MUNSTER rugby legend Mick Galwey has hailed the growing West Cork influence with the province.
In recent PRO14 games, Dunmanway’s Darren Sweetnam, Fineen Wycherley and his younger brother Josh from Coomhola, Skibbereen man Gavin Coombes and John Hodnett from Rosscarbery have all impressed with Munster – and all five played in last week’s home win against the Cardiff Blues and four played against the Dragons last Sunday.
With Liam Coombes (Skibbereen) and the Academy trio of Jack Crowley (Bandon), James French (Bandon) and Scott Buckley (Kinsale) all waiting in the wings, there is a sizeable West Cork presence with Munster right now – and that’s very good news for the province, according to Irish and Munster legend Mick Galwey.
‘They are making an impact, in fairness to them, and it’s great to see,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘Look at Fineen Wycherley and Gavin Coombes, these fellas have the natural ability, they have the size and they have the strength.
‘I was watching John Hodnett against the Cardiff Blues, he is not afraid to take on a ball and he is not afraid to go in a straight line either.
‘What I like about these fellas is that they have the confidence, they don’t seem to be fazed, they don’t seem to be intimidated by who they are coming up against and that is very important. They believe in their own ability.’
Kerryman Galwey also feels that the emergence of West Cork as a hotbed of rugby talent is vital to the future of Munster Rugby. They have helped join the dots from rural West Cork to Thomond Park and show that there is a pathway available to aspiring players who dream of a career in professional rugby. Darren Sweetnam is the trailblazer here, joining Munster in 2012, and that opened the door that others have walked through in recent times.
‘What these lads have done is give young fellas hope and that’s important,’ Galwey said, ‘because they’ve shown that you don’t have to play for a rugby school to have the chance to play for Munster,’ explained Galwey, who promoted the recent Heartburn Awareness Week .
‘That for me is the strength of Munster Rugby. We will never have the number of strong rugby-playing schools that Leinster has. They probably have the best Academy in Europe when it comes to the quality of players that they can get, and we don’t have that in Munster. You look at CBC and PBC in Cork, St Munchin’s College in Limerick, and most of the other schools have dual status as in they play GAA and that as well. So it’s great to see players like the West Cork lads coming through, and it’s important for the future of Munster.
‘From a personal note, I love to see it myself because I come from Currow, near Castleisland, and it would be similar to the likes of West Cork where these fellas probably played GAA growing up, then they got the opportunity to play rugby, then they got the opportunity to get involved with Munster and look at them now.
‘That five lads from West Cork played for Munster is phenomenal.’ Galwey added: ‘It’s only recently that we were talking about the O’Donovan brothers putting West Cork on the map, and now look at these rugby lads!’
Meanwhile, another Munster legend, Paul O’Connell, has been impressed by the West Cork crew, too. He singled out Rosscarbery man, and former Carbery Rangers footballer, John Hodnett for praise.
‘John Hodnett is a fantastic player that is a very powerful guy, perhaps not that tall but he is very powerful and reads the game really, really well, which is probably what we are used to seeing from some of the younger Leinster players that come through,’ O’Connell said.