A while back I made some foolish comments along the lines of Munster not being one of the truly great teams in Europe. I then promised that if Munster managed to win the Heineken Cup again I would have to eat my words and write an article explaining why they are so good. I was supposed to have written this article already but I am nursing a bit of a hangover after the weekend. A fellow poster on these message boards (Munsterbythegraceofgod) has since reminded me of my stupid remarks and asked for me to keep my word. It is only fair that I retract my previous comments which may have been the result of:
1 Being argumentative for the sake of it
2 Delusions of being real knowledgable about rugby
3 A lucid imagination
4 Alcohol intoxication
5 Temporary Insanity
Munster are an Elite European team in every sense. From the increadible spirit, competitiveness and desire to win shown by their often heroic players to the amazing passionate support of their many fans. I guess the main criteria for being an elite team would be:
1 Excellent players: the likes of Ronan O'Gara, Doug Howlett and Paul O'Connell are undoubtably world class performers. Not only in terms of the skill levels shown but the natural spirit, fight and determination to win which they possess. The rest of Munster's players are also quality. Players like Quinlan and O'Callaghan are often unsung heroes who give everything for their team. Also the new players who come into the side step up and make sure that they play with a passion and skill level which honours the famous red shirt. The likes of Dowling, Tipoki and Mafi have been excellent this year. Success breeds success and when you have an organised winning environment you know that the new players blooded into the side will be ready and will generally excell. Buckley should be the next player to do this. Even players like Warwick and Mick O'Driscoll are quality and will always do a good job for their team.
2 A great coach: Declan Kidney is obviously a winner and has certainly got the best out of his team over the years. Munster's record in the Heineken Cup is almost unparralled. They have also got over the earlier dissappointment of losing finals and have come back stronger. He will be hard to replace but should make the Irish national team more of a force if he can bring greater unity.
3 Fantastic support: the atmosphere in Cardiff on the weekend was brilliant. The stadium was a sea of red and the singing was non-stop. There were Munster fans everywhere and everyone had a red shirt on. It was like an international game in Cardiff. It was crazy. I wondered to myself whether there were more Munster fans than fans of the respective four Welsh regional teams combined. The fans I met were also great, very nice people having a great time and a credit to their country.
4 Trophies: Every great team in whatever sport has to have won trophies. Munster have become champions of Europe twice now winning against some quality opposition. They deserve their success and are worthy champions. You cannot argue that the Heineken Cup is easy to win. Their record in the competition is exceptional.
5 Great stadium: They will have a great modern stadium in the near future and it should be even more raucous and a difficult place to win at for opposition teams.
I could write even more reasons why Munster are an elite team but I am too tired. Consider the humble pie or my hat or whatever duly eaten and this article an apology for my foolish comments! Well done to Munster the worthy kings of Europe and I am glad they won because it clearly means so much to some brilliant fans.