He tried to put it in context. He spoke of the immense pressure in the build-up to the game. Of being unable to sleep the night before. Of feeling sick in his stomach the morning of the match. Of his pride in being a Corkman, of following so many great players in wearing the red of Munster. Basically, of how much this 30-6 Heineken European Cup semi-final win had meant.
In this soundbite age, with concentration spans apparently shrinking all the time, TV doesn't normally deliver such searingly honest accounts of a sporting occasion, and its true meaning. But this, as we all know, was no normal match, no normal day. Scaling advertising hoardings and celebrating tries with supporters, no less than divulging inner feelings afterwards, were in keeping with it.
Jerry Holland, the Munster team manager, has been around a while in this game, and he can't remember anything like the build-up.
"It could have been intimidating and you can't underestimate what it was like. For the players it was very personalised, very claustrophobic, very family-orientated, which creates even more pressure on you."
Saturday, April 22nd
That build-up took on a different, more real dimension this day last week. Travelling up on the Saturday for a Sunday game, at 8.45am, the Cork-based members of the Munster squad began meeting up at Cork station for a 9.15am train. Meanwhile, the Limerick-based players met up at 9am in the Kilmurray Lodge Hotel for a 9.20am coach to Limerick Junction, where they joined the rest of the squad.
As Anthony Foley recalls it: "The whole day was good. The preparation was good. Everyone seemed focused. There had been a lot of pressure, but once we got together on the train fellas got into their old routines. Some played cards, some played scrabble, others listened to music. It seemed like there was comfort in numbers. Once we're all together, we're all in the same boat." So to speak.
Jim Williams, who has become more of an observer in his guise as forwards coach compared to his days as a player and even as a captain, noticed it too.
"Perhaps it's because so many have been to so many semi-finals or finals or big games before. But everybody slipped into their own routines effortlessly."
At Heuston Station, an estimated 200 fans greeted the squad.
"You could spot the newspaper photographer," chuckles Rob Henderson. "He went through the whole crowd before he picked out the young, pretty girls. 'Wave your flag, lovely.' Which she duly did."
The squad were delighted with their base in the Radisson. Many of them were familiar with the hotel, the staff and the food, through their Irish stays there. They went straight to Lansdowne Road, where the captain's run was overshadowed only by ongoing concern over the pinched nerve in Peter Stringer's lower back, which kept him sidelined. In Friday's run somebody had landed on him. "I'd say he was sick to death of people asking him, 'What's the story?'" says Foley.
The skipper also admits he began wondering if anything else could go wrong. "We've had such an amount of injuries this season to a lot of good players. Frankie, Quinny, Barry, Marcus . . . then Strings goes down.
They returned to the hotel where some played cards, before dinner at 7.15pm. Later, Henderson admits, he broke into the mini-bar. "For some cashew nuts. A crime at 6."
Sunday, April 23rd
"It seemed like the longest build-up to a match I'd ever been involved in," admits Foley. "The hype had started from the moment the quarter-finals had ended three weeks before. But once we got to the morning of the game, the time just flew."
Again, Munster had their routine.
"The key components of our pre-game routine are that everybody does what they normally do," says Williams. "Such as going to bed when they normally go to bed.
"Some players were nervous. Shaun Payne talked openly about how nervous he was. He occupied himself by playing scrabble, or Tiger Woods Golf. And people got up whenever they felt like it. Some like reading the papers, or going for a coffee, others like taking a mid-morning nap. But we wanted nobody to change their routine."
After breakfast, the forwards went through a few lineouts, while the backs went through moves on the ample lawns of the Radisson.
"Peter (Stringer) was walking around, which gave everyone good confidence that he'd play," recalls Foley. Some of the players noted how the warm sunshine was not dissimilar to San Sebastian on the morning of last season's quarter-final against Biarritz.
Lunch was at 11.30am, the players heading back to their rooms to prepare bags and then the key 10-minute meeting was, as is custom, held in the hotel at 1.15pm.
"A few people have a little spiel," says Foley. "Fellas are clear in what they're saying. There's no rabbitting on. The points have to be short and sharp."
It lasted no longer than 10 minutes. Kidney, Foley - reminding them Munster do their talking on the pitch - and O'Connell spoke. When O'Connell speaks, even Holland is an avid listener.
"As ever, he was extremely logical and so basic and so straightforward in what he said. He completely encapsulated what was required on the pitch. In terms of what he says, and what he delivers, Paul's contributions are just outstanding."
