Butler: Munster ready to unlock Cross Keys
Nothing grates on Munster rugby players more than being told that they are in any way inferior to their Leinster counterparts. So when the A side upset expectations with their recent fine victory over their greatest rivals in the British & Irish Cup semi-final at the RDS, the confidence that flowed through the camp in the build-up to tomorrow’s final against Cross Keys at Musgrave Park was total.
“A lot of the papers were writing up the Leinster academy and when we played them, we proved that we are just as good if not better than some of those players,” says flanker Paddy Butler, one of several highly promising Tipperary men in the Munster set-up. “That gives you confidence and I think that confidence is deserved.”
At 20, Shannon player Butler is the youngest member of the current Munster squad. Hooker Sean Henry, 23, lines out with UL Bohemian although a native of Sligo. He is another who fully believes that the win over Leinster was just the tonic needed going into this game, agreeing: “It was one of the best games I have played in and to come through the way we did with this group of guys was great.
“You have to put that game out of your mind for now. We know Cross Keys are going to pose a huge challenge but we are just looking forward to getting stuck into them.”
Butler, an outstanding prospect from his early days at Rockwell, was handed a senior contract at the beginning of the current season, having impressed in the development set-up and has benefited hugely from a number of AIL appearances with Shannon.
“It is nice to have that little bit of a mix,” he enthuses. “The lads who play with Shannon and the ‘A’ side are lads you have played with all the way up to the 19s and 20s. With the senior side it is great to be in with the likes of Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara and so on. It is such a huge honour. I have been going to watch them since I was 12 or 13.”
Sean Henry has represented Connacht at 18s, 19s and 20s and adapted so quickly when changing to Munster that he was the starting hooker in the B&I Cup final against Cornish Pirates in 2010. The loss that day was a big blow but this evening’s game provides the ideal opportunity to atone.
“We have seen a good bit of Cross Keys on tapes and been impressed,” he says. “They are a real traditional Welsh side. They have a very good scrum and are going to pose a different challenge than Leinster. These are the games we want to play. The result against Leinster will have done loads for us but all we can do now is take the confidence shown in us and take that into Friday.”
Both Henry and Butler are loud in their praise of coach Ian Costello.
“Ian has been fantastic for us,” said Henry. “He has been my coach since I came down to Limerick from Sligo for College. His work ethic and preparation is second to none and he gives the lads that extra bit of freedom to play.”
Butler agreed: “Ian has put everyone at ease. No one has had any jitters when we play. We just have confidence from playing under him. He has made playing for the ‘A’ team very enjoyable. That is why we have been doing so well because all the lads have been enjoying the structures in place.”
Costello himself refers to Cross Keys as “a traditional Welsh side who like to play rugby very wide and have a pack that will make it difficult for us up front”. However, he clearly has huge belief in his own side.
“I think that some players in this side have the X Factor,” he declared. “Dave Kilcoyne is as quick and powerful a prop you will see around the field. Ivan Dineen is another to keep an eye out for. Luke O’Dea and Paddy Butler have really come on. Billy Holland will play a huge role this season and next.”
© This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, April 27, 2012