“Munster Maul Wasps”
Read the headlines on Ultimate Rugby.
Fielding 6 young Red Diamonds from their academy program Munster ran over against an understrength Wasps side to win their European cup match in Coventry on December 12th.
The performance added yet another chapter to the Munster Rugby folklore. However, this story is different to the past stories of famed and heroic displays by the men in red at Thomond Park or on pitches elsewhere in UK, and Europe.
Inspirational captain Peter O’Mahoney was asked by the match doctor before the game if all the Munster players were over 18! Six academy players not only played but many featured in the game, including Scott Buckley who scored a try and was awarded Player of the match, (read Donal Lenihan’s colourful story). How did 3 of 6 academy players come from Ennis Rugby club, in Co. Clare, not exactly a traditional powerhouse of Munster rugby?
These are just some of the many stories from the match.
Watch the YouTube match highlights
The performance was not just one of the ‘luck of the Irish’ or the ‘aligning of the stars’, but a ‘point in time’ display of Munster Rugby’s development program, known as ‘Red Diamonds to Irish Emeralds’. The program was put together by then Manager of Munster Rugby Development, Ultan O’Callaghan.
Realising Munster Youth rugby development was falling behind the likes of Leinster and other European club programs, Ultan reviewed all aspects of the local game including competition models, participation levels, strength and conditioning, coaching and officials’ capability . They also analysed how proven athlete development models like Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) could be adopted into their program.
The outcome was ‘Red Diamonds to Irish Emeralds’ now 6 years into implementation. The performance against Wasps is a result of this program. It is no coincidence that the 6 academy players who were on the pitch in Coventry were part of this program.
Ennis Rugby club, located in the middle of GAA heartland – Co Clare, with only one pitch (rents a 2nd and a training area) has 450 youth players from U7s to U19s. Like hundreds of rugby clubs around the world, provides 3 of 6 young Red Diamonds for the Wasps match.
This was no accident either or a once in a generation (in Ennis’ case – nearly 100-year club history) crop of players coming through, but rather a planned club, coach, and player development over a number of years.
As Bryan Murphy the senior team coach explains – a number of factors contributed to the boys’ achievement:
- Ennis RFC have invested in good infrastructure (Gym & all weather pitch) which they availed of on a regular basis.
- A cohesive coaching structure with Coach’s communicating from Minis to Adult and upskilling coaches with a focus on learning styles for those they are coaching.
- Outside resources like The Rugby Site and Munster Rugby have been very helpful.
- As Coaches, our club focus is on the development of core skills of the game and understanding their positions within a rugby team and the importance of engaging the Athletes within a Team/Club environment…when all else is equal, skill is king.
- The work ethic and innate talent Conor, Tony and Ethan have shown and developed over the years and their desire to self-improve both on and off the paddock has been exceptional.
Ennis have been subscribing as a club to the Rugby Site for the past 6 years. Munster Academy coaches have been subscribing to the Rugby Site since 2014. Further, Bryan was one of the 1st coaches to complete the Rugby Site’s CALM Coach Leadership program.
The Real Story
Sourcing the resources is the easy part of this story, successfully implementing them over a long period with only a volunteer management to enable these players to flourish into Red Diamonds, is the real story.
Ennis’ centenary year is approaching (2023) and Bryan expects their membership will increase at underage as well as past members return. Having young players like Conor, Tony and Ethan as examples for the children to follow and members to be proud of, that will almost certainly be the case.
Interestingly Ennis RC’s website About Us does not talk about the championships won and heroes from past years (in fact I could not find information on their past glories on the website), rather it contained what they offer their players, especially the junior players, and promised a warm welcome for anyone who joins them. If the experience the kids have within the club is not fun, then what is the point?
I suspect the Ennis management committee can also expect calls from club counterparts further afield than Munster and Irish shores, asking for more insights into their success.
You would be missing out on how to make Gems if you didn’t!