Monday, May 29, 2006

Emmet in Oz - Praying With Pagan’s

It has taken me a week to summon up the courage to write. I join at the end of the que. Every word and cliché has been used up ad nausium at this stage – ‘The holy grail’ ‘The Crusade’. I’m sure somebody somewhere has spat out ‘The D’Kidney Code’. The overriding two words in the papers seem to be ‘emotion’ and ‘relief’. Peter Bills wrote that no team in living memory had collapsed in such fashion onto the turf after battle. The truth is closer to the fact that there are no words to describe this Munster team. The only reason we’ve been able to write about them at all so far has been the pathos of the story that surrounded them.

The ink that formed the articles and chapters and play scripts leading up to last Sunday in Cardiff was squeezed out from the spaces between the lines; the spaces containing the real story - the rabid determination, the gut wrenching need, the silent hunger that only the really starving possess. Paul O Connell and Anthony Foley, or John Kelly or Shaun Payne for that matter, didn’t have the words to express these things. We just knew they were there because what else drive’s men in such fashion? And when the final whistle went, as the ball that left little Peter Stringer’s boot reached its maximum flight path, the kicker and his team mates were already on the ground. Pouring months and years of silent yearning into the holy turf of Cardiff.

That the game should have happened in a house built for a red team, and turned into a cathedral of red was only proper. As a young boy the Arms Park was the place that always caught my imagination. Lansdowne Rd was wet, windy and noisy until the inevitable glorious defeat set in and drunken spirits were drowned. Parc De Prance had its cockerels and bands, but was too fickle with its baying crowds and on/off stars. Twickenham had its chariots and at that time they were wont to run over us regularly, with Rodber and co the carthorses. Murrayfield too was far from a field of dreams in those days, and Rome wasn’t even on the map. In Cardiff however, there were dragons on flags and towering anthems. There was great joy backed by a great need. There was always something special about the Arms Park; it was a rugby ground true and true. That something special lingers in the Millennium Stadium. Thomond’s pilgrims travelled o’er the sea and spray last weekend and there are no words I, nor any, can write to describe it. Nor are there words that can describe not being there.

I watched the game on the red soil of Australia, Insideat Coelis Animo Sed Corpore Terris as my old school’s motto said: with my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground. What the old Roscrea lexicon left out was the heart in my hands bit. Western Australia is Aussie Rules country; it was pretty much simply mining country before the West Coast Eagles and The Fremantle Dockers came alive in recent times. God bless the Australian’s. They might be able to beat us at our national game, but they have no idea of what a Munster day means. It simply does not translate. Their sport is a pagan sport, a hothc potch of bastardised codes that jumps and trickles hither and thither and to and fro. Games of power and skill yes. But games of chance more so. There is no more beautiful and true thing in my mind that two rugby teams battling it out, muscle for muscle, but more importantly (Stringer being the glorious example) brain for brain. Hence my utter joy was coupled my utter despair shouting at a little tv in a house in Margaret River. In a beautiful wooded and gloriously beach laden corner of the world; misunderstood by bemused friends; my head in the clouds, feet on the ground, heart in my hands, but my soul and longing in Cardiff.

To the men of Munster I can only apologise that I wasn’t there. I’m sure you will forgive me, but I never will. At the whistle’s cry, and the heroes’ triumphant fall to torn turf, I shed a tear both for your win, and my own loss. European Champions..It will never be a cliché with those boys.

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