I stood in our City View Suite in Limerick Strand Hotel observing the breathtaking panoramic views of the city. To my left it stood, distending from the skyline of the city, the home of Munster rugby..Thomond Park Stadium. I had been given the opportunity to experience the boys in red playing in their home grounds and my excitement was starting to prevail!!!
It was St Stephens Day and Munster were welcoming Leinster to Thomond Park for what was promising to be a Christmas cracker of a game. The top two teams in the Guinness PRO12 were to battle it out in front of the largest crowd to attend a league fixture in Thomond.
The hotel was starting to come alive with fans coming in to avail of our Prematch buffet in our River restaurant, have a tipple at The Terrace bar or experience our Pig on a spit or Hot Whiskey offerings available in the lobby area of the hotel. In every corner discussions were taking place about team fitness, strategies and potential outcomes which may arise from todays fixture…everyone was suddenly an expert on the game of rugby!Leinster fans were delighted to get a quick glimpse of their heroes while they formed what appeared to be an unorchasterated guard of honour for them as they left the hotel for Thomond Park.
That was my cue to don my Munster attire and head for Thomond Park Stadium. The walk to the stadium from the hotel while short was filled full of fans with huge expectations for the game ahead. Along my way I encountered individuals discussing how fortunate they were to acquire tickets for a game that sold out in record time and how the December fixture had become part of their annual festive activities. There were also opportunities along the way to purchase your last minute Hats, Scarves and Teddies in your team colours.
On reaching the Stadium I entered via Turnstile T2 and took my seat in the East Stand. What a perfect view of the stadium just short of the 22 line. After the pre match entertainment the teams took to the pitch alongside their referee for the evening Nigel Owens. And then the game commenced. Munster dominated the start of the game but Leinster managed to score the first try and conversion after 16 minutes. Munster scored the second try and conversion followed by a penalty to bring the score to 10-7 in Munster’s favour. The atmosphere was electric with fans from both sides trying to drown out each other’s chants. The players were magnificent taking hit after hit from the opposing team, getting to their feet and facing them once more. Each player determined to play their heart out for their team and province. Munster leads at the break 14 – 10. The second half was as intense as the first with Munster dominating. The home side pummelled Leinster and marched them back at a rate of knots. At the final whistle Munster recorded a 29-17 victory over the visitors while also recording an undefeated 2016 campaign in Thomond Park.
What an experience! The fans left in an orderly manner recounting various facets of the game, moments that stood out for them and how they may have done things differently. I felt part of a large family as the sea of fans made their way back to their cars or to their watering hole of choice. I arrived back at The Strand where people had congregated to experience the post match buffet and continue the analysis of what was a great exhibition of rugby by both teams in a Stadium which is internationally renowned for its unique history and atmosphere. I was now part of the Munster Rugby family what a special feeling that was! I cannot wait for my next day out in Thomond Park. Imelda 🙂