History Makers: Munster's men who beat the All Blacks 12-0 on October 31st, 1978

15. Larry Moloney (Garryowen).

15. Larry Moloney (Garryowen).

He recalls Seamus Dennison's morale-lifting hit on Stu Wilson - "that got the crowd's dander up and showed they were only human" - the elation at the final whistle, and the All Blacks filing in to the dinner in single file, very downhearted. Won his fourth and final Irish cap four days later. A one-club man, winning four Cup medals, Moloney retired due to a back injury two years later at 28. With AIB all his life, with whom he is assistant manager in Thurles.

"There were surprisingly few penalties in the game, about 10 or 12; the referee Corrie Thomas let the game flow. There was no pulling back. It was man to man, but there was no filth, just pure aggression.'

14. Moss Finn (UCC).


A great day in a high-achieving career, though he feels his own performance was undistinguished. "I remember praying the whole game that Bryan Williams wouldn't get a run at me; I was in dread that he would get the ball in space."

An intelligent all-round footballer, as befitted a former Irish schools out-half. Finn, capped 14 times, had 14 years on the Munster team, and club stints at UCC, London Irish and Con, mostly at out-half or centre. Now runs the family catering and sports and leisure business, Finn's Corner, in Cork. "From about five minutes into the second half the crowd never stopped clapping and chanting `Munster'. It was extraordinary, like a non-stop ovation and that's an absolute fact."

13. Seamus Dennison (Garryowen)

"I would have to give an awful lot of the credit to Tommy Kiernan for that particular victory. He was a great planner and we went through three videos of them on tour."

Even the tackle was planned, as they all moved in one for Wilson to come between out-half and centre. "As I was lying on the ground, Moss Finn told me to get up off the ground, that `yer man is worse than you are'."

Formerly with UCG and Connacht, Dennison won three caps. Then 28, he played on for three years, winning four Cup medals with Garryowen. Has coached on and off ever since in Roscrea, where he teaches history and geography in the vocational school. "I didn't think we were under an awful lot of pressure. Only at one stage - towards the end of first half. We were well in control of the match."

12. Greg Barrett (Constitution).

Barrett had a bird's eye view of Tony Ward's imperious kicking that day and from early on "realised he would rise to the occasion and have a cracker".

Then 22, he went on to play for Ireland B and in a final trial, and won six Munster league medals and two Munster Cup medals. A neck injury to his late brother prompted retirement at 32. Junior vice-president of Con, he is a regional manager with Standard Life insurance. "My first memory is of running on to the pitch and my legs feeling like absolute lead, more than I ever knew in my career. But it was more out of determination than fear."

11. Jim Bowen (Cork Constitution).

Then 21, with three caps under his belt, he capped a good game by latching on to Ward's 11th-minute chip, eluded Wilson, broke McKechnie's tackle and gave a tryscoring pass to Cantillon rather than Greg Barrett - "because he was going faster".

Career was ravaged by six knee operations. Played for Munster, Cork Con, Lansdowne and St Mary's, where he coached the seconds, and was then a selector for Leinster under-20s for five years. Now Dublin development manager for GE Woodchester. "We were probably afraid of the hoors, and didn't realise we were on to something special until the last 10 minutes. My abiding memories are Dennison's tackles in the first few minutes. But it was over before it started, it went so fast."

10. Tony Ward (St Mary's College).

The star turn, with the chip ahead for the try, near immaculate kicking, and two drop goals conjured out of nothing. "I was okay," he says.

A self-confessed confidence player, he was at the peak of his powers then. European Player of the Year that year.

Played with Lions in 1980 in South Africa, was 15 years with Munster (mostly) and Leinster, Garryowen, St Mary's and finally Greystones. Retired at 32, becoming a regular TV and radio pundit. Still coaches at St Andrew's College, where he taught until becoming Irish Independent rugby editor last year. "I don't think winning even entered our minds before the game, and even at the half-time team talk I remember the silent disbelief of the crowd. At the end there were people in tears; I don't think I've ever seen anything like it."

9. Donal Canniffe (Lansdowne)

Captain and widely praised by teammates. "I thought I played reasonably well but I've played far better, for example in the 3-3 draw with them in 1973. Tony (Ward) was the mastermind behind it really." Canniffe has mixed memories of that day. While he was still in his kit in the dressing-room, he received word that his father, Dan, had died suddenly at his home after listening to the match on radio. "It was totally unexpected. I drove back to Cork on automatic pilot, but even then it doesn't really sink in for half an hour or so."

Twice capped, he won six cups and seven leagues with Con and Lansdowne, and captained first Ireland B team in the infamous 1975 brawl with the French. Retired in '82, selected and coached with Lansdowne, "then became an alickadoo". Is still with Norwich Union in Dublin.

"There was a point about midway through the second-half when I felt we weren't going to be beaten. They weren't making an impression. There was nowhere else for them to go."

1. Gerry McLoughlin (Shannon).

Aside from the jersey, `Ginger' McLoughlin had two distinctive momentoes - scrum pox courtesy of NZ prop Gary Knight, and the original match ball.

