Friday 28 July 2017

Thomond eruptions to make iceland look like a penny candle

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Leo Cullen hurdled the barriers separating him from the Leinster Academy youngsters. They were mad about him and delighted he made so much of them.

Daddy Bear wasn't going back on the pitch without his cubs. After a few minutes the security staff relented. It wouldn't have made for much of a Heineken Cup presentation without the winning captain.

This was one pass Mike Ross wasn't going to drop. His gorgeous wife Kimberlee handed baby Kevin to his dad. Their son was dressed from head to toe in blue. I'd swear his bonnet was a scrum cap. Mike, the ferocious man wrestler, gave his little boy the tenderest of kisses.

Jonathan Sexton handed us his Man of the Match award. He couldn't get rid of it quick enough. Leinster is a team you see. "You're going to lose that in some pub in Cardiff," he said. Then he took the vase back and handed it to a 'maor.'


At full-time, ashen-faced Northampton were forsaken cadavers witnessing a resurrection. Brian O'Driscoll went to every man. Sorry for your troubles, and there but for the grace of God go we.

And I came to the conclusion, Leinster were just like us.

The 24-hour clock is the greatest threat to time-keeping since the opening of Copperface Jack's. Ryanair should put the words 'in the morning' after the 07:30. A plane was missed, again. My mammy read 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' when we came home. No one believes us anymore. The path from the Pet's Corner to the doghouse is well worn.

The extra-time in Cardiff was spent in anthropological research.

There are now as many country people as city slickers supporting Leinster. And most of the Munster fans I met were hoping Leinster would win.

Magners couldn't have asked for a better finale. Their league has now surpassed the English Premiership in terms of quality. The winners of three of the last four Heineken Cup competitions will go at each other from the off.

Leinster can be beaten, but Munster will have to up their game considerably.

The Leinster carriers do most damage. Sean O'Brien, Carlow's first European Player of the Year, and Jamie Heaslip from nearby Naas tormented the Saints. Richardt Strauss waltzed through Northampton. Cian Healy is another fiercely determined gain-line breaker. On current form, Leinster are worthy favourites.

Then again, Munster have defied logic for years. There are more plusses. We are playing at home. Our fans outnumber Leinster by two to one, but then there's the pressure factor, which can be either good or bad.

If Munster lose this one, the summer will be spent head in chest like a forlorn swan. Munster have it in them for sure. In this place, no team is unbeatable, but this is a huge task.

Sometimes after games, in the elation of victory, players say more than they ever would in the build-up. Several Leinster players use the expression 'we outworked them.'

Leinster will not panic. They take the blows and then move in for the KO when the opposition are exhausted in rugby's version of rope-a-dope.

Munster must see Leinster as one of those all-conquering, unsinkable touring teams.

The first five minutes will be wild, but controlled, but so must the next 75. That's how the All Blacks were beaten. Munster will keep it up.

The body manufactures its own drugs on days like this. Adrenalin makes a flood plain of the brain.

Then there's the big picture directed by Declan Kidney.

We need all our players for the World Cup. The last thing we need is suspensions or injuries, but Munster will have to be more aggressive than of late.

You beat a team not by targeting their weaknesses, but their strengths. Both sides have scored the type of spectacular French-style tries we thought we would never live to see in Irish rugby. But in the end it will come down to that new word 'outwork.'

Leinster have no idea of the madness that awaits them, both in the stands and on the field of play. This may seem strange, seeing as the teams know each other better than many married couples. I have been in Thomond on days like this when passion plays take place, but today will rank with any. And that's as it should be.


There are fans who hate the opposition. We are too closely tied by blood and friendship in this little country of ours, to turn this thing into a tribal generational hate like say Liverpool and Man United.

We must not allow that alien tradition to rule us. Some of the stuff on the internet, from both sides, is beyond juvenile and borders on racism. Truly the web is the last refuge of scoundrels. When this is over, we must go back to being Irish.

Last weekend we witnessed the Leinster fans and players celebrate as winners should. There was no arrogance or superiority, because it just wasn't there. So let's win this one not because we hate anyone, but because we love Munster or love Leinster.

However, this is an All-Ireland final. We all know that. There will be no love-in.

Iceland is but a penny candle compared to Thomond on eruption day.

Irish Independent

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