Friday 21 July 2017

Treaty City to open doors for tie of biblical proportions

Munster's Ronan O'Gara attempts to get away from Leinster duo Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien as Paul O'Connell looks on during the Magners League meeting between the teams earlier this season
Munster's Ronan O'Gara attempts to get away from Leinster duo Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien as Paul O'Connell looks on during the Magners League meeting between the teams earlier this season

Hugh Farrelly

GOOD FRIDAY is traditionally a day of denial but Limerick's cup is over-flowing ahead of tonight's Magners League showdown in Thomond Park (8.05).

An ancient rivalry, a host of international head-to-heads, 26,000 supporters and plenty of exemption-embracing alcohol to help them find their voices -- all the ingredients are there to make this clash between Munster and Leinster a truly memorable affair.

With pubs permitted to open between 6.0 and 11.30, Limerick Mayor Kevin Kiely has invited the entire country to come and embrace the "carnival atmosphere" and this invitation has, it seems, been taken up enthusiastically.

It guarantees a colourful occasion on the streets but, with Irish rugby seeking a boost after a disappointing end to the Six Nations, this is a hugely significant on-pitch encounter also. Both teams are seeking to maintain their play-off positions in the Magners League while getting ready for crucial Heineken Cup quarter-finals and both go into the clash without some marquee names.

Munster have lost captain Paul O'Connell and free-scoring winger Keith Earls to groin strains, with Mick O'Driscoll and Ian Dowling starting in their stead. Leinster are without Brian O'Driscoll and winger Shane Horgan -- Fergus McFadden and Girvan Dempsey step into their boots.

But there are still some intriguing match-ups to savour, not least the battle between Ronan O'Gara and his Ireland usurper Jonathan Sexton. Visiting scrum-half Eoin Reddan also has a point to prove against his old team and his international rival Tomas O'Leary.

In the forwards, Leo Cullen goes up against Donncha O'Callaghan, the man who took his Six Nations second-row place, and there is a seismic clash in the back row between Leinster's Jamie Heaslip and Munster's David Wallace.

Rugby has transformed this day of prayer and fasting into one of unapologetic over-indulgence on and off the pitch and Limerick is never likely to forget it.

Irish Independent

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