Monday, May 04, 2009

Munster Mugged on Jones's Road

Went with the brother to watch Munster's lap of honour against Leinster in the Heineken Cup semi-final last Saturday. The portents were good. It was a beautiful sunny day and as we drove through town all the pubs we passed had their red armies in place. Yet I had a vague feeling of unease, Leinster's rearguard action against Harlequins showed a fortitude that had been missing in the past.

I had planned our route to embrace a trip to the Gravedigger's - cunningly hidden away in the heart of Glasnevin. It's an ideal staging post for Croke Park, away from the frenzy of the immediate environs but only a bracing 15 minute walk along the canal to Jones's Road. There were some of the more interpid Munster supporters around but there was plenty of parking and elbow room at the bar to quaff a couple of pints. The pub is a fine relic of bygone days and its only deviation from full-blown authenticity was the t-shirts for sale. A quibble.

And so to the match. There seemed to be more Munster than Leinster supporters initially but as the ground filled up it came close to balancing out. The organisers had laid on thousands of free flags for both sets of supporters - a nice touch that helped demonstrate the way the supporters were intermingled.

The match was a full on faction fight. At one stage there were four bodies stretched on the turf receiving attention and all through the referee seemed very lenient in allowing ministering medics come and go. The first significant incident was Contemponi going straight through O'Gara with malice aforethought. A statement of intent from Leinster. Rugby is all about motivation and intensity and it became clear very quickly that Leinster had it and Munster didn't. It showed in Elsom's ferocious marauding and it showed in the fearless tackling of D'Arcy and O'Driscoll in mid-field. It showed in the ferocity of their front five. Munster never got a chance to play - they were blown away. (Was that all-star pack minding itself for the Lions tour?) It was hard to feel too upset, the Leinster try scorers were the same guys we cheered on for Ireland a few weeks ago. And I have grown a bit weary of the Munster triumphalism that has been creeping in.

There is the sneaking feeling that this was Leinster's final. Can they build up to that level of intensity again? Or we will have to endure the roundheads of Leicster winning yet another Heineken Cup.