©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
# axel f
Foley 'ticks all the boxes' to be next Munster coach - Flannery
Jerry Flannery believes age and inexperience should not be a barrier to promoting Anthony Foley to the head coaching role this summer.

IF YOU’RE GOOD enough, you’re old enough.

That’s the message that recently retired Jerry Flannery is giving to Munster chief, Garret Fitzgerald, as he sizes up his options to replace Tony McGahan as head coach.

McGahan, 37, was appointed as head coach in 2008 and is a year younger than his forwards coach.

Still, many feel Foley is too young, too inexperienced to take on one the the island’s top three coaching jobs. Not Flannery.

The proposition was put to the one-time St Munchin’s man that one possible route was to give the former number eight another two years experience as forwards coach before entrusting him with the head coach role.

Speaking to the media as a Guinness ambassador, Flannery cut an easy-going figure, relaxed, over a week on from announcing his retirement. But his answers turned sharply incredulous at the prospect of a wait and see apprach to his former team-mate.

“What is he going to do in the meantime that’s going to make him a whole lot better, except be older?

“If you give a guy a job for two years in the mean-time and he goes and wins two Heineken Cups – I suppose your quids in there – but what do you do with this fella here that you’ve been grooming.”

Flannery, did try to qualify his feelings on the matter with an ‘I don’t know’ here and there, but when Ireland’s most successful hooker has an opinion on his home province, it’s well worth listening to.

“I’ve never been a coach and I don’t know what’s required to be a top, top coach.” He continued, “The biggest thing from my own experience of dealing with (Foley) is a really good work ethic.

“It obviously helps if you’re a good intuitive thinker like Axel is (but) the main thing is: you have to put the work in and then to have the people skills to be able to communicate with people. I think Axel ticks those boxes.”

With McGahan younger than his forwards coach, age is unlikely to count against Foley. However, given that he only stepped into a coaching role for the first time last summer, experience is not ons his side.

“He’s got tonnes of experience,” countered Flannery, “maybe not in coaching, but he’s done well in everything he’s done so far. if a prerequisite for the job is that he has to be a little bit older well, that doesn’t really make sense.”

“He’s either ready for the job or he’s not. I don’t know what skills Axel needs to develop. He hasn’t had the head role, maybe it would be an eye-opener if he steps into it.

“He’d probably have to go away somewhere else to get a head role, otherwise he’s just going to be in an assistant coach job and he’s doing that very well at the moment.”

McGahan is by no means being pushed out the door in Limerick. Calls for his head after last year’s early exit from the Heineken Cup were from unhappy supporters and were not mirrored by many (if any) within the provincial setup.

McGahan has won two Celtic League’s in his time at the helm, but no Heineken Cup, Munster’s barometer of success.

‘I’ve never seen a man work so hard’

However, Flannery had earlier spoke of how success can be based on minutely small margins and held special praise for the Queensland-born coach as he pushes toward the end of his road with Munster to take charge of the Wallabies’ defence.

“Tony McGahan has made massive changes since he came to Munster and he’s put the club in a really, really strong place. I think he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen in anything. I can say in rugby, but that doesn’t do it justice, I’ve just never seen a man work so hard.”

“I don’t like to say that people deserve to win, because you don’t really deserve anything. but I’d love to see Tony finish the season with something he’s been looking to win for a long time.”

ROG v Sexton (again!): Out-halves, Ferris longlisted for European prize