The Brave and the Faithful
23rd November 2006 By Munster Rugby
The multi-media Munster rugby phenomenon shows no sign of abating, not that it has any reason to in this year of years for the reigning European champions. Released on Friday last, “Munster Rugby – The Brave & The Faithful@ is a must own for any fan or sports DVD anorak.
By the end of this two hours-plus adventure, this reviewer quietly dried away a few happy tears.
Why? Because this team reaches a part of the sports loving psyche that none in any other code has ever reached in more than a few of us. And this DVD repeats the feat.
As any fan of this remarkable band of sporting brothers will tell you, the journey to the summit of European rugby was forged through the rich history of the game in the southern province.
The close run affairs against the touring All Blacks and Wallabies during the 60’s kick off the story, leading us, inevitably, to the 1978 victory over New Zealand.
That famous day, Seamus Dennison tackled All Black wing Stu Wilson with the sort of force that Paul O’Connell welcomed Sebastien Chabal to Limerick with last January.
Not only were legends forged that day, but something almost mystical was added to the Munster rugby story. The province found a new dimension that the other Irish provinces have yet to find, what Mick Galwey would probably describe as the ‘X factor’.
Fourteen years later, the province defeated world champions Australia 22-9 at Musgrave Park, adding to both the allure of the red jersey and the special dimension which remains so difficult to define.
Just three years later, the European Cup began, and though the first few seasons of the event could be described as curious novelty, Munster’s emergence as a continental power became a rolling stone consumed by moss.
There’s a taste of all of the above before the final defeats of 2000 and 2002 are spoken about by the protagonists of the era. Those heart breaking losses are now retrospectively seen as character building, reversals that Munster’s armoury arguably required before attaining greatness.
Interestingly, this DVD does not feature a narrator to navigate us through the journey. In truth, this is a story which does not need one.
Just as Alan English chose to when compiling the province’s tale in book-bound form, the players, along with contributions from fans and other observers of Munster, do the talking. And rightly so.
The connection between the players and fans is probably Munster rugby’s trump card. As Brendan Foley pointed out after the final victory over Biarritz, 12 of the starting 15 that day would probably still be playing for the province were top class rugby still amateur.
Players and fans know each other on a personal basis. There’s no physical disconnection when it comes to post match chat (and a few pints) across Limerick’s many rugby-mad hostelries, which adds to that sense of everyone being in it together.
Paul O’Connell, Jerry Flannery and Donncha O’Callaghan make much of this bond between player and fan. John Kelly speaks of the parish-like, GAA feel that Munster has tapped into, particularly during the professional era.
Some wonderful ‘fly on the wall’ type coverage from inside the Thomond Park and Millennium Stadium dressing rooms as well as the streets of Limerick and Cardiff augment a beautifully compiled production.
What’s been assembled here is the definitive visual document to the building of a legend and the creation of, lest we forget, a European title winning team that is ours.
‘The Brave & The Faithful’ has been put together with the sort of dedication required of any player honoured enough to wear the red jersey throughout Munster’s proud history.
Many club members across the province are certain to hit the pause button and look for a few familiar faces in this production.
Some notable boyos from my own club (Carrick on Suir) will be pleased to have made the final cut. “You can’t ignore class,” one such figure texted, after learning of his inclusion in the DVD.
The second disc in the set features the full Munster/Leinster and Munster/Biarritz matches, games that will be watched and savoured again and again and again. Highly recommended, ‘Munster Rugby – The Brave & The Faithful’ will be stuck in many a stocking come Christmas Eve.
Dermot Keyes is PRO of Carrick on Suir RFC and reports for The Munster Express