Legend: a “famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well”
The term “legend” can be thrown around a lot these days and I sometimes wonder how many of those given that accolade will still be remembered in a generations time? From the perspective of Munster rugby we look back fondly on our heroes from 1978 – the achievement of that team is legendary but how many of the 26,000 who will fill Thomond Park on April 1st would be able to name the starting 15 who took on the All Blacks in 1978 or even 2008? Some of you will of course, without resorting to the internet!
Hero: “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities” is a term often applied to our players. It is great to have so many heroes and role models, not just in rugby but in other sports and walks of life, like the brave crew of Rescue 116 who sadly lost their lives recently. May they rest in peace. (Joseph O’Connor’s beautiful poem in their honour is worth reading and reminds us of their ultimate acts of courage)
St Patrick’s weekend meant that there were parades and sporting occasions around the country including five rugby Internationals – the final round of the Six Nations for the Under 20s, Women and Men plus the Legends in Dublin and the Club International in Cork. It was a pity that three of the games in Dublin were scheduled for the Friday evening as I would have liked to support them all but due to the special tribute to Anthony Foley I decided to go to the Legends game on the Friday. I did not have a ticket for the Saturday game until Babs got in touch. In return for a ticket to accompany her to the games in the RDS on Friday and in the Aviva on Saturday (due to the lack of reasonably priced hotel accommodation) I was delighted to host her in my home! The question as to which team she would be supporting was immediately dispelled when I collected her from the bus stop in her Ireland team jacket and I enjoyed hearing about how she became a Munster supporter (thanks to Paul Burke moving to Munster from her beloved local team Harlequins in 2004, and the rest as they say is history).
The Legends game now in its 9th year is a fundraiser for the IRFU Charitable Trust for injured players. Shane Byrne is a key organizer and in the post game interview he acknowledged the help of Len Dineen to pull it all together.
The warm-up was short and entailed a lot of stretching with a focus on energy conservation, a little jogging, pilates, stepping and lineout practice. The pitch was packed as with the rolling subs there were a lot of players involved.
In the week building up to the game there were several interviews with ex-Munster players including James Downey, Anthony Horgan and John Kelly while Gift Grub delivered a quality edition of Radio ROG anticipating the game! If you follow the blog facebook page you will have seen these already but for those who didn’t you might enjoy checking them out. Unfortunately Ronan had to pull out that day but I am sure he was there in spirit.
In tribute to Anthony Foley his sons led out the teams and those present clapped their appreciation during a touching video montage of his career highlights.
A crowd of over fourteen thousand turned up despite the showery, windy weather. There were some good handling skills on display at times, almost Globetrotters standard! There seemed to be more focus on offloading to avoid tackles while the tackles themselves were more gentle than the usual fare. The shirts may have been a little tighter also and subs came and went at will but it was still a competitive occasion.
The first try was scored by Shane Jennings – the commentators had a tough time trying to identify the players as all shirts had number 8 on the back!
The English team managed by Lawrence Dallaglio were quick to respond through Ollie Phillips. Ireland team manager Paul O’Connell rallied the troops gathered behind the goal posts waiting for the conversion which was unsuccessful.
Quinny was interviewed shortly afterwards and he does not miss the opportunity to slag off Frankie Sheahan on commentary duty. He also expressed his appreciation for the English players who came to play their part in this special game.
RWC winner Mark Cueto scored the 2nd try for the visitors to move them 5-12 ahead when their Cricketer guest kicker slotted the conversion in front of the posts. Ollie Phillips scored the third English try to make it 5-19. Irish pressure on the visitors try line resulted in a yellow card for the #8 🙂 . Ireland took advantage and it was Stephen Keogh who scored Ireland’s second try to reduce the deficit with Jerry Flannery providing the final pass to Keogh.
The first half lasted 35 minutes and it was David Wallace’s turn to be interviewed during the break.
An intercept try early in the second half enabled Ollie Phillips to complete his hat trick and at 10-24 Ireland had plenty of work to do. Shane Jennings scored his second try to reduce the deficit and it was great to see the referee Alan Lewis hold the ball for the guest kicker’s successful conversion despite the strong wind.
Jennings should have had his own hat trick but Alan Quinlan appeared to claim the next try which brought the scores to 22-24 with the conversion to come. Niall Breslin (aka Bressie) took that one – he was interviewed as his helper lay on the ground to hold the ball for him so by the time he was free to take the kick the helper had left him to it!
Despite the weather some idiot thought it would be fun to streak across the pitch. The players were not impressed when he approached them as they were preparing to scrum. There was no rush of stewards to tackle him and lead him away so he wandered over to the Anglesea stand where it was left to “Rala” – who had come out of his retirement also for the occasion – to wrap his long coat around him. I heard later he was taken down to the police station.
