Two sleeps and counting…Planes, trains and automobiles, ferries, taxis and buses, the mobilisation of the Red Army is underway to ensure those fortunate enough to travel to Montpellier arrive in good time for the kick-off on Saturday. The sharing of information on the fans forum has provided a multitude of options especially for those who can take a few days off and avail of cheaper fares and a chance to soak up some warmer(?) weather in an interesting part of France. After evaluating the logistics I choose the Liverpool / Nimes route, while others are going via Hahn, Manchester, London, Birmingham, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse, Beziers, etc. The more expensive, direct flights may be the best option for those who can only get away for a day trip or overnight stay. My flights cost ~ €130 return as I am travelling out Thursday and back Monday.
Excitement is building amongst the fans – on twitter, facebook and the fans forum, – even if the media focus remains on the citing process. Maybe their lack of coverage of the game to date is because Clermont are such firm favourites, leading the French Top 14 league and on 1/10 odds (v Munster at 6/1) or a 12 point win in the handicap version at the bookmakers.. which probably means something to some of my readers… However the underdog mantle has helped Munster come in under the radar before and while it would be a tremendous achievement for them to prevail this time, in knockout stages anything can happen. Teams can tense up, especially when such strong favourites and the game can become a tight affair, determined by penalties as we saw in 2 of the 4 quarter finals rather than a free-flowing spectacle. However from the 2 games which did feature tries, Clermont were responsible for 5 of the 9 scored… When you look at their team sheet featuring players of the quality of Parra, Fofana, Rougerie, Sivivatu and Nalaga you know we will have our work cut-out just to contain them…so we will need our forwards and backs to hit everything that moves and prevent them getting any momentum, to frustrate them and ensure they realise they are not in their home fortress. The Munster team will need to dig deep and believe in their ability, draw on their collective DNA (10 semi final appearances, 2 Heineken Cup victories, the All Blacks game, the Australia win…), playing with pride in the jersey and for each other. Zebo will relish the stage set to show the world (and Warren Gatland) that he is back to full fitness and should be on the plane to Australia in June along with a few of his team-mates.
Clermont fans aka the Yellow Army have a great reputation amongst Munster and Leinster supporters from their encounters over the past few seasons. Many recall their colourful, noisy march from the Garden of Remembrance to Ballsbridge for their game v Leinster some years ago. Maybe we will combine with them to do something similar this weekend in Montpellier. We know they will have the majority of the tickets and like all French fans will be noisy, no tradition of silence for the kicker, etc so the Red Army will have to be at it’s best to take them on and make ourselves heard.
Of course if things aren’t going their way on the pitch our job in the stands will be easier, but if they are dominating the game the need will be greatest for the 16th man to stand up and sing, cheer, holler and wave those flags like our life or at least our season depends on it. My seat is in the Gevaudan section with others from the MRSC so we should be able to make ourselves heard. Thankfully I am not up in the gods in the third tier. You can get an idea why the uppermost seats may not suit folks with vertigo from this link
The weather forecast for the weekend has been changing on a daily basis and varies dramatically from site to site. Initially warm weather was forecasted but then rain was predicted so the danger of sunburn appears to be low.
The Red Army drowned out the PA system in Watford, braved the snow in Edinburgh, defied the ticket allocation in the Stoop but this is also our biggest challenge as we will be outnumbered in Montpellier but we will be loud and proud to be in the Red Army
Hopefully there will be a good turnout to support the A team on Friday night in their B&I Cup semi-final in Doordoyle against Leinster A. I was at the semi-final in the RDS last season, my first time at a game that went to extra time so good value for money especially when they won against a much fancied Leinster side. Best of luck to them as they defend their title!
Many of that team played on Friday against Newport Gwent Dragons. The game was not televised but highlights are available on youtube. Ronan O’Mahoney scored a try on his senior debut, with 3 other Munster tries by Paddy Butler (credited to Johne Murphy), CJ Stander and Johne Murphy. Unfortunately Stephen Archer suffered a wrist injury which rules him out of the game in Montpellier. Hopefully our other injury concerns – O’Mahony, Sherry, Downey, O’ Callaghan, Howlett and Earls – will come through their rehab this week. G’wan Munster!!!