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.