Olivia McGrath Kudzmaite, Dungarvan, in fine vocal voice ahead of Saturday\'s big game in Cardiff. Photo: Dan McGrath

Olivia McGrath Kudzmaite, Dungarvan, in fine vocal voice ahead of Saturday's big game in Cardiff. Photo: Dan McGrath

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The name of the singer escaped me as the music started at far too early an hour a few miles off the Wexford coast on Saturday morning.

And, given the laws of libel that doth govern this isle, it’s probably just as well.  

Performing a jazz and Irish trad hybrid, the all-too enthusiastic performer’s range extended from ‘Dirty Old Town’ to ‘Just Help Yourself,’ which I duly did by moving to a quieter part of the Wales-bound vessel.

In saying that, he was surely easier on the ear than those who ‘graced’ the Belgrade stage in that night’s Eurovision, which 60,000 Munster fans were gladly spared of by being in Cardiff.

Alas, after a Friday night of little sleep for fear I’d miss my dawn alarm, I upped sticks from my maritime perch and sought calmer surrounds.

There were Munster bodies slumbered in most nooks and crannies observed aboard the pleasantly smooth ferry crossing.

There was a mood of quiet, understated confidence amongst the travelling ranks, many with heads dipped in newspapers and others preparing to climb into beer bottles for the day.

That morning, car registrations of all descriptions surrounded my own when taking an orderly place in the queue at Rosslare Europort.

They’d come from Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Meath, Dublin, Sligo and Louth to see this match; the province’s appeal famously extending well beyond An Daingean to the west and Roscrea to the north.

Provincial flags on non-Munster soil flew proudly in Slieverue and at numerous public houses en route from Waterford to Wexford.

Several GAA clubs had erected ‘good luck’ signs down Wexford way, the anticipation of what lay ahead growing considerably as the port drew nearer.

Near the port, a ‘Munster car wash’ was on offer to anyone who felt their body (car body, that is) needed a good scrubbing before venturing forth across George’s Channel.

Quite what made it a Munster wash escaped me. Was Ginger McLoughlin on hand with a bucket and sponge? Maybe Tony Ward was alloy-shiner in chief? Perhaps the wash was composed completely of sweat eked from a jersey worn by Peter Clohessy?

By not availing of the service, The Munster Express shall now never be in a position to satisfy that particular curiosity.

After an uneventful drive across South Wales, Cardiff was reached in time aplenty. The city was awash in red again and the atmosphere about the place was as jovial as it tends to be on big rugby days in these parts.

Small pockets of Toulouse fans mingled with the masses of Munster supporters, some of whom posed for photographs with the typically relaxed local constabulary.

Plenty of hooch was had long into the night after Munster’s three-point victory, but the mood in this friendly spot was no different than it has been on other big rugby occasions. Cardiff’s bars and Munster’s support fit each other like a glove.

Thousands of fans spent the full night in the city, as well as in nearby Swansea and Carmarthen to revel in the cup-winning celebrations.

Others, such as this reporter, were on their way back across the Channel as the seven hundredth rendition of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ sounded down Cardiff’s chip carton and plastic cup-strewn streets.

To be around for something like this once is great. To have been around for it twice has been nothing short of a privilege.

Despite being stuck on the returning ferry for 10 hours due to choppy waters and an onboard hydraulic failure, it was more than worth it.