Sherry says O’Donnell is unlikely hero in win over Harlequins
Young guns of Munster felt it was time to stand up and be counted
Munster fans celebrate their Heineken Cup win over Harlequins. “I couldn't believe how many Munster people were there,” said hooker Mike Sherry afterwards.
Just like the mafia, nothing supersedes family when it comes to Munster rugby. The clan knew they needed to play their part last Sunday afternoon, calling in favours from exiled brothers and sisters to beg, borrow and steal tickets to ensure The Stoop felt awfully like home.
“There was about two pockets empty in the whole stadium and maybe people ran in from pubs nearby after the match but I couldn’t believe how many Munster people were here,” said hooker Mike Sherry moments after a joyous lap of honour.
“I was walking around and I could see everyone I know from home and it gives you such a lift, we just want to win for them.
“We were repaying them because it’s hard to get over here, it’s hard to get tickets, so we definitely feel we owe them and every time we go onto the pitch, we definitely want to repay them.”
In his emotional post match interview with Sky Sports, as The Fields reverberated around this old rugby haunt in west London, Paul O’Connell talked about younger members of the squad, and how their families have had to listen as sons and brothers were branded lesser men than the previous generation of Munster players.
“They’re reading bad things about their kids, their cousins, their friends every week . . . People questioning if they have it like Quinny had it or Axel had it or Wally had it. I see it in abundance in them in training so it was great for them to get this,” he said.
New leader emerged
From these young players a new leader emerged just moments before they took the field on Saturday. The brief lull in voices, after O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara had spoken, prompted Tommy O’Donnell to let his feelings be known.
The hulking flanker is 25 already, and took this opportunity to lead by word and by deed, outplaying opposite number and England captain Chris Robshaw (the pair finishing as joint top tacklers on 11).
“Look, they’re two huge influences and have been around for 13, 14 years, won competitions, played huge amounts for Ireland and Munster,” said Sherry of O’Gara and O’Connell.
“But it’s time for us young fellas to step up and deliver as well, which I thought we did.
“Yeah, they’re two figures who we can go to but before the game Tommy O’Donnell spoke and it was brilliant to see someone like that who is not very vocal speaking up and getting passionate, and that got people going before the game.
“And it was great to see it wasn’t Paul and Rog yet again. They did speak and they always speak but other fellas need to back them up, which we did.”
The next European challenge will require a sporting miracle. ASM Clermont Auvergne, and their multi-national goliaths, in Montpellier would question any man’s belief system.
O’Connell admitted to being unsure how Sunday’s game would turn out right up until he took the field but Sherry, like the others, has been infected by a bug that has been going around since 2000.
“At times this season we’ve let ourselves down but we know what we can do.
“I know a lot of people might be thinking, ‘where did that come from?’. But we think it’s there the whole time and we never go out onto the pitch to play like we did against Glasgow last week, it just happened.
“And maybe it gave us the kick up the arse and focused the minds.
“But definitely we have the belief. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge, Clermont are a quality side.
“I watched them on Saturday and they’ve a few incredible individuals, but definitely look we have another great European away day to look forward to.
“We’re close now, we’re one game away from a home final so yeah, it’s tangible, it’s well within our reach. That’s definitely a realistic goal.”