Tag Archives: heineken cup

Heineken Cup 2009 – Draw

The draw was made this morning for the Pool Stages of the Heineken Cup 2009. This was the first draw to be made using the new ERC ranking system. Having won the Heineken Cup twice in the last 3 years, Munster were ranked number 1. The Pools are:

Pool 1

Munster, Sale, Clermont, Montauban.

Pool 2

Wasps, Leinster, Castres, Edinburgh.

Pool 3

Leicester, Perpignon, Ospreys, Benneton Treviso.

Pool 4

Stade Francis, Llanelli, Ulster, Harlequins.

Pool 5

Toulouse, Bath, Newport, Glasgow.

Pool 6

Biarritz, Gloucester, Cardiff, Calvisano.

The first round of games kick off on the weekend of the 10th October 2008.

Munster have a tough group. There’s no doubt that the away matches to Sale and Clermont will be prove to be both very difficult and very important to our qualification hopes, but the away match to Montauban could be a bit of a banana skin.

Playing any French side in France is tough, but so is playing against a team that you know so very little about. Montauban finished 7th in their first year in the Top 14. That’s not bad. What’s even more remarkable is that they were the first team to beat Stade Francais that season.

Back from Cardiff

After the Final Whistle

I’m back from what has been the best weekend of my life. Munster won the Heineken Cup, and I can say that I was there.

It’s difficult to put into words how amazing the entire weekend was. It started off at 5am on a cold Friday morning and ended at 11pm Sunday night. In between there were bouts of nervousness, awe, joy, anxiety, relief and tiredness. But in the end, this weekend will be remembered for the camaraderie, and the sheer joy of seeing Paul O’Connell lift the Heineken Cup.

I’ll never forget my first view of the inside of the Millennium Stadium. I was awe struck by the size, the noise and the vast sea of red. Thinking back, it still sends a shiver down my spine.

After the lap of honour was completed came the most bitter-sweet image of the day. Declan Kidney approached the fans holding the Cup with Paul O’Connell. He clapped the fans, took a bow and walked back to the rest of the team. The roar from the crowd was unnatural. It reverberated around the stadium and hit me full in the chest. It suddenly dawned on me that this was his goodbye to the Munster Faithful.

Joy tinged with sadness is the most poignant emotion of them all.

The next time the Men in Red run out on to the field, there’ll be no Declan Kidney, Jim Williams or Anthony Foley. The Munster team will continue, and with the current crop of players, there’s certainly more Heineken Cups to be won, but we’ll be without those men that have gone so far to make Munster Rugby what it is.

Cardiff, Here We Come

With the confidence that comes from being a Munster supporter, we booked our trip back in January. So there’s no last minute searching for match tickets or accommodation. Just pack the bags and we’re ready to go.

Munster vs Toulouse – the dream final. Will the dream continue for Munster? Hard to say. Toulouse have an unbelievable Heineken Cup record. But then again so do Munster. We may not have won it as many times, but this is our fourth final, and we have the experience of being here and done that.

The core of the team is the same as that in 2006, but with the added benefit of a much better back line. Mafi, Tipoki, Howlett. These names are enough to strike fear into any team. Then add in the likes of Paul O’Connell, Anthony Foley, Ronan O’Gara, Dennis Leamy, Jerry Flannery. Toulouse will recognise that the Munster squad displays quality in every position.

On the other hand, Toulouse can bring players like Elissalde, Heymans, Pelous, Albacete. All giants of the game.

So it’s not going to be easy, but it is going to be a titanic battle, there is no doubt about that.

After all of that though, I think there are three things that will push the match Munster’s way: 60,000+ Munster supporters, Declan Kidney leaves Munster to take over as Ireland coach, and Anthony Foley plays the last game of his career in a Heineken Cup Final. Sport doesn’t get much more romantic than that. What more could you want?

I can’t wait.

Munster all the way.

Heading for Cardiff

It may be a bit premature considering that Munster still have to get past Gloucester and then either Saracens or Ospreys, but I’ve booked my trip to Cardiff for the Heineken Cup Final at the end of May.

The quarter-final against Gloucester is going to be a much tougher game than most people believe – beating Gloucester and winning through to the semi-final will be harder than getting to the final. Though there are no easy games at this stage of the Heineken Cup, I prefer our chances against either Saracens or Ospreys.

No matter what happens next April/ May, I’ll still be in Cardiff come the 24th May. I’ll be much happier if Munster are there too.

