By Ken Gitzgerald, Rugby World reader
Write them off at your peril
There’s something in the water in Munster. Like Leicester and Toulouse they simply believe. They are a province steeped in a proud rugby tradition. They have beaten the All Blacks, the Wallabies and South Africa on Munster soil.
They are unique in that they hail from two base camps in Cork and Limerick although Thomand Park (Limerick) is their HQ and spiritual home they play some games in Musgrave Park in Cork for the Magners league. It was a mark of their resolve that this team could dig deep and produce the performance and result they did at the Stade Aime Giral on Sunday.
If I cast my mind back to the Heineken Cup Quarter finals in Thomand Park last April on that Sunday that will now forever be associated with blood capsules and cheats in the game that followed theirs. Their hammering of the Ospreys was so clinical and professional that I believed they had created a gap between where they were in European Rugby and where everybody else was. The following week it was announced they had 9 Munster men traveling with the lions to South Africa. The expectation on them from themselves their own media machine and their hordes of fans to destroy Leinster in Croke Park was enormous.
After Lansdowne road in 2006 everyone wrote Leinster off including I’m ashamed to say this blogger. Sometimes games like life can change on a single moment. I’m a believer in what the New Zealand commentator Murray Mexted referred to as the ebb and flow of psychic energy in games. When Ian Dowling was unceremoniously dumped by Rocky Elsom in a try saving tackle that game turned. That day Leinster turned up and beat up Munster and turned them over time and again at the break down and gave them a hiding in front of a world record club crowd. That defeat rocked Munster. In October in the rematch in the Magners League Leinster destroyed them again 30-0. People had started to write them off. One rugby personality in Ireland said he’d eat his tie if they beat Perpignan on Sunday. Maybe Munster’s biggest Achilles heel is the weight of an inflated provinces expectations and it’s the reason they will never do back to back Heineken Cup victories. They love to be the underdog and thrive on media scepticism. They are getting older and McGahan needs to bring some young blood into his pack but they got an away win in France. Write them off at your peril. Don’t be surprised to see them lift the Heineken Cup in Paris next May.