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Gaffney Upbeat Prior to Celtic League QTR Final
11 November 2002, 11:12 pm
Munster prepared for the quarter final clash with Connacht in Musgrave Park (7.35) with a very useful warm up match with Leinster last Friday in Portlaoise RFC.
Munster prepared for the quarter final clash with Connacht in Musgrave Park (7.35) with a very useful warm up match with Leinster last Friday in Portlaoise RFC.

The game was divided into three segments of 40, 20 and 20 minutes and all-in-all it proved to be avery useful work-out for both sides. Paul O'Connell made a welcome return to action, he took apart in the opening 40 minutes and came throough unscathed. Donncha O'Callaghan and Mossie Lawlor both sat out the entire exercise following their involvement with the Ireland Development XV the previous Wednesday. O'Callaghan played with his club Cork Constitution on Sunday scoring their only try in the 34-13 defeat by Garryowen.

Martin Cahill also played for Munster in Portlaoise and then had some more badly needed match practice when he came on as a replacement for Buccaneers in their AIB league win over Lansdowne in Moher Road.

Meanwhile Munster coach Alan Gaffney has set his sights on guiding the Irish province to Celtic League glory and banishing memories of their final-hurdle fall last season when they were beaten 24-20 by Leinster at Lansdowne Road in a thrilling inaugural final.

They clash with Connacht in the quarter-finals at Musgrave Park on Friday night, and their side will be re-inforced by the return of their international stars I honestly believe the Celtic League is a great competition it has been highly beneficial to Irish rugby and we are determined to go as far as we can in this season s tournament, said Gaffney. Our preparations have gone okay taking into account that we have been without our international boys for quite some time while Connacht have not had the same demands. But that is the way it is and you have to play with the cards you are dealt. We will have three sessions before our quarter-final and we will see how things go after those sessions. It is going to be very difficult game for us against Connacht. I have watched tapes of them and they have definitely improved as a side. They have some fine players and when any two of the Irish provinces play each other, it is never a runaway. But with the winner of our quarter-final having already come out of the semi-final draw with home advantage in the next round, that is a great incentive and a big plus."

Besides the long term injured like David Wallace and Rob Henderson, Gaffney must plot Connacht's downfall without the services of John Kelly (knee ligaments), Dominic Crotty (hand) and John O'Neill (ankle), Anthony Horgan (hamstring) and Jeremy Staunton (groin)a list that leaves Gaffney particularly light behind the scrum. but he remains upbeat about his side's prospects.

"Look we know it's going to be tough and Connacht will see this as a great chance to put one over on us. But we have got a lot of talent in our pool of back line players and I have confidence in all of them. They haven't let us down in the past so I've no problem backing them again.

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