INPHO/Cathal Noonan
# straight Talk
Munster are at a crossroads, admits Paul O'Connell
Hard work will pay off for off-form Reds, as London Irish visit Limerick.

PAUL O’CONNELL SAYS that Munster will ‘turn the corner’ through hard work – and there is no need for major changes to the squad.

The Thomond Park talisman was typically honest in his appraisal in the wake of the Reds’ latest set-back, when he faced the press yesterday in Limerick.

“Coming home on the plane, I felt as low as I’ve ever felt in rugby terms,” O’Connell said. “There’s nothing you can do in a week than can transform everything. All you can do is work hard.”

Munster’s defeat to Toulon in France last Sunday means they will not be included in the European Cup quarter finals for the first time in over a dozen years.

But O’Connell insists they’ll be up for the clash with London Irish in Limerick this weekend.

That’s what we’ll do on Saturday. We’ll keep working hard through it, make sure players are working as hard as they have all year. I would reiterate how hard guys have worked.

It’s been phenomenal. It’s just a small dip in form that’s been backed up in a few games. Normally we haven’t put bad performances together and now we probably have done that in a few big games.

That run of form has hurt us and probably knocked us back a bit and the only way out of this is hard work. Guys being mentally strong, being diligent in their work, in their training and in their preparation and you just come out of these things through staying strong and working hard.

As a team, we’re at a crossroads.

We need to figure what we’re doing in terms of how we’re playing. We’re not putting in the big performances as often as we’d have liked and we need to figure that out and improve what we’re doing.

Certainly the age profile in the team is older than what it was in the past but I think there’s plenty left in a lot of players.

Every team has mileage on the clock and players with lots of miles on the clock. But the desire in training is every bit there as it was when I came into the squad, probably more after the way things have gone after the last few years.

I think we will turn the corner but we just have to stick at it, not lose faith, and not be broken by what people are saying about us.

O’Connell added: “We had a very disappointing World Cup in 2007 and it didn’t turn around straightaway during the 2008 Six Nations, but by 2009 we had won a Grand Slam.

“So, (maybe we can do) something similar with Munster. Guys just need to keep working hard and a corner will be turned.”

Munster face London Irish on Saturday. 

Marcus Horan is on the mend as he took part in his first full week of training after recovering from a broken bone in his wrist, and he is hopeful of getting some upcoming game time with his clubside Shannon.

Barry Murphy, who retired early from the B&I Cup game against Nottingham with a foot injury, underwent a scan this week and is now waiting on the results.