The tactics, according to Williams, were not too complex. They had resolved the best way of keeping the Leinster gamebreakers quiet was to keep the ball away from them.
"Toulouse didn't do that. They made silly mistakes, Michalak throwing out some silly passes and there were some sloppy scrums. We wanted to get field position, put points on the board and put pressure on Leinster."
THE TEAM COACH left the Radisson at 1.25pm. A police escort, reputedly taking one right turn it shouldn't have, was enlivened when, near the British Embassy, two 60-something Leinster fans in replica blue noticed the Munster coach and one, rather pathetically, but to the glee of those on board, raised two fingers and gesticulated angrily. Maybe it was meant to unnerve. "Like a gnat biting an elephant," says Henderson.
They soaked in the "home" atmosphere. Cars, many adorned with Munster flags, tooted horns. On Shelbourne Road, Henderson observes, their coach might have been Moses, such was "the parting of the red sea". Three to one in Munster's favour was the consensus.
"The place was mad by the time we got to the ground," recalls Foley. "The whole atmosphere was different from anything I'd experienced at a test match.
"People were running around and jumping, and mixing with each other really well. We still got there about 10 minutes ahead of ourselves."
As ever, a sizeable portion of the Red Army were in situ for the warm-up. Foley brought the squad to the corner of the East Stand and terraces where their numbers were thickest. Thomond Park had been recreated on the day.
"The noise level was right up there. It was very enjoyable, soaking in the buzz of the crowd. Everybody was getting into the whole swing of it."
Slowly walking back across the full width of the pitch maximised the sound effects, while Leinster continued their warm-up.
Before going down the steps to the dressing-rooms underneath the West Stand, Henderson (as he was reminded by David Wallace afterwards) stopped to have one more look around the ground.
"Just to sniff the atmosphere and see all the red jerseys, and blue jerseys, to be fair. That's why you play the game."
By now Stringer had said the pain in his back and hamstring had eased sufficiently for him to play. It's a measure of Stringer's importance that they gave him until the final warm-up to see if he was okay.
"To come through the game the way he didwas an incredible effort. Credit to the little man. He's got some heart," says Foley.
The squad were six minutes back in the dressing-room. "It felt like an eternity," admits Foley.
John Kelly, an ultimate team player according to Holland, who has grown into one of the team leaders, spoke movingly about the long road they'd travelled to this point, over many years, not just this season, as he would when the starting XV went into the pre-match huddle on the pitch.
"He doesn't say too much, but when he talks people listen," says Williams.
Now a coach, Williams was again watching from a different perspective: "It had been a very emotional build-up to this semi-final, but just looking in from the outside, I noticed how calm the guys were, especially the younger guys. That really stood out. Declan and Anthony spoke. Everything was very calm and controlled."
UNUSUALLY, the teams lined up inside the dressing-room, Leinster having to wait a minute or two for Munster to join them. Henderson and the subs went out first to clap the team through, and he joked with the mascot. "I told her not everybody would be as friendly as me."
Everybody looked straight ahead quietly, Henderson winking across at The Warrior, aka Emmet Byrne, who winked back.
Foley led his team out slowly, concerned how the roar might affect the mascot. "It was a nice walk-out. The crowd went mad and that really gets you focused."
Right on cue, as O'Gara lined up the kick-off, The Fields reverberated around the old ground. Jim Williams is not given to hyperbole, but for him the abiding memory of the day was simply, "seeing the sea of red".
He took his seat in the stand and soaked it in.
"It was incredible, the noise was unbelievable. Very rarely have I seen anything like that in my rugby career. I played in front of 109,000 people in the Sydney Olympic stadium for a Bledisloe Cup game, but the 48,500 in Lansdowne Road were just as noisy."
In this, Jerry Holland reckons Williams is no different from John Langford or Christian Cullen or any other luminary to have sampled something like this. "It is a little bit different, a little special."
Munster's performances and results, "do have a huge bearing on the day-to-day lives" of their supporters".
"They've been there for so many years and they do take it personally," Holland adds. "The unbeaten record is a source of great pride to the supporters, and it's as much their record as the team's."
Holland speaks of the innate honesty among them all.
"They have confidence in everybody around them and they do revel in situations like this. 'I can trust the guy inside me. I can trust the guy outside me - and those who have to fill in for them.' I suppose that's the X factor.