Simon Keogh showed plenty of skill and determination as he evaded a few tackles before being brought to ground short of the line. However, he was not held so he was able to go again to score to put Ireland into the lead. Noel “Buddha” Healy in his Shannon kit took on that conversion attempt.
The final try of the evening came from a player who was no stranger to the RDS. Fionn Carr showed his pace and evasive techniques while the successful conversion was equally impressive in those conditions. That was the final score (34-24) and gave Ireland a well deserved victory to bring the series to 4-5 after nine outings.
The Stuart Mangan Cup was presented to the winning team by Mrs Mangan and players went around signing autographs and posing for photos after the game. The “Legend of the Match” was the one and only Alan Quinlan.
Match report with professional photos from The42.ie – the English tries are also available from the EirSport twitter feed, it was just going to be too much to include all here! The Inpho folks took some super photos which are all on the IRUPA facebook page.
Babs was keen to catch up with some of her Munster and ‘Quins boys after the game so we hung around and she was pleased to meet Anthony Horgan, Mel Deane and Simon Keogh amongst others. We also chatted to Twitter friend and Munster-mad Marsha who was there along with her mother and sister as we waited. Her mother was delighted to get selfies with several of the Leinster players – Gordon Darcy, Issac Boss and Shane Byrne – plus Mick Galwey for balance! I see where you get it from Marsha! The largest cheers from those waiting were reserved for Paul O’Connell.
Most of you will have seen the senior game so I am just adding a few thoughts here. Nothing to play for but pride? But that is always worth fighting for! Second place in the table isn’t to be sniffed at either, especially as it ensures Ireland a top 4 seeding for the RWC 2019 draw. It is a pity that the championship wasn’t on the table for Ireland but they needed a big performance and they delivered.
The term warriors epitomized the performance of all 23 or should I say 24 (plus the leprechaun?). The refusal to take a backward step, the courage to get up and make the next tackle, get to the next breakdown, protect the next ball, to pin the visitors back, knock them back, steal their lineouts, disrupt their game plan – it was intense, relentless, awesome!
Our seats (thanks Babs and the MRSC Lottery) were high in the west stand down where Ireland were warming up so I decided to take a few photos.
I don’t see any leprechaun in the photo above but maybe Eddie Jones saw one of them injure Jamie!
I was delighted by the inclusion of Andrew Conway in the team for his first senior cap and hoped he would get an opportunity to show his pace and courage as we have seen in the red jersey all season.
The anthems were superb but then there was a delay as incredibly the game in Paris was still not over despite being well into extra time! France finally got a try and conversion to win the game after 100 minutes of action! Samson Lee who had been sinbinned in the 82nd minute returned to action long before the final whistle!
Ireland showed their intensity levels were set to maximum as they took the game to England, showing aggressive defense and some exciting line breaks and effective mauls while the lineout was a source of go forward ball from their own and an opportunity to disrupt on the opposition throw.
Another lineout secured by Peter O’Mahony a little closer to the try line was mauled forward before Iain Henderson finished off the move as he stretched out his long arm to ground the ball. Earls was unlucky not to get on the score sheet also after some good work by Jared Payne.
Halftime provided an opportunity to raise the profile of the Womens Rugby World Cup to be held in Dublin this summer as Sarah Hunter and Niamh Briggs took to the pitch with the trophy which has started a tour of Ireland.
Andrew Conway made his debut, replacing Keith Earls (bone bruising to his shin) at half time and he played his part in the great team performance. You can read his post-debut thoughts in his interview with the Irish Times here. Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath showed that while Conor Murray is world class we have decent depth developing behind him while despite several “late” tackles Johnny Sexton was brave to a fault. How did he pick himself up and slot that crucial penalty?
The pack were immense throughout and I correctly predicted that Peter O’Mahony would win man of the match. In truth there were many contenders and it is great to finish on a high after the two disappointments away from home. Warriors one and all, I hope they enjoy their week off before resuming their provincial duties with two European Cup quarter finals to prepare for on April 1st.
After several poorly written articles about project players I enjoyed the interview with CJ Stander from the Irish Times on Saturday morning – his ethic of hard work is paying off and I am sure his parents enjoyed watching him play his part in the victory at the Aviva. It is great that their visit to Ireland will take in Thomond Park for the Toulouse quarter-final which should be another great occasion.
Do you hear the people sing?
A la Les Miserables, the people – players and supporters – have been heard and the Parisian merger is off… You can read more here
All my photos from the RDS and Lansdowne Road and links to interesting articles and podcasts etc. can be found on the blog Facebook page WTView