When it was announced in 2014 that promising Ireland out-half JJ Hanrahan was to leave Munster for the Northampton Saints, many fans shook their heads in disbelief at the IRFU’s perceived short-sightedness.
As Munster’s form continued to slide, the loss of Hanrahan, widely regarded as one of Ireland’s most promising half-backs, was just another blow for the brand that had fallen so far from the heights of the late 2000s.
The then 22-year-old was seeking regular game time and with Ian Keatley entrenched as the first choice out-half, the only way to achieve this was a reluctant exit from the Limerick set-up and a move to English Premiership side Northampton Saints.
Following a strong first season in which he featured 23 times, Hanrahan suffered an ankle injury this term and as a result has only featured twice. Now, as reported by the Irish Independent, the 24-year-old is set for a surprise return to Munster at the end of the season.
The former IRB Junior Player of the Year is reportedly excited at the prospect of re-joining the ranks in Limerick, where he will strive to challenge the in-form Tyler Bleyendaal for the starting No. 10 jersey.
With Keatley also reported to be staying on at Munster, it would appear that Rassie Erasmus is now spoiled for choice in the out-half position, with each now set to benefit from the increased competition for places on the match day squad.
The return of Hanrahan is is a testament to the progress that Munster have made both under the late Anthony Foley and Rassie Erasmus. Enjoying a record of 13-2 for far this term, the province are the in-form side in the Pro 12 and also top their group in the Champions Cup.
A buzz has returned to Thomond and the passion and intensity of old has come with it. For Hanrahan, a Kerry native, it appears the choice to return home was an easy one.
Momentum is growing in Munster. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be a part of it?
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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