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The Sound of Silence

30th May 2008 By Munster Rugby

Can you hear the silence? They’ve stopped, you know. Who? The begrudgers, of course.

Can you hear the silence? They’ve stopped, you know. Who? The begrudgers, of course.

The bitter ones who were unable to grasp the magnitude of Munster closing out those memorable 15 minutes of last Saturday’s epic Heineken Cup victory over Toulouse on another emotional Cardiff day.

Have you ever heard the like of it in your life? Instead of lauding Paul O’Connell’s heroics and praising all concerned to the hilt the bile came gushing out in torrents. From certain Toulouse quarters and sections of the UK media the criticism was flung at Munster’s marvels. Talk about peeing on your parade!

You wouldn’t mind if the bitterness was justified. This time, though, the whole episode smacked of just one thing…jealousy. The British press simply couldn’t understand why none of their own made it to the big day and were therefore unable to wallow in it.

These guys have short memories. How did England win the World Cup in Australia in 2003? Exactly.

And that in itself shows their hypocrisy and desperation because Martin Johnson’s side captured the Webb Ellis trophy with the same philosophy which O’Connell managed to coax his side over the line. Here, in Munster, we’ll just get on with every day life, content on supporting the best team in Europe and replaying that last quarter-of-an-hour over and over again in our minds.

How did Munster do it? It’s actually quite simple, really. You play to your strengths, in this case the Munster forwards retained possession of the football (as Eddie might say) and ran down the clock, frustrating Toulouse’s attempts in the process.

What’s required? Clear thinking, clean hands, discipline and the belief that it is the most appropriate way to close out a cup final and get your hands on the silverware. Sure it’s happened lots of times in the past. Think Shannon in the 1970s and 1980s, when they were murdering teams 6-3 in Munster cup finals.

Do you think the ball went beyond the back-row? Not on your life. You see it’s about appreciating what you’ve got, playing with a lot of smarts and not playing into the hands of the opposition.

If it’s entertainment you want there’s always the Opera House!

Those blessed with long memories will recall the Munster Schools Senior Cup final in 1991, when PBC, Cork, took on Rockwell College at Musgrave Park. It was a foul day. The rain bucketed from the skies and turned the pitch into a quagmire long before the start.

Worse still a near gale blew straight down the middle to the Dolphin end making constructive play almost impossible. It was always going to be the survival of the fittest. And the wingers weren’t the only ones concerned about hypothermia!

Pres played with the wind at their backs in the first-half and managed to score once, a try in the right corner if I’m not mistaken, but I stand corrected.

What’s more relevant was the manner in which they defended their slender lead on the resumption. For 35 and more minutes the Pres pack simply did what O’Connell and company repeated in Cardiff, picking and driving, content to make ground by the inch, but most pertinent of all, keeping hold of the ball.

They went through a succession of scrums, adding to Rockwell’s inevitable frustration at being unable to get their hands on the leather.

And on and on it went until eventually the whistle blew for the last time. Pres had won the senior cup for the 21st time.

By the way, their coach was Declan Kidney!

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