Several hundred rugby fans from across the city and county were among those who celebrated Munster’s European Rugby Cup victory in Cardiff.
Chartered flights from Waterford Airport brought fans to Cardiff and Bristol Airports, while ferries from Rosslare and Dublin were full to capacity on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings.
Many a yarn has already been spun about the close shave that many city-based fans had when it came to getting to the match on time; some making it to the Millennium Stadium with only minutes to spare.
A work colleague, who travelled on a light aircraft from Waterford, was sweating on the delivery of his ticket just minutes before referee Nigel Owens sounded his whistle for the first time.
In fact, the green-coloured slip of heaven landed in his palm less than 10 minutes before kick-off.
These trips have become somewhat of a pilgrimage for thousands of supporters, many of whom have only become acquainted with the ‘egg chasing’ code since the turn of the century.
Rugby has never before known such popularity in this neck of the woods, bizarrely referred to by Vincent Browne last week as not even being part of Munster.
That this popularity doesn’t extend to the local club scene in terms of spectator numbers is disappointing but that’s not exclusively a rugby problem: just look at Waterford United for example.
There’s little doubt, as a travelling colleague from Dungarvan told me last weekend, that East Munster is very much considered the rugby-playing poor relation of the province.
But try telling men like Junior Drohan (Waterpark), Ollie Clery (Waterford City), Dan McGrath (Dungarvan) and Sean Meade (Carrick-on-Suir) that we don’t count down here.
In a well-considered piece in last Saturday’s programme, Munster legend Donal Lenihan recalled the famous scenes from Limerick’s O’Connell Street, beamed into the Millennium Stadium during the 2006 final.
“While those scenes from Limerick were special, that fanaticism was repeated in every home, rugby club and public house across Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary and Clare,” he wrote.
To be in The Three Shippes in Waterford or The Comeragh Bar in Carrick-on-Suir last Saturday would have confirmed such an assertion.
It was great to see the red flags decorating the Quay last week, as thousands of cars, decorated with provincial flags of their own, passed through the city en route to Rosslare Port.
The TV3 weather map may not have thought all that much of us for many years, but this city, literally, knows its place. So too does the Munster Branch, which is keen to see the game develop at juvenile level, which it has in the case of both our city clubs.
Two years ago, the European Cup was ferried to schools and clubs from Kilrush to Kilmacthomas by many a provincial official.
I was one of many fortunate souls who got to lift the trophy two years ago during its tour and I look forward to doing so again when the pot is brought to Carrick-on-Suir’s grounds in Tybroughney.
There is something genuinely different about the Munster Rugby team when compared to any other representative side competing on an international stage.
They stir something in the soul that, generally, only GAA inter-county teams are capable of mustering in Irish people. That’s because, even though the men that wear the jersey now do so for a living, they’ve not forgotten where they come from.
And while many a bandwagon-hopping ‘fan’ mightn’t be able to distinguish Ginger McLoughlin from Ginger Spice, anything that brings people together to have a good time doesn’t warrant criticism.
“It is hard to put your finger on what Munster is,” said New Zealand-born winger Doug Howlett, who only joined the province a matter of months ago, but is already clearly bitten by the bug.
“But going out there and seeing thousands of supporters and having 65,000 stay behind after the game to celebrate – it is something special in world rugby.”
These are special times indeed, whether you’re from Waterford or any county across the island for that matter. The mighty men of Munster deserve every compliment and good wish extended to them – and I for one am mightily proud of them all.
As for mighty Munster women, congratulations to Carrick-on-Suir native and Portlaw NS teacher Kate O’Loughlin, who was a member of the Irish Ladies Rugby squad which finished third in the FIRA European Championships, held in Amsterdam.
Kate played for 73 minutes of Ireland’s 22-all draw with France last Saturday, a game which Ireland won on a 4-3 try count to ensure their best-ever finish in the tournament.
Kate, who plays her club rugby with Clonmel, is an outstanding player whose commitment to the game has been justly rewarded with test honours.
One trusts that a hearty oration of “The Carrick Smashers” was delivered in the Dutch capital over the weekend!