Sunday 19 May 2019

Billy Keane: Players do it for days when Toulon come to Thomond

Ian Keatley and Munster physio Damien Mordan check on the injured Tommy O’Donnell at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ian Keatley and Munster physio Damien Mordan check on the injured Tommy O’Donnell at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Jacob Stockdale's mother read the lines of her palms like a fortune teller. The poor woman spent nearly all of that Grand Slam match in Twickenham with her head buried in both hands.

She was worried for her son, you see. It wasn't that long since she had to find a hiding place for the Easter egg and pour her son's milk in to a beaker with a toe on top.

Worry and love is what mothers do.

Well Janine Stockdale you can look up now. Your boy has just been voted Player of the Six Nations Championship. Jacob scored seven terrific tries and I hope his mother is savouring the emotion recollected in the tranquillity of the couch.

Quite why Conor Murray or Jonathan Sexton did not win defies all logic but well done to the young lad. Maybe they should have run on a joint ticket. Most agree Murray and Sexton are the best half-back combo in the world. But Ulster needs heroes like never before.

Murray and Sexton will need a Siamese twin surgeon when one of them retires. Jeremy Guscott said we had no world class payers. That's putting it up to you boys. Jeremy and the lads must be wondering how Ireland won with such a bad team of players. He should apologise and learn how to take his beating. Anyway who cares what they say. We have the filling of the cup.


The celebrations have been going on all week. I have been asked what it was Jonathan said to me when he jumped the wall in Twickenham for that congratulatory hug. It was nothing. He was just laughing and dancing. You know he's at his happiest when he's taking it all in, smiling to himself, not speaking, and recording the times that are in it without ever forgetting a single word.

I think back to some of the abuse Jonathan took when he started out. Rog, his one-time nemesis, is now a close friend. Rog's years with Jonathan in Paris were a masterclass from another man who closed out a Grand Slam.

Jonathan spent last week with Laura and the kids. The life of a pro involves long absences from loved ones.

I too had to leave home last weekend. I was worn out. Our leader led us through three miles in a blizzard to go from one pub to another. The only respite was a naggin of brandy from a St Bernard offie. Tom Crean wouldn't have walked so long for a drink.

The transvestite bar person was the only one left in a huge bar. She was so nice we stayed for a second pint. I'm very fond of transvestites who get a tough old time at times.

But the Clayton Hotel in Chiswick was rocking even though you could have bought an acre in the west with a sitting tenant of a hairy donkey thrown in for the price of the room. There were only a few present who knew the 'w' in Chiswick was silent.

I mentioned this to a Limerick man who was in Quinny's company. His reply was "is the little thing in the candle an ick so or would you ick an ice cream?" I took my beating.

Quinny and I kept our shape, drove on, and went to bed just before the milk man arrived with the early morning beastings. This is dedication at its finest.

Quinny, who is the best analyst of the lot, would love to be playing next Saturday for Munster against the richest club in the world. I'm not sure if you realise that only a few of our players are on a big salary. The money just isn't there and many of the young players are on getting by money. They play to wear that red jersey and days when Toulon, who have won this competition three times, come to Limerick with the biggest names in the game.

Munster have an injury list as long as the winter time queue in A&E. Tommy O' Donnell, who was playing brilliantly, injured his shoulder again on Saturday against Scarlets. It's such hard luck on Tommy who tried so hard to get back from injury. Get better soon Tommy.

Munster have the best pack in the competition. We have a very good bench who will rival the French forward replacements. And our back-up backs are all very good players who will defend their lines without fearing or flinching. The French are bigger players but have they bigger hearts?

I'm fairly sure this will be a sell- out. Toulon will bring about 50 or 60 supporters.

I search for inspiring quotes to help get me out of bed in the morning. This Gallic saying involves a classic French dish and the forthcoming Easter season.

The seanfhocail goes "you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs." No one is sure who made up the old saying but there is a body of opinion that suggests Napoleon may have been the author. There's a risk of snow and it was the snow that did for Bonaparte in the end. But The Siege of Toulon was his first big game and he was outstanding.

And as ever we have mined the seldom thumbed pages of forgotten French history for the key to victory over Toulon. His commander at Toulon was General Jacques Francois Dugommier who saw the young Napoleon as having "much technical skill, an equal degree of intelligence, and too much gallantry."

When it comes to Munster you could never have too much gallantry. This game will mean more to us than them. Last year Munster were learning. This year I believe we will go very close to embroidering that third star on the famous red jersey.

Irish Independent

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