Munster were missing 9 or 10 of our first team players. Of the forward 8 the vast majority were either returning from injury or were making one of their first starts for the team - just up from the academy!! The All Blacks albeit not fielding their first team on paper had the experience and skill to win by more than 30 points. Bookies were giving a 26+ point handicap on Munster to win. In fact after the game one of the leading bookmakers returned all bets to those who bet on Munster to win!!
It has to be remembered that even though Munster are the current European Club Champions we are a CLUB and not a national side. The All Blacks are a NATIONAL side and are the worlds best rugby team. But Munster and the All Blacks are very similar in that players for both teams respect their jersey and the tradition associated with playing for their team. They say that once an All Black always an All Black. The same is true for the Munster players. We say Irish by Birth Munster by the Grace of God. Munster didn't fear the reputation of the worlds best team and I believe that after last nights game the All Blacks will have even more respect for the Munster reputation.
I don't intend on giving a detailed analysis of the game. There are many more expert writers who can do the game much more justice. The players last night literally put their bodies on the line. Nearly every tackle resulted in at least one Munster player requiring medical attention. At one stage 5 of the 15 players were laid out on the ground!! The All Blacks were awesome but Munster never gave up. The current players certainly did justice to the memory of the immortal team of '78.
In so many ways Munster Rugby and Irish Sport won. I believe that all those who witnessed the occasion (as it was much more than just a game) would say 'sport' was the true victor. So what was so special, was it
- The tradition and the quiet 'hope' that the victory of 1978 could be repeated;
- The Munster Supporters Club Choir and Cara O'Sullivan leading the songs such as Stand Up and Fight, Fields of Athenry, There is an Isle.. etc etc;
- The minutes silence for the tragic and needless death of a local rugby player Shane Geoghan;
- The 26,500 attendance playing the vital role of the 16th man;
- The Air Corps helicopter delivering the match ball;
- The Munster Haka challenge to the New Zealand Haka;
- The New Stadium - which I have to say I think is the most impressive rugby stadium I've been in (and I've been in a few in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Australia!!);
- The utter silence and respect for the place kicking;
- etc etc.
Or was it simply the nail biting and heart stopping game. I believe that it was the cumulative sum of all the above. I have to say it was probably the greatest sporting occasion that I've ever attended. Prior to this I would have said that the 70,000+ Munster supporters making the epic journey to the 2006 Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff would rank highest in my sporting Hall of Fame. But last nights occasion surpassed that game by a country mile. In 30 years time when last nights game against the All Blacks is spoken of in the same reverent terms as the game of 1978 I will have my ticket and match programme to proudly prove that I WAS THERE.BTW as this is my running diary I have to report - no running yesterday or today!!