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Selecting the Select

24th April 2009 By Munster Rugby

Selecting the Select

It mightn’t be immediately obvious what Munster’s Tony McGahan and his more illustrious coaching colleague Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson have in common other than the obvious role they share in their respective spheres of influence.

But if, and right enough it’s a big if, Sir Alex happened upon an Irish newspaper report of Munster’s last Magners League win (over Connacht), a wry smile might have creased his millionaire’s face.
The headline in the Irish Times the Monday after the Connacht game read, “Munster seconds get the job done”, and we were told that the Munster second string lacked accuracy in their efforts to secure a bonus point.

And while it was pointed out that the Munster second string did include regular starters Denis Leamy, Paul Warwick and Keith Earls – there was strangely no mention of Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling – there was no mention that 17 of the 22 involved in that game against Connacht had also been involved the previous weekend in the demoilition of the Ospreys at the same venue.
Less than forty eight hours after Munster played, Sir Alex sent out a United side to take on Everton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and ended being dumped out of the competition when The Toffees won the penalty shoot-out after the game ended scoreless.
Not surprisingly Sir Alex got pilloried for selecting a side that didn’t include front line stars such as Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo et al and, horror of horrors, he was reported to have left Wembley with no regrets about his team selection and refusing to accept that he had made a rare error of judgement.
And quite right too.
Ferguson, understanding the demands placed on his players by their involvement in League, European Cup and FA Cup, picked a side to win the semi-final and events on the day, up until the penalty shoot out completely vindicated his selection. However, where he was let down was by two players whose combined salaries dwarf what the entire Munster squad, management and administration earn. 

After Tim Cahill’s miss had handed United the advantage, Dimitar Berbatov’s arrogant effort signalled the beginning of the end of an United FA Cup dream and the Bulgar was followed by an equally arrogant Rio Ferdinand whose attempt on goal was more worthy of a park kick-about after a few pints in the pub.
The point though from both games, and whatever about bonus points Munster were never less than wholehearted, is that players are just that – players. They cannot be expected to play every week for reasons that are obvious to most people.

To that end Tony McGahan and Sir Alex Ferguson have a duty of care to their players if for no other reason – and there are a myriad – than self preservation. Both operate in a results driven environment precarious world and any reasonable assessment of their respective performances in selection terms last weekend would adjudge that the millionaire and the munsterman got their selections spot on.


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