Sadly the season ended a few weeks earlier than we had hoped for, but after a committed game of attritional trench warfare Glasgow booked a place in the Pro12 final for the first time on their fourth attempt, proving the value of a top 2 seeding for the home draw. My usual blog about being at the game will be available Sunday night but I wanted to publish this today before returning to Dublin.
After the game I met up with Audrey who had been on my flight and Brenda who had carried over 40 flags provided by the MRSC and distributed them to supporters before the game. There were not as many of the Red Army there as I had expected and we were spread throughout the stadium which had made it impossible to get any co-ordinated chanting or singing going. Only 99 had apparently bought tickets through the Munster ticketmaster site but there were more of the red army there in the record breaking crowd of 10,000 at Scotstoun. The short window to plan and book a trip since the place and time were only confirmed the prior weekend, combined with the cost of season ticket renewals and recent expenses incurred in Marseille did not help.
We went outside and waited, like groupies at a stage door, beside the bus waiting to bring the team to the airport for their return to Cork. The players emerged in ones and twos to put their bags in the boot and get on the bus. Understandably downbeat, several bore the obvious signs of battle on their faces, but they thanked us for coming and posed for photos and signed autographs when asked, mainly by the half dozen or so younger girls who had joined us, and an official looking Glasgow guy who was there with a clipboard and camera ensuring he got all the signatures. He even asked me who were the additional players who had travelled with the 23 (Johne Murphy and Billy Holland) and took careful note of their names. That apparently is his hobby, collecting autographs at various different sporting events.
Our words of sympathy, commiserations and best wishes for next season offered scant comfort to the players. With no more matches to look forward to this season, this defeat, especially when combined with the other recent defeats in Marseille and Thomond will linger. It is frustrating to have nothing tangible to show for their efforts, yet many teams would envy Munster getting to the last 4 in both competitions this season. There are the intangibles to build on next season in the way that the team of 2006 built on the heart-breaking losses of 2000, 2002 and the 2004 semi-final defeat by Wasps at one of our rare home semi-finals. Younger players like Dave Foley, CJ Stander, James Cronin, Duncan Casey and JJ Hanrahan have stepped up this season while Ian Keatley has emerged from the shadow of the legendary Ronan O’Gara. Imagine how much damage a fully fit Andrew Conway could do given the glimpses we saw this season! Peter O’Mahony has been an inspirational Captain, such a pity his injury came at the business end of the season. Also missed through injury, Donnacha Ryan, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer and Cathal Sheridan while Tommy O’Donnell. Paddy Butler, Luke O’Dea and Simon Zebo also had disruptions this season and I could add more to the list if I went back to review all the games since August. Skill levels have been raised but there is some work to be done to achieve more consistency of performance.
It was a sad end of their involvement with Munster for both James Downey and Casey Laulala who was an early injury casualty on his 50th appearance for Munster. At the final whistle you could see the disappointment in the players on the pitch, none more so than James Downey who had defended like a demon and carried a lot more ball than he often gets, time after time getting smashed back in the tackle. We wished them well with their new clubs and thanked them for their efforts.
By this time the younger girls had left. We waited till the end. I wanted to meet Rob Penney, to thank him for his work in Munster and wish him all the best in Japan. He was one of the last to emerge and was willing to shake hands and exchange a few words before getting on the bus. I asked him for a photo for the blog and he graciously posed and even took the card I offered him with details of my blog.
Ian Keatley’s parents had come to say their farewells also. Mr Keatley – a lovely man 🙂 – then guided us to the nearest bus stop as it was closer than the train station (which I doubted I would have found without having a crowd to follow!). It was heading towards midnight so after a chat with a trio from the local pastor service who walk the city streets at night, helping anyone in need of assistance (lost tourists like us, girls who can no longer cope with their high heels from people wondering who were these people in red jerseys.
It was lovely to meet new people and Audrey was doing a great job telling folks about my blog so welcome to any new readers. You might want to consider entering your email address on the top right (or bottom if viewing via smartphone) to get an email whenever I publish a new post. I recommend checking out the Toulouse blog to get a better idea of my more usual style here
So it’s all over for another season but lots of change coming with the new coaching staff, some new signings, a new European competition, a new sponsor or no sponsor for the Pro12 league, an upgraded Musgrave Park…. And plenty of positives to build on, so I am glad that I have renewed my season ticket. Mumhan Abu.