Munster have confirmed that Denis Hurley, BJ Botha, Cathal Sheridan, Gerhard van den Heever and Shane Buckley are departing the province this season.
A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Denis Hurley made his first competitive start for Munster against Llanelli Scarlets at Stradey Park in May 2006, but it was not until the 2007/08 season that the Corkman made his major breakthrough for the province.
With just seven senior caps to his name, the then 23-year-old started the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm and kept his place through to the final against Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where Munster won their second European title.
From there, the ever dependable and versatile Hurley featured across the Munster back-line, helping the province to PRO12 titles in 2009 and 2011 and a famous win over Australia at Thomond Park in 2010. In total, the Cork Constitution clubman has amassed 166 caps – making him the most-capped player of the current squad – and scored 16 tries.
Hurley’s wealth of experience also saw him captain Munster on seven occasions, while his achievements were also recognised by his peers when he was nominated for the 2015 IRUPA Unsung Hero Award.
Impressing at inside centre last season, ankle and calf injuries curtailed his competitive involvement for much of the 2015/16 season.
Injury would also limit the appearances of BJ Botha this season. A member of the South African squad that won the 2007 World Cup, the tighthead prop joined Munster from Ulster in 2011, making his debut as replacement for John Hayes against the Scarlets at the old Musgrave Park (now Irish Independent Park) that September.
Less than two months later, on his Heineken Cup debut with Munster, the front rower became well versed in Munster’s never-say-die attitude when he started in the province’s famous 23-21 win over Northampton Saints, where, in the 84th minute, and after 41 phases, Ronan O’Gara kicked a drop goal to steal victory from the Englishmen.
Another of Munster’s most consistent performers in recent years, the 36-year-old made the most appearances in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons and won a grand total of 111 Munster caps, scoring four tries.
Testament to his consistency was the fact that Botha featured in all but three of Munster’s European encounters across five seasons with his final appearance in red coming against Stade Francais in Paris last January. Rupturing his ACL in the game, the injury would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Another product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Cathal Sheridan made his senior debut against Edinburgh at Musgrave Park in February 2013 and went on to make 35 appearances, a tally somewhat impeded by a string of injuries in recent seasons.
On his first European start, the Sligo native played a key role in Munster’s dramatic triumph away to Perpignan in the 2013/14 Heineken Cup, while the scrum half also made 17 appearances with Munster ‘A’, featuring in the British & Irish Cup winning campaign of 2011/12.
Scoring six tries in 29 appearances for Munster, Gerhard van den Heever joined the province in November 2013 and made his debut away to the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade. The Bloemfontein native will have fond memories of his Heineken Cup debut where Munster comprehensively defeated Toulouse at Thomond Park in the 2014 quarter-final of the competition, with the speedster also representing the province at ‘A’ level – four appearances – and at the inaugural Limerick World Club 7s at Thomond Park in August 2014.
A former Academy Player of the Year, Shane Buckley spent two seasons in the senior squad where he made eight PRO12 appearances, the first of which came as a starter against Edinburgh at Thomond Park in September 2014.
Across five seasons with Munster ‘A’, the back rower made 24 British & Irish Cup appearances, scored three tries, captained the side on occasion and featured in the 2011/12 tournament-winning campaign. A strong ball carrier with a good turn of pace, the Charleville native also represented Munster at the 2014 Limerick World Club 7s.
As confirmed in recent weeks, Jordan Coghlan will also leave the province at the end of the season. The back rower, who made eight PRO12 appearances for Munster and started every game of this season’s British & Irish Cup campaign, will move to Nottingham Rugby for the 2016/17 season.