WHY a little respect goes a long way
It's all about respect isn't it? This Munster thing. You respect yourself. You respect your team, your fans and your coaches. Most of all, you respect the tradition.
Last Saturday 26,000 of us concelebrated Munster's win over Castres Olympique in Thomond.
There was the silence for the kicker and also for the late Michael Kiernan, a fine Munster player in his day. He is the father of Michael who won the Triple Crown with a drop goal against England. I was there that day in Lansdowne when Kiernan's kick barely straddled the crossbar.
It was the first time ever I kissed a man other than my oul fella. Purely platonic, but back then, kissing men was an event as rare as feeding Dodo birds breadcrumbs in St Stephen's Green, and Triple Crowns were as hard to find as a missing sock.
The custom in France is to give three kisses to a woman by way of hello.
A lady of the utmost probity, hopelessly in love with her husband, and a good friend of yours truly, met up with us under the stands in Thomond. I kissed her on the cheek as you do. Then she, in the context of the occasion, suggested that in France it was three kisses on the cheek. Fair enough.
I did as I was bid, but then it dawned me that back in the time when Kiernan scored that famous drop goal, three kisses was in fact a shift. A shift, by the way, is another word for a 'coort'. I said as much to the lady. She responded with a "go 'way you oul eejit". As you might have guessed, she was from Listowel.
"Don't you go writin' in the paper about this now," she added. But the freedom of the press is sacrosanct.
Colm Tucker's funeral mass was on that very day. This was no 'sorry for your troubles', perfunctory handshake and out the gap for home send-off.
As befits a Lion and a member of the Munster team that beat the All Blacks back in 1978, he was lauded, prayed on and cried over.
Respect and tradition.
The opposition respect Munster, and Castres, who had no chance of going through from the pool, really got stuck in. I doubt if they would have bothered if they were playing anyone else.
Munster's only defeat at Thomond in the Heineken Cup was against Leicester. We lost not just because Leo Cullen gave his greatest ever performance, but also because we had already qualified for the quarter- finals.
Munster are already through, but it's all about home venue. It's not just the winning, but the spin-off for Limerick and the stadium.
Thomond is more than a pitch, it's a day out. The food is superb by any standards. The best mass-catering grub I've tasted since our cousin Kate cooked for 10 of us the day we brought home the hay before it rained for three weeks.
There is so much at stake for all the stakeholders.
The Holy of Foleys has the forwards playing as Munster do. Rolling mauls and fervour at the breakdown. Line-outs won with two hands and scrums as solid as the Treaty Stone.
Munster are improving all the time. We are a much better side than the team who beat Northampton with that last-kick drop goal. Tony McGahan has done a tremendous job.
Denis Hurley has strengthened up considerably and he will play for Ireland at some stage of the Six Nations.
Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony have given the team pace and passion. One quibble, though. Murray is rapidly becoming the best scrum-half in the world, yet there is a pre-ordained substitution on 60 minutes.
No disrespect to Tomas O'Leary, who has always given all to the cause and has more heart than any man, but I wonder could Murray stay on, maybe in the centre? He has enough football in him to play anywhere on the field. Rugby has much to learn from the GAA when it comes to substitutions and positional changes.
Donnacha Ryan has come of age. He was our best player against Castres. We met his mother and father after the match. Lovely people, and his three sisters are travelling up from London to Milton Keynes for the game against Northampton.
Munster will play for the emigrants today and for the honour of playing for us at home in Thomond Park in the quarter-final.
Yes it's all about respect.
Colm Tucker Jnr did his dad proud with a 20-minute oration that seemed like two minutes. He told a story about his father, as is the custom.
Colm Snr was at mass in Kilkee where most of Limerick go booleying and boogieing in the summer. A mobile phone went off about six pews up the church from where Colm was praying. That was bad enough, but the lady who received the call proceeded to answer her phone. Tucker left the back row, walked up the church and politely asked the lady to leave Mass.
It's just another incarnation of silence for the kicker. Respect.