Tuesday 6 December 2016

Munster goes into mourning on Good Friday after irritating the man upstairs

Published 03/04/2010 | 05:00

We checked our fire insurance policies. There's no cover for what's known in the trade as Acts of God. Usually that's stuff like earthquakes and Armageddons. But what about bolts of lightning for boozing on Good Friday?

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We had plenty of company on the way down the estuary to the Munster- Leinster game. There were buses from Tarbert, Glin and Foynes. The faithful stood on the roadside, waiting to be collected.

One man told me the last time he witnessed such a mass transportation was the day The Pope came to Limerick racetrack, 30 years ago. I'm not sure if the present incumbent would draw such a big crowd.

The day was fine and Clare, a six-mile row, seemed no more than an O'Gara punt away. The Shannon estuary was like a mirror. You'd get more ripples in a block of strawberry ice cream. The calm before the storm.

We met a man in Limerick, outside church, who came out "for a bit of air". He told us his minibus was well stocked with a cold box full of lager and paradoxically egg, egg salad and ordinary salad sandwiches. "There was no way we were going to eat meat on Good Friday," he said solemnly.

We peeped in. The church was packed. Mostly with the very young and the older folk. It's a holy place nowadays. My pal Frank McCourt would have been suitably impressed. I loved Frank. He loved Limerick and when we wrote about the bad old days it only served to show us how far we have come. Limerick is still a work in progress but there is no better place for a match, or a vigil.

I had a pop at Fr Egan, the head man of the Redemptorists, here last week. My sources in Limerick tell me he works long hours and is a decent man. He would have come down to the pub for 'Prime Time' but he had to say mass on Holy Thursday night.

Miriam O'Callaghan brought her show to our place for The Last Supper. She is sassy, gorgeous, funny and has a word for everyone. I suspect she might be a Leinster fan even though her dad was from Kerry. It goes to show no one is perfect.

We lit a candle in the Redemptorists Church Mount Saint Alphonsus and hit for The Mammon Bar (not the real name). It's a tiny independent republic of a pub. I often heard of after hours but this was before hours. The pilgrims were admitted through a back door.

"Why didn't you open up your place for grub today?" asked a drinker at the bar who had a cauterised pin-pricked nose that was as claret as Burgundy.

"Sure that man can't even cook his own dinner," jumped in bookmaker Berkie Browne, who is now in the frame for being a found on.

The atmosphere was convivial and the absence of guilt was palpable. I left my friends to go off researching. Some of us have to work on Good Friday.

There were loads of shops open. Loads of Munster fans too, and a few from Leinster. Two girls from Wexford asked us where they could get a drink. The Leinster support has now spread well outside Dublin.

I gave the girls directions for The Mammon Bar and tapped out the secret knock on Supermac's window. The smell of the burgers would tempt Fr Egan but I resisted.

There was no way was I going to risk turning the man above against Munster.

It was just getting dark coming up to kick off. The lights of Thomond Park shone like a Pascal fire. Some might say like the fires of hell.

Thomond was packed with sinners. It was a 25,000-strong mortal sin party. The drums beat like the Apaches ready to go on the warpath.

It was all Munster. Leinster stayed at home. Was it religion or paying for Nama?

The Munster choir's rendition of 'Stand up and Fight' got the crowd going. It was such a change from the library silence of Croke Park. Munster were in Thomond to support their team. They weren't here for a day out.

Respect

There was a different silence when Ronan O'Gara stood up to his first kick. It was the silence of respect, not apathy.

Jonny Sexton missed an easy kick but then he put up a satellite of a garryowen that led to Rob Kearney's try and kicked a touchline conversion to give his team the lead. That silenced the loud shout that speaks the vacant mind. At half-time, the announcer asked Munster's tradition of silence for the kicker should be respected. It was met with a ringing endorsement of applause.

The tackling was savage at times but there was nothing dirty. Munster chased and harried Leinster, who looked the more dangerous with ball in hand.

Nathan Hines was yellowed and O'Gara converted. He knows the location of the sweet spot better than anyone. His kicking is rhythmic. The Munster scrum was monstrous. The hits from both sides broke Richter records. Sexton put Leinster back in front by a single point. There was no let up in those frantic thrilling final minutes but Leinster held on -- just. Only a league game is it?

It was Leinster's night and Limerick went into mourning on Good Friday.

Irish Independent

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