herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Paul O'Connell set for goodbye as Munster plot to be champions again

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

It has all come down to this.

Paul O'Connell  will take his leave of the jersey he will inhabit for the 174th occasion tomorrow evening at The Kingspan Stadium since the day made his Munster debit against the other Scottish crowd Edinburgh in August of 2001.

Where Brian O'Driscoll departed Leinster with the chorus of applause and cheers ringing in his ears in last year's PRO12 final win over the same Glasgow Warriors, Munster are unlikely to survive without their leader there to the final minute.

Already, club captain Peter O'Mahony will have to do it on one leg, or one hip to be more precise, while Conor Murray (knee) must be a non-runner and Simon Zebo (concussion) a borderline case for inclusion as coach Anthony Foley looks to secure a trophy in his first season in charge.

In other words, Munster will need O'Connell's leadership every bit as much as they did when he led the province to their last piece of silverware in the 2011 final against Leinster.

"It's great to be involved on a Cup Final week. It has been a while for Munster and these are the weeks a club like us wants to be involved in," piped O'Mahony.

Certainly, this is likely to go down to the wire, just as it did when Glasgow headed off Munster be a single point in last year's semi-final.

"It's going to be a great game. Every time we've played them in recent years has made for very exciting encounters," said the Ireland flanker.

"This weekend won't be any different with both sides bringing out the best in each other. We'll certainly have our work cut out for us."

The Warriors main dangerman, Stuart Hogg (right), is coming off the back of a memorable season in which he was rewarded ashis country's Test Player of the Season.

The Scotland full-back has put last season's testing times behind him to produce cutting edge form at just the right time.

"We've targeted to be the first Scottish team to win a title," said Hogg.

"We are in a great position and have worked very hard to get to where we are and we have one more game. It's going to take a full eighty-minute performance from us to win.

"It's going to be a great occasion and, hopefully, it's one we can remember for the right reasons."

pro12 final: munster v glasgow live 7.45 SS1/TG4

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