Guinness PRO12: Paul O’Connell drops hint of Munster exit
Ireland captain believes he has played his last game for province at Thomond Park after enthralling semi-final win over the Ospreys
Paul O’Connell has admitted he has probably played his last game for Munster at Thomond Park following their thrilling 21-18 Guinness PRO12 semi-final win over the Ospreys.
The Munster talisman gave the frank admission during a post-match interview after the Irish province were saved by a last-minute TMO review to book their place in the PRO12 final against Glasgow Warriors at the Kingspan Stadium next Saturday.
As I have said before, the summer will be the time for making those decisions, but it is probably the last time I will play here for Munster.
Ospreys centre Josh Matavesi looked to have secured a dramatic win for the Welsh region after a stunning burst up field from replacement loosehead prop Marc Thomas gave Steve Tandy’s men great field position, but Rhys Webb was adjudged to have knocked on at the very start of the move.
Before speaking to the media, O’Connell’s emotion was clear to see as he celebrated with team-mates and took part in a lap of honour around the stadium.
The 35-year-old has been considering his future in the sport after captaining Ireland to a RBS 6 Nations title defence in March and has been linked with a move to European champions Toulon as well as retirement after a final Rugby World Cup campaign later this year.
“It probably is the last time you will see me at Thomond Park in a Munster jersey,” O’Connell told Sky Sports.
“As I have said before, the summer will be the time for making those decisions, but it is probably the last time I will play here for Munster.”
O’Connell also admitted he thought he cost his club their place in the final in the closing moments on an afternoon when Munster were far from their best.
While their trademark set-piece game worked well, their kicking game out of hand was woeful at best and outside-half Ian Keatley spurned 12 points off the tee that would have made the win more comfortable than it was.
“I thought I had missed the tackle that had cost us the game,” O’Connell added.
“I was fairly sure it was a knock-on so I was running back praying that [Nigel Owens] would go back to the TMO and check. I was delighted when I saw it was a knock-on.”
If he does call time on his club career, O’Connell could follow former Ireland team-mate Brian O’Driscoll in leaving on a high with another PRO12 winners medal as Munster go in search of a fourth title that would see them equal the achievements of the Ospreys and rivals Leinster.
Leinster comprehensively defeated the Warriors 34-12 in last year’s final at the RDS in Dublin in what was a final game for O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen, but this year’s showpiece after a thrilling season will take place at a neutral venue after Ulster conceded a late try in the first semi-final to lose 16-14 to the Warriors at Scotstoun.
Munster head coach Anthony Foley will nervously await medical reports on key players Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo, who all departed the Ospreys win early.
Their loss would be a filip to the Warriors, who already fancy their chances of lifting their first piece of silverware in Belfast to send off retiring club captian Al Kellock and a number of other key personnel leaving the club this summer.