LOOSE HEAD PROP James Cronin has been included in Munster’s 38-man Heineken Cup squad, having been a late call-up last season when he was one of three additional players for the knock-out stages.
After impressing head coach Rob Penney during pre-season, Cronin has been a stand out in the opening fixtures of the PRO12 and the 22-year-old will be targeting a first European appearance later in the campaign.
Similarly, scrumhalf Cathal Sheridan is hopeful of his first taste of the Heineken Cup this season. The Sligo native was another late inclusion last season but didn’t get the opportunity to play. Duncan Casey, the development-contracted hooker, was also part of the panel last time around but did not feature on the pitch.
CJ Stander, Ronan O’Mahony, Ian Nagle, Alan Cotter, Andrew Conway and Niall Scannell are all included in the Heineken Cup squad for the first time. The most notable absentees are Tommy O’Donnell, Luke O’Dea and Gerhard van den Heever.
O’Donnell faces up to 12 weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury, while O’Dea continues to recover from a wrist problem. South African winger Van den Heever won’t arrive at the province until November, when the Currie Cup finishes.
Munster may register up to two additional players during the pool stage, each to replace a player previously registered, and if two additional players are selected one of those players must be front row cover.
O’Donnell misses out through injury. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Meanwhile, former Munster flanker Alan Quinlan says the province face a “tough season”, but is still confident they can deliver on the pitch.
“A lot of the experienced guys have gone. O’Gara has gone from last year and that would be a big voice in the dressing-room that is gone. There is a lot of pressure on them but they have started pretty well.
“They look energetic and fit. We will just have to wait and see how they go. There are certainly some exciting younger players that have come through and they will have to step it up now and go to the next level.”
Quinlan feels that the new generation of Munster players has well and truly taken over, and that Rob Penney is working with more than just raw potential.
“The transition is over. We [the older players] are all gone. In the last two or three years, these lads have got a lot of experience. They are not 19-year-olds. They’re 24, 25 or 26-years-old now. If they want success it is there for them.
“It’s a tough environment trying to follow in the footsteps of the success we had and that is a bit unfair, that expectation, at times because they have to create their own legacy. I think they are on the right road.”
The ex-Ireland international back row thinks PRO12 form is the key to a good season, something Rob Penney would certainly echo before tonight’s clash with Treviso.
“They had a topsy turvy season last year but a fantastic finish that gave the whole organisation a shot in the arm. Their Rabo form was disappointing and I think that is the key for this group. You learn from losses and you need to be consistent.”
Munster Heineken Cup Squad 2013/14
Back: Denis Hurley, Felix Jones, Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Mahony, James Downey, Johne Murphy, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Andrew Conway, Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray, Cathal Sheridan, Duncan Williams.
Forwards: Stephen Archer, BJ Botha, Alan Cotter, James Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Duncan Casey, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, Dave Foley, Billy Holland, Ian Nagle, Dave O’Callaghan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan, CJ Stander, James Coughlan.