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'That was a big week for Limerick rugby... it has to be about the whole province'

Munster academy manager Ian Costello was the latest guest on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Munster academy manager Ian Costello.
Munster academy manager Ian Costello.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE LATEST GUEST on the The42 Rugby Weekly Extra podcast was Munster academy manager Ian Costello, who provided an illuminating insight into the work being done in the province’s pathway to produce players for the professional game.

Costello joined Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella on yesterday’s podcast – which is available exclusively to members of The42 every Monday and Wednesday.

Having previously been part of the province’s academy and senior team coaching set-ups, Costello returned to Munster last summer after spending five seasons in the UK with Nottingham and Wasps.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Costello pointed to the positive signs of progress within Limerick rugby, which was once a hotbed for producing professional players but has been far less so in recent times.

The Munster academy boss is now seeing encouraging signs.

“Absolutely and last week was a really good reflection of that,” said Costello. “Young Munster won the Senior Cup and Crescent won the Schools Senior Cup.

“You look at that Crescent team and see the likes of Ruadhan Quinn, Conal Henchy, both centres were very impressive, Jed O’Dwyer who is a very young fullback, there was lots of talent on show there.

“That was a big week for Limerick rugby. We want to talk about the whole province, all counties, but we are also very aware that the through-put of players that traditionally had come from Limerick hasn’t been as strong. 

conal-henchy-celebrates-with-the-garrett-fitzgerald-munster-schools-senior-cup Crescent beat PBC in the Munster Schools Senior Cup final last week. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“It’s not widely known but Tom Tierney, who is a national talent coach, has a real focus on the Limerick area. His job spec is focused on Limerick and the surrounding regions and that complements the work that Mark Butler does as talent coach in the south of the province.

“That’s something we’ve had online for the last seven or eight months and I think you’ll see the rewards of that in the next year or two where we’re identifying guys earlier, we have better systems and structures to support their development, and then hopefully we’re selecting the right guys and girls – it’s really important to mention how important the girls on are pathway are too.”

The hope is that Limerick will begin to produce more players for the professional game, but Costello also stressed that Munster are determined to find talent in all parts of the province.

“Everybody is aligned and on the same page in that it has to be about the whole province,” said Costello. “Last weekend, you saw Eoin O’Connor from Waterford playing in the URC. West Cork is an incredible hotbed.

“We’re looking at players coming through from Tipperary, Kerry, Clare. You had the three boys from Ennis (Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan, and Conor Moloney) that were involved in the Ireland Under-20s squad as well. That’s always a massive focus for us.

“We’re trying to maximise the resources we have. We have some initiatives that are about to come up and running. For example, we think the levels of strength and conditioning at younger ages is probably the biggest gap in our pathway in terms of needing most attention.

“That’s where we feel we’re behind other provinces when players hit 17, 18, 19. So we have interviewed for and will soon appoint someone in an athletic development pathway role, then they’ll have four people working under them. Danielle Cunningham in the academy will oversee all of that.

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“So that’s about another 100 hours a week of investment into pathway strength and conditioning levels. That will be targeting the ‘less traditional’ environments.

edwin-edogbo Cobh's Edwin Edogbo is part of the Munster academy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“This is long-term and while we could go out and just target the best individuals, how do we know we’re getting the right people and that they’ll come through? So we’re going after the environments.

“Edwin Edogbo and his brother, Sean, are in Cobh. How do we get out and try to help improve the environment in Cobh? How do we get to Youghal and Bandon? That’s what these initiatives are about, we have a couple of others in the pipeline pending funding.

“We’re looking at pathway coaches as well, adding in another layer. We have appointed a full-time nutritionist. Cathal Sheridan has come on much more full-time from a psychology point of view, which is massive in terms of helping players to prepare for professional rugby. Then we’re enhancing our analysis department as well, which is a one-man team at the moment. 

“We’re trying to build slowly at a rate we can manage with a long-term feel to it that we can sustain. A huge part of that is the blueprint of ‘the whole province.’ We know there are gems and diamonds out there but maybe the environment doesn’t support them.”

Costello’s discussion with Eoin and Murray also delved into how Munster identify talented players, how aligned the academy is with the senior team set-up, how they are trying to produce adaptable young players, and Costello’s experience of being in charge of the senior team for the win over Wasps in December.

Elsewhere on yesterday’s edition of Rugby Weekly Extra, Eoin and Murray discussed more confusion in rugby’s disciplinary process and how other international teams are scouting Andy Farrell’s Ireland. 

To get access to The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, which also comes out every Monday with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella, become a member of The42 at members.the42.ie.

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