"These fellas are just being honest with each other. They're friends, they're all great buddies. Stephen Keogh and Trevor Hogan are great buddies, and Jerry Flannery and Hogan are inseparable. Guys have to make decisions that are best for their careers," adds Holland, in reference to Hogan and Keogh moving to Leinster, "but once you're part of the family, you're always part of the family".
"It didn't matter what happened, we were going to have a massive start," says Foley matter-of-factly. "We were lucky that when Mal dropped the ball off the kick-off it bounced straight to Donners (O'Callaghan). It helped us get into our routine and our rhythm, get our hands on the ball. And then Rog banged over the first penalty."
Eight minutes in, O'Connell's lineout steal helped earn a penalty about 45 metres out.
"Myself and Rog had spoken about this beforehand, to try and get a feel for what we'd do in situations like this. Would we kick every point, because it was a cup game? It didn't matter about bonus points or anything like that. But we had a good feeling and Rog stuck it right in the corner."
O'Connell clawing the ball down one-handed, the first drive, then regrouping before Denis Leamy touched down. Munster had made the game's first big statement.
"Again from a coaching perspective, that was the big thing for me," says Williams. When we analysed Leinster, and what we were going to do, everybody carried that out. We kicked to the right areas, we attacked the right areas. We put pressure on Leinster by keeping the ball away from them and got us into the 16-3 position at half-time."
HENDERSON'S ankle had been examined and operated on in 2004. "One of my ligaments had gone, and there was some cartilage floating around in the ankle joint."
He'd worked hard to get back into the squad, and despite being limited to just one cameo the previous week against Edinburgh, in the 12th minute he was called in to replace John Kelly.
"To be honest, I was more worried that Rags hadn't done himself an injury. These are the fellas you work with day in, day out."
No replacement expects to be on so soon. "Basically, it was a spit, a clap and a stretch of the hammies. All sorts of things go through your head. 'How do I look? I wish Deccie had given me a bigger jersey'," jokes Henderson.
It helped Henderson settle in that O'Gara immediately called an off-the-top lineout move for the replacement centre to take the ball up the middle. Except for one thing. He immediately felt the pain in his ankle as he was tackled to the ground and the bodies piled in. He played on through gritted teeth.
"To get an opportunity like this, you want to give the team as much help as you can. I thought I did okay, considering I couldn't go flat out."
A big scare for Munster was when Keith Gleeson brilliantly ripped the ball from the breakdown, and after a delayed recycle Shane Horgan gave Denis Hickie a run from deep up the touchline. He eluded O'Connell before Payne, at full stretch, just did enough to force the winger to put a foot in touch.
"The threat in their backline is just unreal," admits Foley. "They've got so much gas . . . and Denis especially. When we were attacking could be one of the most dangerous times if we turned over the ball."
It reminded Munster of the need to maintain a vice-like grip on possession, and they took a 16-3 lead into the interval.
"It flew," says Foley. "It seemed like we were back in the dressing-room after five minutes." The mood was calm and relaxed.
"Nobody was really out of breath. There was so much more left in us. It was good. Playing with the wind, there was always the nagging thought that maybe the lead we had wasn't big enough. Our second halves seem to be when we play our best rugby, especially into the breeze. We've a lot of players who carry the ball well."
Williams noted that the lack of tiredness went with the territory, so to speak, that Munster had enjoyed, and primarily the possession: "You don't feel as tired when you've had more of the ball."
Before going back out, O'Gara told his forwards and Stringer he didn't expect to see much of the ball in the second half. His huge touchfinder into the breeze off the restart showed Leinster how it should be done.
Soon they were pinning Leinster back, either through their ball retention or O'Gara's boot.
"We were doing what you'd do if you were playing a Munster Senior Cup match," says Foley, speaking like the wily Munster veteran he is. "There was no real need for panic. They cannot score if they don't have the ball."
PAST THE HOUR mark, after Leinster had withstood three successive penalties in their corner, Williams became a little worried.
"They're lethal when they start quick ball and for about 10 minutes they were generating quick ball, probably the quickest ball I've seen this season. They really started to stretch us too. They were worrying times.
"They got their wide men running, Shane Horgan came into it more, and Contepomi was starting to run at us more. Thankfully, the boys started pulling off big tackles, like Paul O'Connell's on Shane Horgan."
