The squad and management numbering 57 set out their stall in the Lynch Breaffy House Hotel & Spa just outside Castlebar.
The hotel had set up a large marquee which was used for all the weight sessions conducted by newcomers Aiden O Connell and Sean Whitney. Cork born O Connell joined Munster this season as Strength and Conditioning Coach having previously been with Leinster while Whitney will carry out a similar role for the squad from his base in Limerick.
The field work was carried out on a pitch located just a short walk from the hotel with the defensive drills supervised by another newcomer to the squad, 42 year old Graham Steadman, from Castleford in England. Steadman s role as defensive coach stems from a long and illustrious career in Rugby League that saw him play at the highest club level with Fetherstone and Castleford and win 15 caps for Great Britain.
After retiring from the playing side of things he was head coach at Castleford for three seasons and in addition to helping Munster tighten up their defence, will continue in his present role as assistant coach to the Great Britain se nior team.
Assisting Steadman with the field drills, under the watchful eye of coach Alan Gaffney and assistant Brian Hickey was regular fitness co-ordinator Fergal O Callaghan now in his fifth season with the Munster squad.
The squad had arrived in Castlebar on Monday evening having taken in a few of the races at Galway s Monday evening meeting. The easy lead-in to the week was in sharp contrast to what followed, with the players up and breakfasted by 8.45 am the following morning (Tues) and in the gym by 9.15.
On Wednesday morning they were already into their routine gym work by 8.30am and that particular day ended with a team meeting that concluded at 11pm.
Among the interested observers who turned up to watch how Munster prepared were Gaelic football greats, John Maughan and Martin Carney and both were impressed by the intensity and application of the Munster players. Maughan used the facilities at Breaffy House to prepare his Mayo side to win the Connacht title this season and throughout the week the Mayo players were in the hotel where they convened for their evening meal.
On the Friday, Munster travelled to Castlebar RFC for their final field session with front-row guru Paul McCarthy on hand to put the pack through a scrimmaging session. Afterwards at the end of lunch and before the squad departed, team manager Jerry Holland, complimented all involved for what he said was a hugely successful exercise.
He also elicited a loud and sustained round of applause when he praised the Breaffy House Hotel for their co-operation and assistance during the week. Coach Alan Gaffney also expressed his delight with the outcome of the training camp.
I think it was an unqualified success. The organisation by the management and the application of the players themselves was absolutely top class. We got through an enormous amount of work. It was quality work and everyone involved played a part. I think what we did this week will reap benefits later on in the season. I have no doubt about that.
He continued, The location turned out to be ideal. The facilities at the hotel were top-notch, the staff here couldn t do enough for us. The food was excellent and all in all I don t think we could have gone anywhere better.
Munster begin their season with two warm up games v London Irish (Aug 17th) and Newcastle Falcons (Aug 23rd), both games to be played in Thomond Park with Johnny Wilkinson certain to play his first game of rugby since the World Cup final,, on the evening of August 23rd.
The competitive season opens for Munster with the Friday September 3rd Celtic League game against The Ospreys in Swansea followed by the home game against Connacht in Musgrave Park on Saturday 11th September (ko 8.05pm).
Courtesy of Pat Geraghty