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Homeward Bound

3rd August 2007 By Munster Rugby

The picture above shows the surprise on Christian Cullen’s face when he saw the hundreds who had gathered in Cork Airport when he first arrived in November 2003.

The picture above shows the surprise on Christian Cullen’s face when he saw the hundreds who had gathered in Cork Airport when he first arrived in November 2003.

And earlier today, one of rugby’s true legends slipped quietly into the departure area at Cork Airport to begin the long journey back to his native New Zealand.

Unlike 2003, there were no adoring fans, no clutch of Munster officials, the unassuming Cullen and long time partner Mandy Fawcett able to move through a quiet Cork Airport unhindered, looking for all the world like just another young pair heading off on holiday. The mid-day flight took the pair to Heathrow where they boarded an Air New Zealand mid afternoon flight for Los Angeles and from there to Auckland on the north island, then on to Wellington.

Reputations don’t guarantee you anything in the Munster camp but Cullen’s commitment and professionalism quickly earned him the respect of the squad with his Cork based Strength & Conditioning coach Aiden O’Connell saying,  "He would have to be one of the most professional athletes I have ever worked with.

"Obviously he had a lot of injuries. But he worked so hard to get back. His attention to detail in his rehab was just unbelievable.  I mean most guys would have thrown their hat at it if they’d the run of injuries he did. But his passion for rugby was phenomenal. He always just wanted to get right again and get back playing ‘footy’ as he called it.

"An incredible guy really.  A great bloke to work with. Lovely fella,"  said O’Connell thoughtfully, "Thorough gentleman."

Nor is there anyone in the Munster camp who doubted for one second Cullen’s absolute and 100% commitment to the Munster cause. Trevor Halstead perhaps summing up it up at one of of the final training sessions of the season.

It was a Thursday. The session was in Garryowen and Halstead was an onlooker, his season and career already over thanks to a knee injury. His presence in Limerick to attend a player/management meal after training

Earlier that week Munster had announced a 28 strong squad and Cullen hadn’t been included. As Halstead watched Munster – and Cullen – train under the hot sun an enquiry if he regretted not been out on the pitch brought a quick laugh and a "Not for one ****ing second." response.

"But," he continued, "I’m looking at the Cully man. Looking at him flogging himself. And he’s not even in the squad for the weekend.

" I tell you this. If that was me. If I wasn’t in the squad. I wouldn’t be within miles of this place. No, this morning I’d have had the old hammy problem. But he just keeps going, no matter what.

"See that’s what makes him what he is. A ****ing legend. Just awesome.

 

 

 

 

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