In the midst of all this, Henderson was praying Leinster wouldn't opt for a skip ball for O'Driscoll to attack the channel outside him. His final action was to stretch for a tackle on Girvan Dempsey. He could hear Gordon D'Arcy screaming for the ball and knew he had to make that tackle. "If I had bitten my nails in the morning I wouldn't have nabbed Girv."
Even in his pain, Henderson was moved by the huge ovation accorded him by the fans. "I didn't expect it, and it made me genuinely proud. I'd have to say it was one of the outstanding memories of my career."
A momentary scare came with Federico Pucciariello's yellow card seven minutes from time with the score at 16-6. "There was no argument with Jo l (Jutge)because he was right," admits Foley. "We had been warned beforehand and Freddy was clearly offside."
At that moment, might Leinster have gone to the corner as Munster did from a similar position eight minutes in. Williams believes they should have, but as he says, maybe this comes with experience. In any event, much of their momentum was sapped when Contepomi missed the three-pointer.
"He'd snatched at one in the first half. He obviously hadn't got his kicking boots on," says Foley, who would soon be watching the remainder of the game when a scrum was called, requiring someone to make way for the introduction of prop Frankie Roche. With Leamy and Wallace both able to fill across the back row, Foley concedes: "If I was sitting in the stand I'd have made the same decision. But I knew we had enough experience in the side to see us through."
He was told to put on a jacket so as to keep warm, prompting a puzzled look. But the brains trust weren't factoring in extra-time.
The moment they knew it was all over was the sight of O'Gara breaking O'Kelly's tackle.
"You know the game is over when Rog bares his big, pearly white teeth," says Henderson of O'Gara's leap of the hoarding. "He hit the top like a nag at Becher's, just managing to bundle over it," adds Henderson, like O'Gara a horseracing aficionado.
Trevor Halstead's intercept try rubberstamped the win. "I think he was looking for the offload as soon as he made the intercept," jokes Foley.
Ryanair, one of Munster's sponsors, had promised 1,000 free flights from Shannon for every point Munster won by. "That made 24,000 free flights out of Shannon," laughs Foley. "As they've followed us all over Europe that was kind of fitting."
For Williams, it was a markedly mature, incredibly precise effort, based on 80 minutes of concentration.
"If you look back at our past quarter-final or semi-final defeats, it had always been our small mistakes that had cost us."
Not this time.
The sweetest sound of Munster's day was the full-time whistle. Calmly shaking hands with friends and foes reflected, as O'Connell said, their feelings of respect for Leinster; brothers in arms on other days.
"It was important that we shook hands with the Leinster players," recounts Foley. "It was important not to go over the top. A lot of us have been down this road before, and we'd done laps of honour in Bordeaux and Beziers and ended up with nothing," he adds, referring to the semi-finals in 2000 and 2002.
Some of those who hadn't been in Bordeaux or Beziers, such as Dowling, Halstead, Trevor Hogan, had wanted to celebrate more, but as Foley explains: "The next time we do a lap of honour we want something in our hands. We really wanted to let loose, but decided to keep the reins on."
They settled for returning to the pitch and saluting their fans. The least they could do.
"A heartbeat," is how Henderson describes the memory. "You look out a sea of red and you're a part of it. We're all intrinsically linked in that one moment."
The lack of any visit to the Munster dressing-room from Leinster to wish them well in the final was noted, as was their rivals' absence from the post-match function in the Lansdowne pavilion; Leinster having arranged their own reception in the RDS.
The Munster party, for it was already in full swing, adjourned to O'Neill's Hotel near Heuston Station for a few beers prior to boarding the 9.30pm train back home. "We drank and sang our way to Limerick Junction, and then to Jerry Flannery's new pub."
In what must surely be the best plug every given to a new pub, O'Connell had invited everyone along in post-match TV interviews.
"And to be honest with you, I think everyone did," reckons Henderson. "The fella collecting the census forms might as well have called in there. He could have got everyone's forms together."
Time moves on. It's a professional game. The Borders in Netherdale last night, which Munster won. But the desire to put last Sunday in context remains.
"It was unique," says Foley. "It certainly won't happen every year when two Irish sides meet in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. It was a great day for Irish sport, to have the whole of Europe watching us like that. It was definitely unique. A lot of great memories, and a huge amount of happiness for so many people. A brilliant day."
Monday, April 24th
The next morning, Henderson had to drive a friend home. On his way through Limerick he likened it to a ghost town. If they ever put this semi-final to screen, it would make a fitting final scene.
The End. Cue the credits.