I found myself in Thomond Park on Saturday last for Munster vs Glasgow in round 2 of The Champions Cup. It was also a chance for the whole of Munster to say goodbye to Anthony Foley in the perfect way. They were comfortable 38-17 winners with a performance that “Axel” would have been proud of.
The performance was full of pride , passion , hunger and desire , it also had three key ingredients that have been missing and they were Boot , Bite and Bollock. Munster were led from the front by skipper Peter O Mahony , CJ Stander and Tyler Bleyendaal who is now beginning to show the quality that Rob Penney saw in him to sign him on a three year deal while in charge at Munster.
The day was littered with tributes to “Axel” with supporters spelling out his nickname just before kick-off while the MRSC Supporters Club Choir along with Sinead O Brien belted out There is an Isle , The Fields Of Athenry and Stand Up and Fight before kick-off arrived.
Munster started the game at a frantic pace and Glasgow couldn’t live with the pace at which Munster were doing everything. They were the first to each break down and the scrum was rock solid with John Ryan putting his hand up for national selection with such a composed performance. He had huge help from Niall Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne. Donnacha Ryan rediscovered the old spark and hard edge that saw him stand out at times alongside Paul O Connell and other second row partners.
This was a day when the new Munster under Rassie Erasmus met the old Munster that Anthony Foley helped create. The performance on Saturday both on the field and in the stands was something very special and I just hope last Saturday is the lightbulb moment for all involved with Munster and the manner of the win can galvanise Munster for the rest of the year starting next weekend against Ulster.
The crowd on Saturday can be extremely proud of the part they played and as Gregor Townsend eluded to afterward it felt like they were playing 16 men with the passion and sometimes anger with which the support got behind Munster.
Let’s hope that any team that plays Munster in the coming months gets the same reception in Thomond Park and in Irish Independent Park and Munster can rediscover the fire and passion that made them so successful throughout the noughties.
To see the players and Anthony’s two boys Tony and Dan come together for a special rendition of Stand Up and Fight in the middle of the field was very special and I think it also sealed the reconnection between pitch and stand and long may it continue into the future….. God Bless and Sleep well Axel…
Cian Mc Gibney