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'This is a small crowd for Pat, he's played in Croke Park in front of 50,000!'

Munster academy boss Ian Costello was proud of the young players’ impact in Coventry.

Munster's 19-year-old fullback Patrick Campbell.
Munster's 19-year-old fullback Patrick Campbell.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THOSE WHO HAVE been tracking Patrick Campbell’s sporting career have seen moments similar to the try the 19-year-old scored for Munster on his senior debut for the province yesterday.

The Young Munster fullback glided home for that second-half score against Wasps as the southern province recorded an impressive 35-14 bonus-point win in Coventry.

Campbell used to go past opponents in that very manner for the Cork minor football team, having starred in their drive to All-Ireland minor football success in 2019. He looked destined to become a star in GAA but Munster Rugby intervened and academy prospect Campbell is now on the pathway to becoming a pro rugby player.

He only joined the Munster academy last summer but they’re very excited about his talent and we all got a good glimpse of exactly why in Coventry yesterday as the teenager handled the occasion with impressive confidence and ambition.

“This is a small crowd for Pat, he’s played in Croke Park in front of 50,000 people! It’s just a small event in his career,” said Munster academy boss Ian Costello, who was in charge yesterday with the entire senior coaching staff absent.

“He’s a really composed young player… how many AIL [All-Ireland League] games has he played? He’s played about 800 minutes this year, you go and watch him live and you get a real sense of confidence about where he’s at.

“His fundamentals are strong, he plays with huge confidence and that try he got was just a snapshot of what he’s done in the last couple of months for Young Munster, our A team… it was fantastic to watch.”

Campbell’s was one of the lovely stories that were woven into Munster’s mission in Coventry yesterday, with another 19-year-old in the starting XV in the form of powerful number eight Daniel Okeke.

ian-costello Ian Costello ran the show for Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

There were further debuts for impressive 21-year-old player of the match Scott Buckley at hooker, 21-year-old Waterford man Eoin O’Connor in the second row, and 23-year-old James French of Bandon at tighthead prop. The young guns did well, with a further seven new caps coming off the bench.

Munster now have many of their senior players out of self-isolation and back in contention for Saturday’s clash with Castres at Thomond Park, but these fresh faces have shown their quality and promise.

“Most of these players you would not expect to be playing Champions Cup for a few years yet, that is fair to say, but they stepped up to the mark, their stock has risen,” said Costello.

“But there is a pecking order, there is a hierarchy. What they have done now is they have acquitted themselves really well. They have put themselves into conversations. I think there is a whole different conversation next week in a six-day turnaround, who have we got back, what positions have we got available and we will reassess.

“All we can say from today is that we are so proud of how those guys performed on the back of two really good weeks as well.”

Costello also hailed the impact of the group of seasoned international players who were available for Munster and drove their preparation and performance.

He cited Peter O’Mahony’s try-saving tackle on Thomas Young in the second minute as an example of how Munster had big moments that grabbed the momentum of the game.

Another man to come in for praise was 22-year-old John Hodnett, who made his first start in 13 months after being through Achilles and ankle injuries, with the Rosscarbery man reminding everyone of his class at openside flanker.

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joey-carbery-leaves-the-field-due-to-an-injury Joey Carbery's injury was the only real downside for Munster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Special mention for John Hodnett, he’s coming back from injury but he wasn’t missing this,” said Costello.

“Chris Farrell, Roman Salanoa the same – nobody wanted to miss this. For him [Hodnett] to get some vital poaches early in the game, to get to 65 or so minutes showed how much people wanted to fight today.”

All in all, it was a memorable day for Munster against what was an injury- and Covid-ravaged Wasps side. 

As they put all the disruption behind them, Munster were roared on by a crowd of travelling supporters who were louder than the home fans.

“Even little things – we decided to do our warm-up on the other side of the pitch because of how many Munster supporters were there and it gave us a traditional, old-school half-lap around the pitch and the energy that gave the lads,” said Costello.

“You could hear in the stadium, I don’t know what the numbers were but it certainly felt like a home game and the effort people made to travel was, as always, incredible.

“What made it different was, and obviously I’m just back [in Munster since last summer] and I was here for a long period of time, but I don’t think I’ve seen that much support behind the team for a long period of time, it was such a good story that people were able to get behind.

“Everyone talked about the swell of support that was behind the team, to go out and perform like that hopefully encourages people to come back and be part of that story in six days’ time.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Coventry

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