A province with a premium on tradition


As the Munster team now prepares for the final of the European Cup, there is no doubt at all that, whatever the province's fate in Twickenham, this team has embellished the great traditions of the province in the context of the memorable victories and notable achievements of the province.

That tradition was, of course, fashioned on the exploits of Munster teams against major touring teams. It is thus appropriate to reflect on four victories which enhanced the reputation of the province across the rugby world.

1967 Munster 11 - Australia 8, (Musgrave Park)

January 25th, 1967 was the date that, at long last, Munster did what the province had so often threatened to do and had gone so near to achieving so many times - defeat a major touring team.

That level of expectation in Musgrave Park on the day had been heightened because, four days earlier at Lansdowne Road, Ireland had beaten Australia 15-8.

Munster included five of the Ireland team - Tom Kiernan, Barry Bresnihan, Pat McGarth, Phil O'Callaghan and Noel Murphy.

The Munster pack included in the second row the current Munster Branch president Brendan O'Dowd and the senior vice-president Jerry Murray and the current Leinster manager Ken Ging.

The Munster eight proved to be more than a match for the opposition and, at the interval, Munster led 6-5 through two penalty-goals kicked by Kiernan and the Australians had a try from wing Alan Cardy, converted by John Brass.

Brass kicked a penalty in the second half for Australia but a try from John Moroney converted by Kiernan left Munster three points ahead. The Australians were at the gates as the match entered its final phase, but Munster survived to become the first Irish province to beat a major touring team.

It was not the greatest of matches but it was a great and historic victory.

Munster: T Kiernan; A Horgan, J Walsh, B Bresnihan, P McGrath; J Moroney, L Hall; P O'Callaghan, K Ging, M O'Callaghan, B O'Dowd, J Murray, L Coughlan, T Moore, N Murphy.


Munster 12 - New Zealand 0, (Thomond Park)

The events at Thomond Park on the afternoon of October 31st, 1978 have gone into legend and the names of the Munster team that achieved the most cherished of all prizes in rugby, victory over the All Blacks, are inscribed on a plaque over the door at the entrance to the reception area under the stand.

The magnitude of Munster's achievement is put into perspective by the fact that the All Blacks, captained by Graham Mourie, played 18 matches on the tour and lost just the one.

The Munster side was coached by Tom Kiernan and his preparation was meticulous. He knew the strength of the opposition and, aware of Munster's reputation against touring teams, the All Blacks fielded a side of almost full test strength.

From the outset Munster set out their task and how the crowd responded. Munster centre Seamus Dennison hit All Black wing Stuart Wilson with a tackle of such effect and ferocity it is still talked about as one of the highlights of that match. It was a clear declaration of intent.

Then, in the 12th minute, the ground erupted. Tony Ward placed a ball beautifully behind the All Blacks as he kicked from his own "25".

Munster wing Jimmy Bowen gathered the ball in full flight and made for the All Blacks line. He found Christy Cantillon in support and the flanker ran in to score by the posts.

Ward converted and the crowd sensed that they were going to be present for something really special - and they were. When Ward dropped a goal it was 9-0.

The longer the match went on, the greater the level of support grew and when, with 10 minutes to go, Ward dropped his second goal, there was no doubt at all this was to be Munster's day of days.

MUNSTER: L Moloney; M Finn, S Dennison, G Barrett, J Bowen; T Ward, C Canniffe (capt); G McLoughlin, P Whelan, L White, M Keane, B Foley, C Cantillon, D Spring, C Tucker.


Munster 15 - Australia 6, (Musgrave Park)

The Australians were back on tour again in the autumn of 1981 and it was at Musgrave Park, the scene of their defeat by Munster 14 years earlier, that they faced Munster once more.

They had beaten Ulster 12-6 before they took on Munster on November 17th. Tony Ward, Christy Cantillon, Gerry McLoughlin, Brendan Foley, and Colm Tucker were the survivors from the win over the All Blacks three years previously.

A young UCC student, Donal Lenihan, was playing in the second row for Munster, his first experience playing a major touring team.

The Munster forwards played splendidly, and behind them, Ward used the ball shrewdly.

It was Munster who struck first and early when hooker Paul Derham, making his debut for the province, scored a try and Ward converted. Ward kicked a penalty in the 30th minute and the Australians were struggling.

The Munster pack continued to control the second half and, midway through, Ward kicked another penalty and then dropped a goal and there was no way back for the Wallabies.

And while Australia did score a try through Peter Grigg and it was converted, it did no more than make an inroad into Munster's lead.

Munster won without anxiety and another memorable win had been attained over Australia.

Munster: J Barry; E Griffin, M Kiernan, P Cross, J Crotty; A Ward, A O'Regan; G McLoughlin, P Derham, T Hennessy, B Foley, D Lenihan, C Cantillon, A O'Leary, C Tucker.


Munster 22 - Australia 19, (Musgrave Park)

When Australia came to Ireland in 1992, they did so as the reigning World Cup holders having captured the title in Twickenham the previous year.

Such exalted status did no more than sharpen Munster's resolve and, when the teams met on October 21st, the Australians fell before the Munster challenge in Cork. It was certainly the most controversial match Munster had played against a touring team.

The Munster team, led superbly by hooker Terry Kingston, and coached by Garret Fitzgerald, now Chief Executive of the Munster Branch, once more rose to the challenge, especially in the second half.

Munster rarely allowed the Australian backs to get into a rhythm and, by the end, the Munster pack proved to be more than a match for the Wallabies.

Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer most certainly did not accept defeat graciously, accusing the Munster players, and Peter Clohessy in particular, of deliberately targeting his players.

It was an accusation rejected out of hand by the Munster players and coach. Indeed so virulent were Dwyer's accusations that the Munster Branch also issued a statement subsequently totally rejecting his claims.

Two players, Mick Galwey and Garrck Morgan were sent off, but they were really the victims of an outbreak of fighting which had taken place just previously. Neither was guilty of a major transgression and that was reflected in the fact that the minimum suspensions were imposed.

It was a thrilling match and it was won in the most dramatic fashion when Munster outside half Jim Galvin, who had come as an replacement for Dan Larkin, dropped a goal just before the end. Munster had trailed 19-10 at the break and looked unlikely at that stage to make this a hat-trick of wins against the Wallabies.

But they produced a great second half. Even before that, the forwards had imposed sufficient pressure on the Wallabies scrum to be awarded a penalty-try.

Munster held the Wallabies scoreless in the second half. Full back Charlie Haly kicked four penalty goals and a conversion of the penalty-try. Only once was the Munster line breached.

MUNSTER: C Haly; R Wallace, P Danaher, B Walsh, J Clarke; D Larkin, D Tobin; P McCarthy, T Kingston, P Clohessy, M Galwey, R Costello, G Clohessy, B Crionin, G Earls. Replacements: G J Galvin for Larkin (21 mins), E O'Sullivan for Costello (65).

Those wins by Munster through the years established the great tradition of the province and no players will be more aware of that in Twickenham than Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey, who were part of that great victory in 1992. More glory beckons.