The 30th anniversary of one of Irish rugby’s greatest achievements, Munster’s defeat of the All Blacks, will be remembered when New Zealand return to Limerick’s Thomond Park on Tuesday for a match against the province.
Rugby 365 reports that Irish rugby had been engaging in fond reminiscence since the date was arranged until last week when a pall of tragedy was cast over the country’s rugby capital following the murder of a player from one of the city’s bedrock clubs, Garryowen.
Shane Geoghegan, 28, became an innocent victim of the drug and gang feuds which have blighted Limerick for over a decade when he was shot dead in a case of mistaken identity just over a week before Tuesday’s game.
Geoghegan was not famous – he propped for Garryowen’s third XV. But it says much about Limerick’s rugby obsession that the city was gripped by shock and deep sadness after a contract hitman mistook him for a gang adversary.
Ireland’s rugby community rowed in behind the city as tens of thousands signed condolences online or in person.
Thousands more turned out for his funeral. Meanwhile a minute’s silence was observed before New Zealand’s 22-3 defeat of Ireland in Dublin at the weekend and another will be held on Tuesday.
All Black legend Jonah Lomu, travelling to Limerick to turn on the Christmas lights, said: “The whole rugby community is mourning Shane and there will be enormous emotion when the teams take to the field.”
Several of the current Munster team and backroom staff are New Zealanders including former All Black wing Doug Howlett.
The fact New Zealand, who are in the midst of a ‘Grand Slam’ tour which sees them in Test action once more against Wales this coming Saturday, will field their second XV will not make life easier for two-time European Cup champions and holders Munster.
They will be minus seven of their eight first-choice forwards, all tied up with Ireland’s home November series which next sees Argentina at Croke Park this weekend.
But alongside Howlett in the backs, fellow Kiwis Rua Tipoki, Lefeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning, expected to start at outside-half in place of Ireland stalwart Ronan O’Gara, give the team potency.
Howlett, is realistic about the challenge and mindful of the history of game which was the subject of two successful books and a hugely popular stage play, ‘Alone it Stands’.
“We are certainly depleted with the internationals not being in the team. But we will work with what we have got,” he said.
“It’s one of those one-off occasions that will never come around again. It’s always been in the back of my head since I came to Ireland – the possibility of playing the All Blacks.
“You look at the history of the All Blacks and there is that blemish that cropping up,” New Zealand’s all-time leading try-scorer added.
Munster won 12-0 on October 31 1978 against a near full-strength New Zealand team in one of the most sensational defeats in All Black history.
The tourists had turned up in Limerick for a breather from another tour de force against the Home Nations (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales). Among those on the All Black team that day was Bryan Williams.
“Looking back we were very complacent [and] we certainly paid the price,” the wing great told Ireland’s Sunday Tribune.
“It became apparent pretty early on that Munster were really fired up. And they weren’t going to take any prisoners. The longer the game went on, the worse we became. They realised they were in with a shot and we were struggling to pull ourselves together.”
A try by uncapped student Christy Cantillon, together with a conversion and two drop-goals by Tony Ward, who is not actually a Munster man, secured an astonishing victory.
The site of Irish rugby’s only success against New Zealand in 103 years of trying has changed greatly during the past three decades and the All Blacks’ arrival marks the opening of the redeveloped stadium.
Irrespective of the result Tuesday, the game will be added to Munster rugby lore but it will be hard to recall without also remembering the tragedy of Geoghegan’s death.
Prediction: If it was a full-strength Munster side, we may have been tempted to predict a romantic outcome. However, for all their endeavour – and some very classy players as well – the Munstermen simply don’t have the resources to deal with the tourists – even though it is New Zealand’s back-up squad. We predict an All Black win, but not before they get an almighty scare and sneak it by about 10 points.
Munster: 15 Doug Howlett, 14 Barry Murphy, 13 Rua Tipoki, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Ian Dowling, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 James Coughlan, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mick O’Driscoll (captain), 3 Timmy Ryan, 2 Frankie Sheahan, 1 Federico Pucciariello,
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Mark Melbourne, 19 Billy Holland, 20 John O’Sullivan, 21 Mike Prendergast, 22 Jeremy Manning.
New Zealand: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Piri Weepu (captain), 8 Liam Messam, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliott, 17 John Afoa, 18 Brad Thorn, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Richard Kahui, 22 Mils Muliaina.
Date: Tuesday, November 18
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 19.30 (19.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Touch judges: Christophe Berdos, Cédric Marchat
TMO: Eric Gauzins
Picture courtesy of Munster Rugby.Tweet