Quinlan celebrates Munster's 2011 triumph against Leinster. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
now or never

Munster must secure a trophy to 'to turn the page on our era' -- Quinlan

It’s coming up on 10 years since Munster claimed silverware, beating Leinster would be a fine way of ending comparisons with the golden age.

NINE YEARS AND 10 months have passed since Munster last claimed a Celtic League title, their last trophy.

Alan Quinlan retired at the end of that season, when a Leinster side with two European Cups to their name had already taken over the mantle of Ireland’s leading province before falling at Thomond Park.

The ex-blindside dearly hopes Munster  can repeat the rare trick of beating Leinster in a final and stop the gap between trophies reaching a full decade.

The home side’s starting XV that day in 2011 was stacked with Quinlan’s peers, The Greats that roll so easily off the tongue. Conor Murray had just landed on the scene to partner Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer and Denis Leamy were on the bench. It was a grandstand finish for the old guard.

Since, such solid foundations in Munster’s history have seemed to simultaneously inspire belief that any collection of men wearing the jersey can compete at the very top rungs of rugby while also forming a millstone of unwarranted expectation that weighed heavy on a team so often forced into transition.

The current crop have moved smoothly from strength to strength since Stephen Larkham’s arrival as senior coach. But the promise of South African involvement in the coming seasons suggests the climb towards silverware will be all the steeper beyond this season. So it’s put to Quinlan that this Saturday (kick-off 5pm eir Sport) is a case of now or never for the southern province.

Speaking as Premier Sport unveiled its line-up for coverage of Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 final, Quinlan winces at the ‘never’ and looks to a wealth of potential in the new breed coming out of the academy, but he can see players taking the same view.

“I think it’s really pivotal because they’ve just got to win a trophy, they have to turn the page on our era,” says Quinlan.

“This team, for the last eight or nine years, have had to deal with the legacy of teams that came before them. Sometimes those comparisons are unfair. I made my debut in 1996…  we won a European Cup in 2006. Sometimes it takes time to build that culture and the level of quality.”

Quinlan adds: “We’ve been accused of this before as ex-players – I have, anyway – (talking) about our era and our time, and ‘we were this and we were that’. I’d love for them to say, ‘Well, we’ve won a trophy’ and close that page.”

A third Champions Cup is the pinnacle to aim for, but defeating Leinster in a final would serve a hell of a basecamp.

“It’s unfair to say they’re never going to win a trophy if they lose this one, but I think for themselves, they’re going to get a record that’s not a nice one if they lose, they’ve never been beaten six times on the trot by Leinster.

“So they’ve got to figure that out for themselves and if I was in that dressing-room, I’d be saying it is now or never.”

- originally published 6.45am

Alan Quinlan will be part of Premier Sports’ team bringing live coverage of the Guinness PRO14 Final between Leinster and Munster on Saturday 27 March 2021.Tune in from 4pm on Premier Sports 1 for all the action, excitement and an hour of pre-match build-up from the RDS Arena. Premier Sports is the host broadcaster of the Guinness PRO14 showing every game live throughout the season.

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