IN the bigger scheme of things, a 30-26 Pro14 win over the Cheetahs won’t be seen as one of the most significant results in the history of Munster Rugby.
However, from a West Cork point of view it will go down as a day when three men from the area lined out for the province (in an unusual shade of bluey-green).
Liam Coombes and Fineen Wycherley were both chosen for their first Pro14 starts, at right wing and flanker respectively, with Coombes marking the occasion with a try. In addition, his cousin Gavin was introduced for Arno Botha in the back row for the final 18 minutes, meaning 20 percent of the finishing team was West Cork-produced. The Coombes cousins are products of Skibbereen RFC while Wycherley began his career with his native Bantry Bay.
Munster’s man of the match Kevin O’Byrne praised the impact of the younger players.
‘We had a good buzz in the camp all week, a lot of young fellas getting their chance and a new group coming together,’ he said.
‘It’s great that lads can go out to play international matches and young lads come in and fill out the team. That’s a great thing to have and to have such a young coaching ticket behind us that really believes in the younger players is great.’
While the trio were no doubt helped by the first of Ireland’s autumn internationals, meaning a number of established stars were absent – another West Cork man, Darren Sweetnam from Dunmanway, was in Chicago for the Ireland-Italy game but didn’t feature – their inclusion in an endorsement of the progress being made. In addition, it shows that there is a proper meritocracy in place, with players chosen based on talent and application rather than where they are form or which school they went to.
Others currently in the Munster set-up are John Hodnett of Clonakilty and Fineen Wycherley’s brother, Josh, proof that the West Cork production line is showing no signs of slowing.