back this weekend, but I would still thoroughly hope that he identifies the bottom-line, that his last game was not good enough, and it cannot happen again in a Munster shirt.
From the performance came the reaction but it was not simply Keatley’s off-day which sparked the reported behaviour, instead the standards of comparison, engraved in the spectators heads. Ronan O’Gara is a predecessor of nightmares but his replacements single action of leadership and courage, to find touch directly after half-time had me on my feet in huge admiration of Keatley. The well executed gamble let to a what had potential to be a tide-turning score, until the conversion was missed.
I thought about that rare glimmer of light from Keatley with a smile afterwards but all in all, it was found to be little more than a sad reminder of how far the standard has dropped. To go beserk and ponder for hours after about one single good touch from my province’s outhalf almost out of pity is indeed a dark reality. No European Cups will be won like this, every dog on the street knows it and so do the frustrated paying fans.
No matter how tough the going gets though, the fans will not, and did not boo their own players
Minority Confuse Cheer of Hope
At the moment when Ian Keatley was subbed, the men in red were ten points behind and needed inspiration as the starting kicker had not done enough to have Munster on the right side of the scoreline. Naturally, I clapped and cheered loudly. So did the twenty-thousand around me. Some more exaggerated than others, which was disappointing but speaking up for myself though, why would I act any differently?
Corkman Rory Scannell, a youngster in form was coming on for his European debut and we were behind partly because of issues arising in his very position. However, the minority of sarcastic applause left what should have been a memorable moment sour and out of tune. Hence, the media capitalized and Munster themselves, were wrong to report for two reasons. One that, it gave the issue a further push in the build up to a season defining fixture and two, that they should know of such expectations and standards better than anyone through history anyway.
Unfortunately with a laughable coaching panel and a sub-standard kicker, CEO Garrett Fitzgerald is presumably oblivious to how far he has left the province fall.