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New Cookies Boss Slattery Chasing ‘More Consistency In Performance’

New Cookies Boss Slattery Chasing ‘More Consistency In Performance’

Young Munster will face Ballynahinch in Saturday's Energia Bateman Cup semi-final after retaining the Munster Senior Cup last season ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Ger Slattery has been part of Young Munster’s fabric for  over 20 years as a player, captain and assistant coach. He has now made the jump to head coach following Gearóid Prendergast’s appointment as the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy and Pathway Manager.

Slattery represented the Cookies for 15 consecutive seasons as a player. He has been their assistant coach for the past seven seasons. As a player, he gained a wealth of experience with the Ireland Under-20s and Ireland Club XV, and with Munster, whom he played for four times, and the Barbarians.

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The former hooker admits that taking on the head coach role at Young Munster was always a goal of his. He spoke of the close relationship he built up with Prendergast over the last number of years.

“It’s always something I wanted to do. If I’m honest, it probably came a year early in the sense that I don’t think anybody wanted to lose ‘Gar’,” he told IrishRugby.ie.

“When he rang me to tell me, my initial reaction was that I was gutted. I was really disappointed to lose him because I think he has done an exceptional job (having been in charge since 2016). He became a great friend of mine, we spoke nearly every day.

“But when I got my head around that, I did feel that seven years as the assistant the natural progression was to step up into that role. As I said, it was something I wanted to do, but I wouldn’t have seen it happening as quickly as it did.”

The Limerick man went to school at St. Munchin’s College, playing his underage rugby in Richmond RFC before making the move to Young Munster after he left school. Like many involved with the Energia All-Ireland League, Slattery is really passionate about it.

He describes the AIL as ‘the heartbeat’ of club rugby, especially in Limerick. His love and affiliation with his club has created an obsession for success.

“We became obsessed with becoming successful, and I suppose for a lot of years we weren’t successful. It was that challenge of coming up from Division 2, to 1B, up to 1A,” explained the 35-year-old.

“We came up to Division 1A in 2010 I think it was, and we’ve been here ever since. We’ve been competing and making a lot of top four places. The challenge for us is to go one further.”

Once you make it to that semi-final, it is like a new competition in itself – anything can happen. Slattery is aware that making the play-offs is no easy feat, and progressing beyond that point is even more difficult.

It’s about getting into that semi-final first and then crossing that bridge once you get there. The challenge for us if we get into that semi-final is trying to go one further and make it to the final, and seeing what happens after that.

It has become a little bit of an obsession for myself. We’re competing against some great clubs and that’s the challenge.”

There has been a lot of change happening at Tom Clifford Park over the summer with some familiar faces leaving the club and some new players coming on board.

They have brought in talented hooker Stephen McLoughlin from Blackrock College, and ex-Connacht out-half Shane O’Leary, as well as Oisin Pepper who impressed with St. Munchin’s. Munster Academy players Ruadhán Quinn and Tony Butler are also now attached to the club.

In addition, Munsters have added some serious quality to their management team, none more so than Limerick native Simon Malone, who was forwards coach for Energia All-Ireland League champions Terenure College last season.

Delighted to be working alongside Malone, Slattery noted: “His CV speaks for itself. He has that winning mentality, in Terenure you just expect to win every week. We’re quite similar in Young Munster. We have a good record in recent years, we more than hold our own in 1A.

“I suppose we need to go to that next level and Simon will help with that. You can even see already the standards he is setting. He has been a big help to me already, especially with the forwards, allowing me to step back more into that head coach role.

“Having him take the forwards for the split during training is huge. He has added a lot of detail and a whole load of new ideas which is always welcome.”

Young Munster finished fourth in Division 1A last April, earning a semi-final shot at defending champions Clontarf at Castle Avenue. They were beaten by a single point (13-12) in a game that could have gone either way.

They had good home wins over Terenure College and Clontarf during the regular season and completed a Munster Senior Cup three-in-a-row, so it was a positive campaign for them overall.

Each team have their own definitions of what makes a successful season. Putting together a consistent set of performances and results is the main objective for Slattery.

“Success for me is getting more consistency in performance, being right up there and challenging for the top four places, and if we’re in those places we have a chance.

“First and foremost we have to be aiming for that top four. You have to be in the mix. That’s our aim and after that we can approach the later games.”

This Saturday Slattery’s men will travel north to play Ballynahinch at the semi-final stage of the Energia Bateman Cup. ‘Hinch pushed Munsters all the way for that final play-off spot last April.

Slattery reckons this weekend’s tussle at Ballymacarn Park will be the perfect test before the start of the All-Ireland League next week. The Cookies will not be taking the historic competition lightly, having won it in 1928 and lost the 2022 final to Lansdowne.

“If you get the chance to win a national title you have to go for it. I’m really passionate about the Bateman Cup, the club is really passionate about it,” he added.

“We still sing about our Bateman Cup win that was almost 100 years ago. It’s something we have to take seriously. We have a chance to win an All-Ireland competition.

“Ballynahinch are going really well at the moment. They made big improvements last season and I think they’ll get better again. It’s perfect preparation before the start of the AIL on Saturday week.”