Forget Bertie Ahern.
Forget global warming.
Forget the banking crisis.
Tomorrow, Munster meet Gloucester in a make-or-break crunch game that will either see us progress to the semi-finals or crash out of the competition.
Already, we’re wondering why Tomás O Leary is in and Peter Stringer is out. Why there’s no place for Shaun Payne. If Paul O Connell is up to a full game. Why Foley isn’t in the starting fifteen. If Quinlan will keep his discipline. What magic Dougie Howlett will produce.
Make no mistake: this is a serious business, and folks around these parts are serious about it. The travelling multitude of Limerick people have already left for Gloucester, and those left behind are starting to wear that tell-tale anxious frown. Two years ago, when we beat Biarritz in the final, Bullet and myself were among that travelling host, and perhaps if we make it through this year, we might go again, but tomorrow we’ll have to settle for the telly, along with a hundred thousand other Limerick people.
Tomorrow will be a grim day of cheering and Guinness and hands over eyes and more beer and more cheering and hiding behind chairs and screaming and looking through your fingers and jumping up and down and with any luck everybody hugging each other and more Guinness. And a party one way or the other.
Munster 16 — Gloucester 3
Well, that was a comprehensive win, wasn’t it? I take back everything I said about Declan Kidney’s selection. I was wrong. Tomá¡s O Leary had a fine game at scrum half and so did Denis Hurley at full back.
There were no passengers on the Munster team. Everyone pulled their weight and some were absolutely faultless. Doug Howlett gave everything and was as effective in defence as he was in attack. The back three were simply beyond comparison, and Tipoki at number 13 was terrifying. Ian Dowling returned from injury at number 11 and showed the kind of skill as a winger that would earn him a place on any team in the world.
And that’s only the backs.
Do you want to talk about the forwards?
Paul O Connell? Massive.
Freddy Pucciarello? Savage as ever.
Donncha? Do you need to ask?
Denis Leamy? Maniac.
I could go on with this shit all night, but you wouldn’t listen. Look. Let’s just confirm that Munster went to the cauldron of Kingsholm, the home of Gloucester rugby, and dismissed the home team summarily.
But let’s not show disrespect to the Gloucester side. I was proud of Paul O Connell when he gave the post-match interview, because he didn’t gloat, nor should he. Paulie acknowledged that we were lucky when Chris Paterson missed the three penalty kicks, giving us momentum, and without that it could have been a lot different.
But it wasn’t, and now Munster march on to the semi-final. Keep the faith.