Well, that was a great weekend for Irish rugby, with Munster, Ulster and Leinster all winning and all safely installed in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, and the first two having home advantage there: only the second time that three Irish provinces have got out of their groups, the first having been 2012 – too late for Sean. Best of all is that Munster are playing really well.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Heineken Cup in our household from around 2002, when Sean first took a serious interest, onwards. Pauline and Susanna bought into it; for me it was very important and for Sean it was virtually a matter of life and death. He was a huge Munster fan; he also loved Leinster. Ulster never managed to get out of their group during the period of his fandom, and did not share in his adulation. (He actually died on a Heineken Cup weekend – after Munster and Leinster won, and before Ulster lost.) Continue reading
It’s been a great weekend for Irish rugby, starting with Connacht’s first Heineken Cup victory, 9–8 against English high-fliers Harlequins on Friday night. Yesterday Pauline and I watched the Leinster–Montpelier match in a pub in Virginia, and the Northampton–Munster match in our local.
Leinster comfortably beat Montpelier 25–3 to finish their group unbeaten, but we had no way of knowing what would follow – one of those stunning, gargantuan performances that Munster have produced regularly over the years, ever since they beat Toulouse 31–25, away, in the 2000 semi-final (clips from that match below).
To play Northampton (beaten finalists last year) away and score 51 points despite being crucified in the scrums was simply amazing, and the emergence of O’Mahony and Zebo this season augurs well for the future. This game summed up why Sean loved Munster so deeply. Continue reading
Song no. 12 … this one is a bit different. Please click here to listen: Hey Sean
Hey Sean – are you going out tonight?
Don’t know yet – if somebody calls me then I might
Hey Sean – have you heard the Arsenal score?
Not since half-time – go on then, tell me more
Hey Sean – will you go and light the fire?
I’ll cook dinner and your mum might bake a pie
Later on there’s a movie that could be good
If you’re staying in and we’re feeling in the mood
Hey Sean – now Arsenal have gone behind
Yes, it’s typical – they’re too soft, but never mind
Let’s go out on the lawn and kick the ball
Take it easy, and try not to damage my wall Continue reading
Pauline took this photo of Sean. Looking at it reminds me of picking him up when he was that size. He was always heavier than he looked – solid and well-built. You could easily put your back out if you weren’t careful.
Today is the biggest day in club rugby since Sean died, with Leinster playing Toulouse in the Heineken Cup semi-finals and Munster playing Harlequins in the Amlin Cup semis. The Amlin Cup is a poor second-best for Sean’s beloved Munster, but we would still have watched them and cheered for them, of course. Toulouse are the one team in Europe that we always feared, and we would have been nervous for Leinster, though happy that they have an excellent team and, with home advantage, every chance of making it to the final.
It’s going to be an exciting afternoon. We miss you, Sean.
Munster have a vital Heineken Cup match away to Toulon – one of the big, super-rich French clubs – on 16 January. They have lost two group matches already; a third defeat would almost certainly mean their failure to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1998.
As I have documented on this blog, the last full day of Sean’s life, 16 October, was partly spent watching rugby with me, and it was a happy day as Munster – the love of his rugby life – thrashed Toulon in Limerick.
I emailed Munster Rugby to tell them a bit about Sean. I talked about his devotion to the Munster team over the past eight years or so, and how he would have been desperately disappointed if they failed to reach the quarter-finals. Continue reading
As I have mentioned, Sean loved the Munster rugby team with a passion. He understood instinctively what they represented and embodied. When he was 12 or so, before a particularly difficult match, he said to me ‘I believe in Munster’.
Munster repaid this belief by qualifying for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals 12 times in a row, reaching the semi-finals and final numerous times and winning the competition twice, despite being pitted against French and English clubs with far greater resources and bigger names.
Very often Munster were drawn in the same group as the form English team of the time. In several seasons they played the away match first, and lost. The English team in question would then come to Limerick confidently expecting to emerge victorious and end Munster’s great home record. Instead, they would be thoroughly smashed. Continue reading