A lady who needs no introduction after being name-checked by Ugo and Donncha as she was caught on camera praying for a successful penalty kick during the game at Welford Road in December, here we get to read Babs in her own words describe her love affair with Munster Rugby.
Are you Munster by birth or Munster by the grace of God?
Definitely by the grace of God! My mother is Irish but by area of birth would be Ulster and by inclination, Leinster as she adored BO’D.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history as a Munster supporter:
I’d been to Thomond Park a few times with Quins over the years but it was only when Paul Burke returned to Munster that I went to watch THEM play. Paul and his family were always very good to me so I used to pop along the M4 to see him when Munster played in Wales.
Was I seduced? adopted? BOTH! Pat Geraghty and John O’Sullivan adopted me and I suppose Paulie, Donners, Strings, Quinny et al seduced me. I defy anyone to watch Munster play and not be captivated. The ‘seduction’, if you will, has continued and I adore as many of the current squad as I do ‘the old guard’.
Do you get to many live rugby games a year?
I keep saying I’m going to cut back on my Munster fixes and not renew my season ticket but the boys really do help me keep sane. My mother is now 96 and suffers with dementia. I visit her in her nursing home 2/3 times a week and it can be very distressing. Rugby is my escape from that. I probably still do about 10 or so games now – B&I cup, Pro 14, Heineken…they’re all the same to me. HC home games were way beyond my reach as an associate member so I did 2 years where I didn’t miss a home or away Magners League game …including Ulster for a rearranged game on a Tuesday I think. That’s how I got to know all the players, management and the lovely Munster Branch presidents. The latter all seem to live in fear of me making them dance with me. I can’t imagine why!! I’m going to South Africa to celebrate CJ’s and my birthdays. He’s only a day younger than me, you know. He’s just a lot fitter.
Gayl: I can see that in this photo of you both with John 🙂
What was the best game you’ve been at (or seen on TV) from an atmosphere perspective?
Cardiff final 2006. Unbelievable. I was a newbie, ‘blow-in’ back then but it was amazing. I nearly burst with excitement and then John O’Sullivan found me in the crowd, wearing my Munster jersey and Quins chef trews, and took me into the post match party. “Keep quiet and we’ll say you’re my mammy!” I thought 2008 would be an anti-climax. Had a great time partying the night before with friends and was quite calm until I got into the stadium, where I promptly burst into tears. I love Cardiff.
I hadn’t planned to go over for ‘The Glasgow Game’ but was in bits back home after I heard about Axel, so spent a fortune on a flight and went over. I’m so glad I did. Just to be around people who understood helped enormously. Barry Coughlan from The Examiner had kept in touch all that week and was a great comfort. Pat G had introduced us years before and we were firm friends. The staff at The Clarion, who treat me like a favourite mad aunt, were lovely too. Hugs all round. We all know how special that game was. Such a tribute to our fallen friend and hero.
What was the best away trip you have been on for Munster or Ireland rugby and why?
I’ve had so many great experiences with Munster. Brilliant nights in Wales before games. The legendary “Away to The Borders” trip….Such a shame that team folded….but the stand out trip for me had no rugby. We didn’t even get to see the 2006 final, the reason for the 2016 trip to Spain. THEY HAD ONE JOB TO DO!!! It had been Axel’s idea to get as many of the boys from the 2006 final’s squad together for a few days. There was some golf, some drinking, a lot of reminiscing, a few songs and Axel himself was so relaxed (after one hell of a season). Just watching the lads catching up with each other and enjoying the craic was a privilege to be part of. Jerry Flannery, in particular, made sure everyone was included and of course Quinnie, Donncha and Paulie were their inimitable selves. Jerry, Strings and Wally didn’t play golf and just stayed by the pool, looking for all the world like male models on a photo shoot!! BE STILL MY BEATING HEART.
How would you rate Munster’s season so far?
I’m happy. Despite having some long term injuries and Donnacha Ryan’s and Francis Saili’s departures, we’re hanging in there in the Pro14, have a home 1/4 final in the HC and stand a good chance of retaining the B&I cup. Alex Wootton is growing in experience and stature every week. (I love having someone else with an English accent around) Rhys Marshall has been a great import (up there with Rua Tipoki IMHO).
Jean Kleyn is the “big hairy arsed, baby eating” lock that every team would kill for, and Chris Cloete is a freak of nature. I LOVE HIM! He pisses off every single member of opposition teams. What a find! Simon Zebo continues to excite and Keith Earls (former baby lion) is playing out of his skin. My beloved Keats and Duncan are finally getting the recognition they deserve so I’m a pretty happy bunny.
Thanks for clarifying via Twitter Babs that As long as I can remember
@Harlequins supporters had a “hairy-arsed, baby eating lock” on their wish list. We had some good ones but I never actually “examined their credentials”
What are your hopes / expectation for this season / next season?
I’d love us to win the HC again this year. Especially for Simon Zebo, Billy Holland, Jerry, Felix, Rassie etc. I won’t make either of our 1/4 finals for personal reasons but will make sure candles are lit, prayers are offered and Holy Water is sprinkled and look forward to 2 semi-finals. We should still be up there for the knock-out Pro14 games and I want us to retain the B&I cup, especially as it’s finishing. Surely we get to keep the trophy then!
Who do you think is the most important player for Munster to have a strong finish to the season?
To me it’s never down to one player….win or lose. I guess a lot of people would go for Conor, and he is very special. If pushed for an answer I’d probably say, Keats. With Tyler injured and JJ not having started games I’d feel most confident with Ian at the helm. I sometimes wish we didn’t lose any players to Ireland. Why does it always feel worse if they get injured playing for the national side? Please send them back fit and well, Joe.
Who is the unsung hero in the Munster squad in your view?
All the backroom staff to be honest. From Niall, having to deal with all the logistics, to the kitman, to the medical staff, to the S&C guys (I’m so going to miss Aled) to the nutritionist and George Murray, the analyst. He’s been doing that job for decades and still looks only 24! They get no recognition from any of us supporters but the lads would be lost without them
Which of the younger players are you most excited about breaking into the senior team?
Dan Goggin is a good prospect as are the Johnston brothers. I guess Sammy Arnold has already arrived! I love watching the B&I cup games as these lads are the future. Poland doesn’t look old enough to be out without a permission slip but is a fine player.
How long have you been following the WestTerraceView blog?
About 2/3 years I guess. It means more to me since I met Gayl and had the pleasure of staying with her last year. I’m not sure she’s recovered from breakfasting with me yet!! How she manages to support (shout loudly), watch and remember enough to write a blog is beyond me. She has very sound knowledge too. If I ever took to blogging it would be more haircuts, rolled down socks, who needs a new razor and best calves and thighs!!
Gayl: it was an experience Babs, you had so many stories to tell so just as well we were not in a rush! There will be a Failte here for you anytime. Your blog would probably get more hits than mine with that proposed content 🙂
What do you enjoy most about it?
The personal stuff. If I haven’t managed to see the game live or even on the box (problem of living in the UK) it goes a long way to helping me feel as if I were there.
Thanks for taking the time to contribute to this new “feature” Babs.
There are 2 weekends with no Munster rugby game in March so hopefully this will inspire a few folks to volunteer to give it a go (email me at WTView@live.ie or contact me via the comments below, Facebook or Twitter). Feel free to skip some questions if you wish or suggest additional / replacement questions, it’s just a bit of fun 🙂