Munster reap rewards of Bohemian rhapsody
UL Bohs contingent's heroics highlight AIL's role in Reds rise
THERE was a photograph circulating on social media on Saturday night of the UL Bohemians contingent in the Munster squad posing at Shannon Airport.
Five members of the team who gained promotion as champions from Division 1B to 1A of the All-Ireland League in 2012 gathered together to celebrate a famous Munster win over Perpignan with their coach from that season.
They weren't just fans over for the weekend, though -- all of them had played their part.
Cathal Sheridan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O'Donnell, Dave Foley and JJ Hanrahan all contributed to that season under Ian Costello, now Munster's skills coach.
Sheridan started and finished Saturday's win, handling the step up seamlessly, O'Donnell helped create Hanrahan's last-gasp try, Kilcoyne came off the bench to some effect, Foley was the 24th man and Costello acted as a runner, conveying information to the players from the touchline.
In the space of 18 months they have come a long way from the club grounds of Ireland that helped shape them.
Sligo-born scrum-half Sheridan later revealed that Paul O'Connell had gathered the squad together on the morning of their heroic win and gave an inspirational speech, touching on the journey the players had taken to get here.
The UL Bohs players are just a snapshot of a team who have come together over the past season and a half under Rob Penney, some from the Academy, some via England and others through hard work at their clubs.
They are starting to write their own history in the shadow of the giants who went before them.
"Paulie gave a great speech just before the game about where everyone in this team has come from and things like that -- (he said) people don't understand the work people have to do to get into this team. They only see what is going on out on the pitch; there is a lot more to it than that," Sheridan said.
"As a young fella you grow up watching stuff like this. That phrase gets thrown about a lot, about Munster folklore, and I think this game is going to be another one of those games described as that, I hope it is. It is my first real involvement in it and you really got a sense for it.
"It is belief really, I suppose that is the underlying thing. No matter what situation you get into... I mean we battled back from being behind in the first half to getting ahead, then to almost lose it in such a way... I don't know if there was a person in the stadium who would have bet on us winning after they scored that try.
"But it is belief, knowing the trust that we have in the strength and condition coaches, the incredible job, and you always feel you have got one up on the man in front of you.
"You look at the guys who came on and made an impact, Tommy -- I don't know how he got his hands free -- and then JJ. Those guys that had that bit of spark at the end and that's what makes the difference in big games.
"JJ gets a lot of flak about looking an awful lot older than he actually is but he is a great young fella. He takes things to heart quite a bit but he is just an immense talent, he really is.
"I played with him up in Bohs... and it just shows how he bounces back.
"Anyone that would ask was he going to come on and do something like that -- maybe not -- but he shows he can just do anything any time. He is just a great guy to play with, a good fella."
Like so many in the squad, Sheridan has taken the long road to here.
His dad Oliver has been with him all the way, up and down the country with Bohs, and when Conor Murray's absence was confirmed and his son got the nod, the proud father nabbed the last seat on the Munster charter flight.
"It was huge (to get his chance). I could try and act cool and say I will take it in my stride but, no, it was a massive thing," Sheridan admitted.
"It is very difficult in Ireland because it is such a small area -- you do have to be very patient.
"It can be frustrating at times but at the same time you can't let that get to you. You've just keep your head down, keep working."
He has deservedly got his reward and repaid Penney's faith. Over the coming weeks he will hope to use Murray's absence to stake a claim for further nights like Saturday.
At 25, Sheridan has taken the long road to get here but in Perpignan he looked the part, just as he did when marshalling the pack at Bohs in 2011/12.