Monday 22 January 2018

Reds need spirit of most faithful departed

Did you ever meet someone you thought was dead? There's a great sense of relief when you realise the departed is not in a huff over your missing the funeral.

The case of Martin Reidy was the exact opposite. I thought Martin was alive and well when he was in fact dead.

I missed Martin's funeral and so I feel compelled to write a few lines in his honour. The deadline, if you pardon the pun, has long since passed.

Martin died two years ago and while the deceased himself is entirely without blame, no one informed me that he had passed away.

Martin was only 59 when he took his leave and if there was a more committed Munster supporter, I have yet to meet him or her.

Paddy Joe Bailey, his friend, cousin and neighbour from Ballymacelligott in Kerry, told me Martin sold a cow to fund his first overseas trip to Twickenham.

He was rewarded when Ireland won by a bare point on the day Gerry McLoughlin carried both teams on his back and scored our most famous try ever in London. Martin caught the travel bug that day.

A trip to the All-Ireland was subsidised by booking two rooms in the Gresham. One was for Paddy Joe and Martin. The other was sublet to 14 neighbours.

Road frontage is a great boon for those who like to travel. Martin sold a site a year to finance his trips abroad.

Some of you might remember him. He was the tall, grey-haired man wearing a red hand-knit cap, who looked a bit like Wandering Aengus in search of gold and silver orchards.

The Heineken Cup brought our hero to exotic parts of Europe he had never heard of until the draw was made.

I suppose the fact he was single and had the road frontage gave him the extra bit of independence.

Martin always bought a new suit for a Munster trip. Indeed, he knocked value out of the suits, which often doubled as pyjamas.

He was slow to dispense with his comfortable hob-nail boots and woolly socks, even in fine weather, and a fondness for French wine reddened his lips.

The knot in his Munster tie was squeezed into a pebble and was thrown over his shoulder like he had just got off a motorbike, but he still cut a fine figure.

Martin was very knowledgeable and Barry John, the greatest out-half of all time, was his friend.

Barry met Martin for a drink every time the Ballymac man visited Wales. And in the days before Google, when knowledge was hard earned, he knew more about Barry John's career than the great man himself.

I promised Martin we would write about him here some day. I'm just sorry it had to be posthumously.

If Northampton win this evening, Monday's match report will be also by way of an obituary.

The team that refuses to die has become so much a part of our year that it is impossible to contemplate life without them. Constant Munster are a more reliable gauge of time than the four seasons.

These games keep us going. Looking forward to it makes life bearable in these days of constant bad news but will there be another day out?

My dad worked for a few years in Northampton and Paul Diggin, the excellent Saints utility back, is a cousin. We have had many visitors from Northampton over the years. Believe me when I say their tradition is not to back off. Thomond will bring out the best in them.

Form suggests an English victory. Last time out in January, the Saints were the better team and they are a close second in the Premiership points race, with a little breathing space between them and the chasing pack.

Munster badly needed last week's game against Leinster and will benefit not only from the game time but also from the hurt of losing.

We were missing Paul O'Connell and Keith Earls. Here's hoping they will be more effective today than Wayne Rooney was against Bayern Munich when Alex Ferguson shredded the sick cert.

The fact is that most players carry some sort of injury this time of year. Northampton are no different. Munster need more games together. Northampton have had too many.

I have had this feeling all week that Munster will win, but I wouldn't go signing the contract for the sale of the site until after the game.

Paddy Joe tells of a session in France when Martin was having trouble with his waterworks. There was a queue to use the toilet. The French have bladders with the capacity of Poulaphouca reservoir. What other explanation is there for the fact there's only one toilet in most French pubs?

Martin was in a desperate state. Part of the recently sold half-acre was invested in champagne and the bucket was still on the counter.

Martin peed in the bucket out of desperation and the steam rose as if from a scrum on a frosty day. Understandably, the former French rugby star who owned the bar was peeved. He dispensed summary justice.

Martin wasn't a fighter. He was a gentle giant. I never heard him curse or say a bad word about any man. He picked himself up and with great dignity said to the even bigger Frenchman "Is that the best you can do?"

Go on men, give us another day out.

Irish Independent

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