The latest volunteer to take the Q&A is Anne whom I got to know on the east terrace in Cork along with her husband Brian and son Eoghan but they also have west terrace tickets for Thomond, sometimes on the north side and other times on the south side. I am enjoying this mini-series of Q&As as I am learning things I did not know before (about Graham Norton in this case) so let me know if you would like to volunteer or nominate someone to take part.
Are you Munster by birth or Munster by the grace of God?
I am Munster by birth, born and bred in Cork.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history as a Munster supporter:
I live in Carrigaline with my husband Brian and our 19 year old son Eoghan. We spend a lot of weekends down near Ahakista West Cork where we have an escape from urban life. Our claim to fame as a family is that we were the first winners of the Graham Norton hosted quiz in 2013 – with a friend of Eoghan’s completing our team.
My first rugby memories are of watching the 5 nations, as it was then, with my beloved late father. He loved the sport and that is where my love for rugby came. In 2009 when Ireland won the Grand Slam my father announced that the last time they won in 1948 he had attended the home matches, we were amazed as in those days travelling wasn’t as easy as nowadays….
When Eoghan was younger travelling to games wasn’t as easy, but we always watched on TV. Once he was old enough to attend we have been hooked as a family. It is the family-friendly element that makes going to games so attractive. Over the years we have made so many friends not just through standing on the terraces chatting both pre and post match but also those we have met at the team hotel on match days and at various supporter organized events. The close bond between the players/management and the fans is brilliant. Eoghan’s favourite player is CJ, he recognized Eoghan one day in the hotel from a previous match and now every time he sees us he comes over to say hello and shake hands, a gentleman.
Keith Earls’ jersey hangs in pride of place in our home after I was lucky enough to win an MRSC competition. Before the Leicester European game in 2016 I had the honour of hanging the jerseys in the team dressing room under the watchful eye of kitman Tony Mullins. Tony was brilliant and very helpful, we had great banter and Eoghan took photos. After the game we were taken down again and presented with Keith Earls match day jersey. We got great photos and he signed the shirt which we later had framed.
I also had a close encounter with another Munster gentleman in 2015 at the London Irish pre-season friendly game in Cork when a ball hit me on the head. I was stunned and my glasses went flying. We were sitting in the stand across from the subs and Ian Keatley was the first person over to check if I was OK. I was taken down to the medical room to be checked out. We met Ian afterwards to thank him and ever since when we meet he always comes to say hello and tells me to mind my head. He even autographed my photo with those words.
GAYL: I was curious about Graham Norton so I had to get more info. Anne replied: Graham has a house in Ahakista and spends his summers there. He is very good to the local community and for the last five years has acted as quiz master at a fundraising quiz in aid of the local community association. It is a great night, just like being at his show on TV. He is good fun but so professional as well. Tickets for the quiz sell out in minutes!. I am jealous of you meeting Graham! I love his show. Not envious of the ball hitting you though – I always worry about damaging my glasses as they are so expensive. Glad you were ok. Lovely anecdote about Ian, he seems such a sweetheart. I met his parents at a game in Glasgow a few years ago and they are lovely people so he is a credit to them.
Do you get to many live rugby games a year / live Munster games?
We try to get to as many as we can. Last season between Pro12 (as it was) Europe, B&I cup & friendlies we attended 17 games.
What was the best game you’ve been at (or seen on TV) from an atmosphere perspective?
The Glasgow European game the day after Axel’s funeral has to be one for the pure emotional day that it was, so privileged to be there.
Then for pure drama the 41 phases and ROG’s last second drop goal against Northampton takes some beating.
Also in 2008 the Clermont game when we got a late try to secure a bonus point win from the jaws of defeat and deny them anything. That game also included the little spat between Paulie and Jamie Cudmore, and ROG passed the 1000 European points, so it had it all…
What was the best away trip you have been on for Munster or Ireland (if applicable) and why?
Unfortunately for family reasons we don’t get to as many away trips as we would like. However we got to the Racing92 game in the U arena in January which was an interesting experience, but give me Thomond any day, rain, wind and cold…..
How would you rate Munster’s season so far?
Given the upheaval of management change we have had this season I think so far we are doing really well. Having the home QF to look forward to in April is great. We are in a good place going into the business end of the season.
What are your hopes / expectations for this season / next season?
This season I really think we can get to at least the semi-final of Europe, after last year’s disappointment of losing in the semi, if we get there anything is possible. In the Pro14 we are in a good place to get to the semi-finals, with the new format this year getting to the final is not out of our reach. It would also be great to retain the B&I Cup given it seems to be the last season of it.
Next season should be exciting to look forward to with the new management settled and so many of our players committing to Munster we should be in a good place to challenge on all fronts. There is also the added spice of a world cup to get the players fighting for places in the squad.
Gayl: I think if we win the European quarter-final it will be interesting to see how they select for the South African trip – do they wrap up the front liners in cotton wool until the semi-final or go all out to win both games there to try to secure 2nd place in conference for a home play-off game? Great to have so many players signed up for next season but also very exciting to have Tadgh Beirne coming to Munster!
Who do you think is the most important player for Munster to have a strong finish to the season?
If Keats can keep up the great form he is in this season then I think he will be pivotal to our having a strong finish to the season. Obviously overall not losing players to injury will be vital.
Gayl: indeed – bad news this week with the injuries to Chris Cloete and Chris Farrell and there was an anxious moment in the Wales game when Conor was injured. Unfortunately it is part of parcel of the game. .
Who is the unsung hero in the Munster squad in your view?
Billy Holland for me is the unsung hero, he has played more minutes than anyone, is having a fantastic season. When called upon he has been a great captain when Peter is away. On top of that he is a really nice guy the times we have met him.
Gayl – and of course he is from Cork! Seriously though Billy is indeed deserving of that accolade.
Which of the Academy/younger players are you most excited about breaking into the senior team?
We have a lot of young talent coming through, it is great to see the young guys getting games, Liam O’Connor was unfortunate to get the bad injury as he was making a name for himself in the first team and looks a real prospect. Dave and Bill Johnson are great prospects. It was great to see Calvin Nash playing a great game against Glasgow especially considering he is the same age as Eoghan.
How long have you been following the WestTerraceView blog?
We have been following the WTV blog for about 3 years.
Gayl: I remember meeting your husband Brian after the Connacht game in Thomond in 2015 – I did not know who he was at the time but I was delighted when he came over and told me that I have “a lovely way with words” which made my night, especially as Munster had just lost!
What do you enjoy most about it?
It is nice to get a supporter’s view of the game rather than reading the press reports. Also standing on the West Terrace it is nice to read about the game from the same view point.
Gayl – thanks for taking the time to take the Q&A Anne and for your encouragement for my blog. See you on the terrace soon 🙂