IN ALL FAIRNESS - Ben can bounce back
Big moments can be the making or breaking of a sportsman and this is what Kilruane’s Ben Healy has to deal with this week.
It wasn’t just one, two, three, but four times last Saturday in Munster’s titanic European Champions Cup quarter final with Toulouse, did the young out-half have the game in his hands.
Firstly, there was the long-range penalty with the last play in normal time. Most Munster fans in the stadium and watching at home when the penalty was awarded immediately looked for Ben to have a shot, even from inside his own half. Weaker players would have shied away but he stepped up, however, the distance proved a yard too far out.
The second came with the last kick of extra time as Munster set up a drop-goal which Healy connected well with but drifted to the right. Again, Healy put himself into the position, however, you would argue Munster were a little rushed in the set-up and could have gone through another phase or two to keep the Toulouse chasers honest.
Then came the dreaded penalty shootout, a rarity in rugby union. Penalties are great if you convert them but terrible if you miss and Healy suffered the ignominy of missing both his kicks and handing victory to Toulouse who were unerring in their place-kicking, and what would you expect from the aristocrats of club rugby, and much like Real Madrid at the moment, you always felt they would find a way to win the game last Saturday, even when Munster were in the ascendency.
Such was the performance of Peter O’Mahony, his loss through injury was massive down the home stretch and extra time, despite the impact of Jack Daly and Thomas Ahern off the bench. O’Mahony’s loss would match that of Toulouse losing Dupont at a crucial stage.
Coming back to Ben Healy, how he responds to the setbacks he endured in an individual sense could define the course of the rest of his promising career. 22 years ago, in a European Cup final defeat to Northampton, Ronan O’Gara missed two kickable penalties which would have won the game, yet he didn’t let them define him and went onto win 2 European Cups, a Grand Slam and play on three Lions tours.
That Healy was thrust into the fray on 71 minutes with the game there to be won shows the trust and confidence the coaching staff had in him to get Munster over the line. It would have been easy to leave Joey Carbery at 10 but they saw enough in Ben that he would guide Munster home, and he came within inches of doing so on a number of occasions.
Sport is brought into perspective when life deals a cruel hand and that has befallen the Hayes family and Nenagh Ormond RFC following the passing of Keith Hayes.
The misfortunes of Munster rugby and Tipperary hurling over the weekend pale into insignificance following the sudden passing of a popular father, brother, businessman and club volunteer. May he rest in peace.