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A Province United As Never Before
5 May 2006, 2:58 pm
They travelled from the heartlands of Dooradoyle, of Temple Hill, of Currow, Clonmel and the passionate rugby playing pocket of Carrick on Suir.
They travelled from the heartlands of Dooradoyle, of Temple Hill, of Currow, Clonmel and the passionate rugby playing pocket of Carrick on Suir. That such fine folk would travel in their droves was never in any question.

But they also travelled from spots where a rugby ball might well be considered a UFO, yet they too were consumed by the emotion and passion of Munster's greatest moment.

From Modeligo, Rathgormack, Tramore and Portlaw many travelled, some of whom had never before seen Munster in the flesh. But they thanked their lucky stars to have been there.

"Unbelievable," said Richard Hogan from Dungarvan. "Just amazing stuff. What a day."

Come Sunday night in Limerick, Sean Meade of Carrick on Suir RFC, who's been championing rugby since his days in short trousers, was drinking from the Heineken Cup itself. As member 001 of the Munster Rugby Supporters Club, this was his day of days.

The very same could be said for Dan McGrath of Cappoquin, a stalwart of junior and provincial rugby for over seven decades. "Wasn't it wonderful to be here to see it," he rhetorically mused. "Isn't it wonderful to be able to say when I go home that I was there? It was magnificent."

From Waterpark and Waterford City RFC, the pilgrims also travelled in their droves. Last Saturday represented one of the busiest days in the history of Waterford Airport, with 178 aircraft movements recorded.

Some 20 planes and helicopters, all fully loaded, carried fans to airports in England and Wales. From various locations along the south coast, some of the more devoted travelled by yacht, even trawler to Cardiff. This was a support which wanted to be at this final as much as the Munster team craved the glittering prize.

It's estimated that over 250 Munster fans travelled through Waterford Airport en route to Cardiff. "I know that those who went on the chartered flights were particularly pleased to be on the ground in Wales soaking up the pre-match atmosphere, "said Airport Chairman Nicky Fewer.

"Similarly, on the return leg, they enjoyed the convenience of landing back in Waterford after a very enjoyable day. Indeed, I'm aware of one passenger who travelled on a smaller private aircraft who was back in Waterford by 7.30pm on Saturday!"

And the very newspaper I work for had a hand to play in securing the safe passage of a match ticket to a member of the Carrick on Suir RFC party. A 'clerical error' (let's leave it at that shall we?) saw the ticket sitting in the Munster Express office, while the Carrick bus approached Rosslare Europort. Following at least a dozen frantic phone calls, a fan bound for Rosslare but still in Waterford picked up the ticket and delivered it to its grateful holder safely in time for kick off. To all involved in the venture, bountiful thanks to the Munster Express staff who became impromptu members of a sporting soap opera last Friday.

As a colleague and I waded through photos and captions as land loomed, fellow passengers from all parts of the province and beyond savoured the images being exchanged from one computer to another.

"Magic," said one voice over my shoulder, when observing the image of Peter Stringer's try. From Lahinch to Lisduggan, from Dunmore to Duhallow and from Bruff to Ballyduff, we all shared in something truly special last weekend. What a joy it was to be there.

Dermot Keyes is a reporter with the Munster Express and a member of Carrick on Suir RFC
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