As a post-script, this will be my first ever foreign “holiday”. In this age of cheap air fares, most of my friends find it amazing that I’ve made it to the age of 31 without leaving the country.

Munster Do The Job

OK, I know this is a bit late, but I’ve been slightly sick. Granted it was self inflicted, but nonetheless I was incapable of stringing two coherent words together.

The Men in Red pulled off another classic Munster Heineken Cup performance to soundly beat Wasps and top their group. Clinical, poised, confident, and completely in control throughout the game, Munster never seemed to be under as much pressure as they were against Clermont.

Donnacha O’Callaghan, Ronan O’Gara, and Mick O’Driscoll were just three players who were at the vanguard of a team performance that was every bit of what the fans had hoped for, but hardly dared dream of.

This wasn’t a match that can be described as a chronological series of events, but more a collection of memories:

Donnacha stealing ball after ball in the lineout, making Ibanez look like a part-time amateur in the process. Ronan kicking like a man possessed, despite being under extreme pressure from the Wasps line. David Wallace’s legs pumping like pistons, head down, hitting the opposition defence and drawing in two, three, sometimes four defenders. Doug Howlett following a Garryowen, lining up Doherty, Doherty catches well, Dougie has the head down, tackles low and drives Doherty back, Doherty looks a bit shook, he won’t be doing that again in a hurry. Dennis Leamy is sin-binned, bloody ref. Shaw is sin-binned, fair is fair ref. Dallaglio is sin-binned, great man that ref. Ronan shows the ball to the Wasps line, sorry lads, the pass isn’t going there, it’s going here instead, Leamy is on the end of it, over the line, Thomond Park erupts and that’s it, Wasps now know what we’ve known for the last hour, Munster are top of the group and Wasps are out. Cheerio lads, and thanks for the game.

And that was it. Donnacha gets Man of the Match, but any one of half a dozen players could have taken that accolade. Wait until Sunday to hear the quarter final draw – Gloucester away, not the best draw, but not the worst either. For the first time, the fact that we don’t have a home draw in the quarter final doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. Granted life would probably be much easier if we were at home, but with the quality of the performance this year, there’s a bit of confidence around Limerick.

Bock was at the match and he has a few pictures up, and there’s a video and more pictures courtesy of Limerick Blogger.

Munster Passion Saves the Day

In what can only be described as a match of two halves, Munster came from 20 – 6 down at half time to finish with a well deserved losing bonus point.

In a first half that was littered with defensive mistakes, Munster were under pressure right from the kick off. Clermont spent much of the half camped in the Munster half, and showed some real class and flair to score two converted tries and two penalties, to two penalties from the boot of Ronan O’Gara.

For much of the half, the Munster pack were nowhere to be found, leaving the ball carrier exposed and isolated at ruck time. With O’Gara failing to find touch, the Munster defence were sorely tested with the inevitable first try coming from Mignoni. Who ducked under the Munster to line to snatch a well earned try. Clermont were on the scoreboard again with another try, this time Ledesma was man at the end of the Clermont move.

Munster came out after to break a different team and took the game to Clermont. From the kick off, this was a different team and the forwards started to make a difference, winning some vital turnover ball. Munster had a try disallowed for crossing in the build up, but despite this setback, Munster persevered and Mafi scored a fabulous try to bring Munster back into contention. Clermont were limited to just two penalties in the entire half, both slotted home by James Brock. With two more penalties from O’Gara that brought Munster within 7 points and they left Clermont with a well deserved bonus point.

Throughout the second half Munster showed the pride and passion that has made them one of the most consistent teams in the Heineken Cup. Jerry Flannery was immense throughout the game, and had Munster went on to win this game, he would undoubtedly have been the man of the match. Dougie Howlett also had a great game despite the fact that he was making his Munster debut and hasn’t played competitively since last September. Alan Quinlan came of for Anthony Foley in the second half and almost made an immediate difference, as did Tony Buckley when he replaced John Hayes in the front row of the scrum.

Munster’s next game is against Wasps at Thomond Park next Saturday. With Clermont expected to take a bonus point victory against Llanelli Scarlets, this is a must win game for Munster. A bonus point win would assure them of top place in the group. If they don’t take the bonus point win they must beat Wasps by more than 7 points to deny the English club a losing bonus point. Doing so would also guarantee top spot due to their 36 – 13 victory over Clermont in Thomond Park in November last year.