When selecting the greatest Munster front row of the professional era a few names jump straight off the page – Wood, Clohessy, Horan, Hayes, Flannery etc.

It's worth bearing in mind that from the outset of professionalism until about 2010 the Irish pack was essentially dominated by Munster men. The competition is fierce and even deeper than initially expected.


The number one jersey in Munster has been dominated by three mainstays – Dave Kilcoyne, Marcus Horan and Peter Clohessy. For a time it looked as though James Cronin would go on to earn a place in that company but Kilcoyne's resurgence over the last few years has been impressive.

In terms of trophies won – both with the province and Ireland – and caps earned, Marcus Horan clearly leads the way. Yet, the prospect of a Munster dream team without Claw seems almost bizarre.

When you listen to the way other senior players talk about what Clohessy brought to the table; the intangible qualities of toughness and bravery, it would probably make me lean towards him by the finest of margins.

Candidates: Peter Clohessy, Marcus Horan, Dave Kilcoyne.

RTÉ selection: Peter Clohessy


As the inaugural IRB World Player of the Year, and someone who genuinely changed the way his position was played, Keith Wood is unquestionably the most iconic hooker to have played for Munster in the pro era.

However, his time was limited to just one season and while we made allowances for others, like Rua Tipoki, the competition at hooker is strong enough to ask serious questions of selecting Wood. Both Frankie Sheahan and Jerry Flannery were stalwarts, while Terry Kingston bridged the amateur and pro eras.

As an aside, watching back a recent repeat of the 2011 Magners League final was a reminder of the potential Mike Sherry had but injuries and a slight decline in the provinces fortune possibly deprived him of the chance to fulfill that potential.

It's Flannery though who goes head to head with Wood and while the latter would no doubt make an all time Irish team, Flannery will take the notional red number 2 shirt.

When you look at the career Rory Best had and think back that Flannery was clearly ahead of him in the national pecking order when fully fit, you wonder how many caps the Galway native could have gone on to win with some better fortune on the injury front.

Candidates: Keith Wood, Jerry Flannery, Frankie Sheahan.

RTÉ selection: Jerry Flannery


Ireland's first centurion, John Hayes is a shoo in here. While there have been other quality tight heads such as BJ Botha, Hayes stands alone. The only case that could be made for keeping him out of the side would be to shift Claw across from loosehead to accommodate Marcus or Dave Kilcoyne.

For all sorts of reasons though the Cappamore man cannot be overlooked.

It’s sometimes taken for granted how remarkable Hayes’ story is, having only taken up the game at 18 and initially playing in the second row, to go on and win over 100 caps and become Irish rugby’s most indispensable player for a time in the 2000s is some achievement.

People forget the absolute panic caused by the prospect of an injury to Hayes, thankfully it never really happened.

Candidates: John Hayes, BJ Botha, Stephen Archer

RTÉ selection: John Hayes