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How Emptier Life Would Be Without Munster

20th November 2008 By Munster Rugby

How Emptier Life Would Be Without Munster

How emptier a place our sporting world would be without them, muses Dermot Keyes of the Munster Express

What an extraordinary night. What an extraordinary occasion. What an extraordinary match.

Not for the first time, and surely not for the last, Thomond Park played host to a rugby match that will be remembered forever and a day.

Alas, the men of 1978 still stand alone as the only Irish XV to have defeated the mighty All Blacks. But only just.

The players of Munster and New Zealand pummeled each other for 80 pulsating, frantic, palpitating minutes in what was a marvellous encounter, carrying greater intensity than many a test match I’ve attended.

This was an unrelentingly passionate face-off, engrossing from first tackle ’til last and, from a parochial perspective, an enormously proud night for rugby in this neck of the woods.

I’ve been quite fortunate these past few years to see witness some magnificent fixtures from the press boxes of Ireland, and even a few beyond these shores.

Be it in hurling and rugby and, to a lesser extent in athletics and soccer, the hairs on the back of my neck have, more than once, stood almost as tall as Mick O’Driscoll did in the lineout last night.

But this particular night in Limerick really was something else, a bona fide privilege to observe from a magnificent West Stand seat overlooking the halfway line.

From the Aer Corps ferrying the match ball into the stadium and into the grasp of 1978 Munster skipper Donal Canniffe, to the sight of four Munster Kiwis challenging their countrymen with a haka of their own, it’s hard to keep a lid on the superlatives.

The ‘Munster haka’ was a true one-off, and a moment of chest bursting pride for Rua Tipoki, Doug Howlett, Jeremy Manning and Lifemi Mafi.

The hobbling Tipoki, who arrived at the post-match press conference via a set of crutches, was visibly emotional when talking not only about his Maori pride, but his pride in being a Munsterman.

And that’s what makes Munster rugby that little different to anywhere else in the world right now, even in rugger-mad New Zealand, where they’re born with an oval like they’re born with an ashplant in Kilkenny.

Everyone that wears the red jersey, be they from Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Tipp or the other side of the globe, buys into the Munster ethos.

That shared sense of kinship, one that the players share with their marvellous supporters, that GAA-like sense of being part of a parish, makes Munster truly stand alone. And long may that remain the case.

That the province lost by two points is almost irrelevant such was the sense of occasion. That the Munster stock has risen incrementally on the back of tonight’s events almost goes without writing.

Players like James Coughlan, Niall Ronan and Timmy Ryan were astonishingly good, running through brick walls for the cause. Peter Stringer reminded everybody he’s a damn good scrum-half, while both Ian Dowling and Barry Murphy excelled in their defensive duties.

“A great night,” Gerry Thornley (Irish Times) commented on his way out of the press room. A great night indeed, so good there was almost a play waiting to be written about it.

Once again, Munster stood up and fought and filled us with pride. How emptier a place our sporting world would be without them.

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