The day began with the LeinConnsterMURICA team in good spirits. Defending champions and quietly confident of maintaining their rightful place at the top of the Realt Dearg tree. There had been murmurings in the build up of Munster's cute hoors pulling sly strokes in previous years, but these were men we knew, men we trained with. Everything would be left on the pitch but both sides would keep their honor. We foolishly told ourselves Munster could be trusted. But just like most of Moloney's attempts to quote movies, we were wrong. Denial took over when we saw the legendary goalkeeper Gary Thompson amble over to the dressing room. We didn't believe our eyes either when Tadhg McCarthy was produced with little or no warning. (If only every other Corkman in the club could match some of Tadhg's performances). But their presence was all too real upon throw in. Maybe we should have made greater efforts to have our own legendary Gary between the sticks. (Has anyone checked on Hurney lately??)
Denial was not just visible on our side, Podge Buckley bravely (foolishly?) ploughing into tackle after tackle head first, ignoring his doctor's warning to take up a non contact sport. Early on one of his girlish screams distracted the defense long enough to allow Limericks's chatterbox in chief, Gavan Manifold, to sneak in for a goal. Despite the best efforts of Connulleinstercali's very own Captain America Eric Lee and the always hard but fair Ciaran Gough, the second goal came just as we had dragged ourselves back into the game, Waterford getting in on the act as Bernard Herlihy swung like his life depended on it and mind-bogglingly managed to pick out Gavan in front of goal who bagged his second.
Of all the stages, anger was the one which we all came out to see, and no-one was disappointed. With Captain Anger himself taking his place in the Ulleinsteracht full forward line (Hi Murph!) and the general surliness with which Munster men carry themselves, it is the primary emotion on show in most training sessions, not to mention end of year 'Friendlies'. From the moment a totally accidental clash with the Gougher left Podge in a quivering heap, the game was full of flashpoints. Club secretary Kieran 'Mushie' O'Brien threatened to send Shane Murphy back to Meath and Conor Maharaj came in for some heavy tackling from a clearly intimidated Munster backline. On the other side similarly questionable methods were used to subdue the lively Kevin Cormican in the middle of the field. Left with half a hurl after a particularly enthusiastic clash of the ash, this reporter attempted to bring some love back to the game with a bear hug on his senior PRO that was misconstrued as a foul (The first and only time Clare got the better of Galway this year). With such steam rising from ears around the pitch, Tadhg and Conor's unerring accuracy from placed balls kept the score board ticking over, and at half time the goals gave Munster a 4 point lead.
The key question surrounding the game... when exactly did the bargaining begin? Rumours of Brendan Walsh visiting the referee midweek with Mike 'Luca Brasi' Richardson, and making the official an offer he couldn't refuse are yet to be confirmed. The man in the middle was certainly in no mood for bargaining with the ConnulleinUSA men, Niall O'Keefe getting little change as he was repeatedly swarmed and dragged by Munster backs banding together like Hyenas (they'll say like lions but really it was more like hyenas). The Galway man's aerial dominance was not rewarded but he did raise hopes with a stunner of a point early in the second half. Indeed there was much bargaining with the lord at both ends of the pitch as Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Casey wondered what they had to do to be rewarded with goals after cutting in along the endline. The by now heavily concussed Podge did manage to strike a deal late in the game, begging his clearly superior marker to 'Go Loose' in exchange for promises to buy the first round in the Terenure Inn. The game had opened up at that stage and was there for taking, and Lenconster were within touching distance as the last 5 minutes approached, until a knight in shining armour appeared.....
I only mention this knight, because sometimes, there's a man. I won't say a hero, because what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man, and I'm talking about Ruairi Henchy here. Sometime's there's a man, and he's the man for his time and place. And when this game was there to be won Henchy was the man. (Hey Ronan, that's from The Big Lebowski, you've probably never heard of it). Just as the scoreboard tightened up, a loose ball in the Munster forward line led to a free, some will say a 21, some will say 40 yards out, but the Clareman had only one thing on his mind, fizzing the sliothar into the top corner with a strike that would have made Paul Flynn drool. When he added another point from the sideline, Billy Dooley style, taking his total to something silly like 1-6, the men from NotMunster began to feel their race was run. The non-concussed Munster players leapt in celebration at the final whistle, reclaiming the trophy they were too bitter to hand over last year anyway.
Here's where this theory falls down, because we will never accept this. It's 347 days until the 2019 Railway Cup.
*All joking aside, can someone check on Podge?
If the positive and loving atmosphere in the club wasn't clear enough from the report, why not come down and see for yourself? Realt Dearg are always recruiting and no matter what the level there's games for everyone, tell your friends!