Wednesday 11 December 2019

'They're a symbol of the craic, the love, the tears of sorrow and of joy'


Ronan O’Gara. Photo: Sportsfile
Ronan O’Gara. Photo: Sportsfile

My Munster: Carmel O'Connor

1. What was your first Munster Rugby match?

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Munster season ticket holder Carmel O’Connor
Munster season ticket holder Carmel O’Connor

The first Munster Rugby match I attended was in the old Thomond Park with my family to watch a pool game in the Heineken Cup against Neath Swansea. It was back in November 1995, and a cold damp day but in the old Thomond Park you were tightly packed in on the terraces, so there was plenty of body heat around you to keep you warm.

2. What Munster game sticks out in your memory and why?

Munster v Northampton, Thomond Park 2011. The hairs stand up on my arms remembering this magnificent night. Game on a knife edge, six minutes left, we are a point behind. I thought I was going to pass out with the tension and the nerves, but 41 phases later Ronan O'Gara the legend scores a drop goal. Carnage in the stands and terraces.

3. What current Munster player do you looking forward to watching?

There's so much talent to look forward to watching but if I am to pick one, I would say Dan Goggin.

4. Describe the most memorable Munster score you've seen?

Nothing beats ROG's drop as described above, but a close second was a try scored in the winter of 2007 against Llanelli in Stradey Park. We were like drowned rats in horrendous conditions, hail and rain of epic proportions, but watching the Munster pack drive over after 30 phases was truly magnificent.

5. You're given a blank cheque to sign any player in the world. Who would it be?

Despite the fact that he is 34, I'd pick Alun Wyn Jones. He is in the form of his life and his work ethic and physicality is breathtaking. He is full of passion and is also a very humane and kind individual. He would fit right in with the Munster ethos.

6. Earliest rugby memory?

There was no rugby played where I grew up in Ardagh in West Limerick, so my early memories would have been watching the interprovincials and Ireland matches on the telly. I was hooked from the off.

7. Where do you sit or stand in Thomond Park?

I'm a season ticket holder and sit in the West Stand. I live in Wicklow and because I don't drive, travel by public transport, bus and train to all the matches.

8. Which overseas player that represented the province is or was your favourite?

Dougie Howlett. It was a joy to watch this rugby genius from the All Blacks team who seamlessly fitted in with the team and the supporters.

9. What is your favourite away ground?

Kingsholm, home of Gloucester rugby, especially 'The Shed', which we took over the last time we played them over there.

10. What player from another Irish province do you admire?

Connacht's Jack Carty is a favourite of mine, this wonderful out-half has been playing the rugby of his life especially in the last season.

11. What is your favourite Munster jersey and what does it remind you of?

I love all of my Munster jerseys. They remind me of Munster's passion, honour, integrity, family, 'Stand Up and Fight' on nights in Thomond Park, the madness at away matches, like the mad sing-song in a small pub in Newport, Wales. They're a symbol of the craic, the love, the tears of sorrow and of joy, my Munster obsession, the wearing of my Munster gear in my Dublin-based workplace, converting friends and colleagues from their own native provinces to supporting Munster.

12. What team in any other sport other than Munster Rugby do you follow?

Limerick hurling. Our 45-year wait for the MacCarthy Cup was finally over in 2018 and lifted the entire county and probably a lot of Ireland also.

13. What game in Munster's history would you love to go back to and attend?

The Miracle Match, Munster v Gloucester. We had to win by a minimum of four tries and 27 points and by God did they achieve that. I could watch that match a thousand more times and never get tired of it.

14. You have one wish for Munster this season. What is it?

Like many Munster supporters, I would love to see us win the Heineken Cup. 2006 and '08 were magical and never to be forgotten finals, so more of the same please for the coming season.

15. Invite three Munster players past or present to dinner. Who would you bring?

Ronan O'Gara is top of my list, Munster legend and a thoroughly entertaining guy too.

Donncha O'Callaghan would bring any party to life and epitomises the Munster ethos.

Rua Tipoki struck a chord with me when he played with us. Hugely passionate both on and off the field.

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