THE BA­SICS

Rugby World - - WELCOME TO MY CLUB -

OME YEARS ago now, my friends and I were in a taxi tear­ing through the Lim­er­ick night. Our driver, a chatty, red-faced fella, was talk­ing about how close-knit his com­mu­nity was. “Hey, I even pick up and drop off Paul O’Con­nell all the time,” he bragged.

Hold on. We stopped yam­mer­ing to pick up the name he had just dropped. Then we pleaded. We lib­er­ally sprin­kled our next ques­tions with “please”. We asked to see where he lived – was it nice? Over­whelmed and per­haps a lit­tle con­fused by us, the driver blurted:

“Oh, you can’t wake the Big Man!”

It was an in­ci­dent I had thought lit­tle about un­til, on the day that Mun­ster host Glas­gow in the Guin­ness Pro14, some of their hardy sup­port­ers cheer­ily in­volve us in a chat about their ‘fam­ily’ from their patch on the West Terrace – and be­lieve me, cap­i­tals are needed for this ti­tle – at Thomond Park.

Stand­ing at the rail are Imelda O’Grady, Joan O’Dwyer and Paschal Sage. Just

Ssec­onds ago they were talk­ing to a few in­jured and un­in­volved play­ers as if they were old chums. Now they ex­plain to us why that is pos­si­ble.

“The lads fin­ish the match, they wait at the cen­tre of the pitch and they al­ways come over to us,” says an an­i­mated O’Grady. “They are all giv­ing back to the fans. They are clap­ping us just as much as we are clap­ping them.

“We are here all the time. As soon as the gates open to the ground. An hour and a half, two hours be­fore the match.”

O’Dwyer jumps in: “And we know ev­ery­body here, in ev­ery po­si­tion on the terrace, from here right along to over there. We know them per­son­ally.

“And we’re all from dif­fer­ent parts. We’re from Cork. There’s Lim­er­ick, Paschal is from Shan­non, and nor­mally we have two from Water­ford. Then there’s Kerry, East Clare… some sup­port­ers even come from Dublin!”

The wee group here are mem­bers of the sup­port­ers’ club, which they say is around 12,000 strong. Sage

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Dive pass Keith Earls With match mas­cots Skip­per Peter O’Ma­hony Man of the Match Nine Alby Mathew­sonLim­er­ick or Cork. For­get the five-line poem or stop­per in your bot­tle. We were in Lim­er­ick, the fourth-largest city on the is­land.It’s all the rage in red round here. Shirts, shorts, socks – the lot. But they have been known to rock a moody, grey­ish-blue-y or sky-blue al­ter­na­tive kit.Thomond is at­mo­spheric but they play at Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent Park in Cork too. Ei­ther way, fans singPaul O’Con­nell, Ro­nan O’Gara, An­thony Fo­ley – there are loads from the pro era be­fore we even look back.

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