"The first match ball was lost in my cousin's garden in Ballinanty, behind Thomond Park at 3.20. That night he offered it to me and I gave him £100 for it."

Then 28, he still reckons it was that game which earned him 18 caps. A former UCG and Connacht player, he won five Cups with Shannon. Formerly a teacher, he now lives in Gilfach Goch in mid-Glamorgan, where he has run a pub for 11 years. "Kiernan told us an All Black will never try and go around you. So it was a case of tackle, tackle, tackle; especially for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half."

2. Pat Whelan (Garryowen).

Pack Leader and front man for Munster's in-yer-face aggressiveness on the day. "Pat Whelan's exhortations could be heard almost above the shouting and tumult on the terraces," wrote Van Esbeck in the IT.

Then 28, he won his 12th of 19 caps against the All Blacks four days later. Went on to become coach of Garryowen, Munster and Ireland A, and selector and manager of Ireland. A property developer who is now "enjoying life".

"To beat the All Blacks as a Limerick man in Limerick gave a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Only beating England in my first international compares with it."

3. Les White (London Irish).

Immensely popular. "How's Les doing?" they all ask.

"I haven't been there in 10 years. I'm really looking forward to seeing them," White says.

After four years on the Munster team he was dropped in '79. Retired three years later, but continued playing on the English county scene until he was 48, captaining, coaching and selecting Hampshire. Lives in Fareham, Hampshire, and is a meterials manager with a big aerospace company called Fairey Microfiltrex. "I sustained a broken nose that day. Moss (Keane) told me to stop Hayden in the line-outs and after a bit of dragging and pulling, suddenly I was pole-axed. I actually have a framed picture of it."

4. Moss Keane (Lansdowne).

Memories? "I remember we won," quips the Kerry joker in the pack. "I was lucky. I was never any good myself, but I was in good teams," says Keane, self-deprecatingly, of a career which began at 23 when he was a post-grad at UCC, continued in Lansdowne's domineering side of the era, and also contained 12 years on the Munster team and a phenomenal 11 unbroken years in the Five Nations.

Lives in Portarlington and is an agricultural inspector for the south east. "They got a monopoly of ball in the line-out, but didn't make the best use of it. We grew in confidence as the game wore on."

5. Brendan Foley (Shannon).

In the hub of the action, he played a forgotten role in the try. "We had a lot of difficulties in the line-out, so I slapped the ball back from number one in the line-out - a Tommy Kiernan ploy."

Won 11 Irish caps during a medalstudded career with Shannon. Retired at 34, when political in-fighting prompted the Munster Branch to suspend him for a year, but Foley still insists he was wrongly identified when sent off for stamping in a Shannon-Terenure match. Is still "very bitter" about the incident.

Now runs his own mini-bus hire company.

"After Wardy's second drop goal, someone asked Corrie Thomas (the referee) `how long is left?' He said: `they're not going to beat you now.' It was mission impossible for the All Blacks."

6. Christy Cantillon (Cork Constitution).

The try scorer. "Jimmy caught it, drew three men and passed. I remember the ball hitting my chest and catching it on the rebound. There was still 20 yards to the line and you always feel someone is going to hit you from somewhere. When I saw the white line, it was in disbelief." Coached Con to the first AIL title in '90, and now mixes watching games with sporadic coaching at junior level, while an insurance broker with his own Cantillon Life and Pensions firm. "Magnus Magnusson has Jimmy Bowen in the chair and asks him: `What did you do with the All Blacks' line at your mercy?' `Pass,' says Jimmy. `Correct.'

Jimmy didn't always like that one."

8. Donal Spring (Dublin University).

Then 22, he was already a three-year Munster veteran. Won his second of seven caps in the second row ("all 14 stone of me") four days later.

Played for Lansdowne either side of two years in France with Bagneres. Won four Cup and League medals, captained both Munster and Leinster, coached Old Belvedere, Lansdowne, Leinster under-19s and, for one game, Leinster.

He now employs 20 people in Daniel Spring and Co solicitors. "The most important moment was when Seamus Dennison tackled Stu Wilson. We knew Wilson would come between his centres, but Dennison wasn't moving. There was silence around the ground and if he hadn't got up, I don't know how we would have reacted. But, as always, he pretended he was fine."

7. Colm Tucker (Shannon).

"I was brilliant that day," says Tucker still, only half-jokingly. "I remember our selector, Jim Buckley, saying to me in the dressing-room `they just have to give you a cap now'."

Three caps - he deserved more - duly followed. "Pulling on the national jersey was the greatest day," but October 31st, 1978, remains a treasure amongst "treasures".

Five Cups with Shannon and two Munster leagues. Retired in '87, coached Shannon for a year, became Munster selector in '91, and manager for three years. Is now vice-president of Shannon. A senior sales executive with the OHM Group car importers. "Jury's was so packed before the game the team talk was held in the Copper Room restaurant, with only a partition dividing us from the people who were eating. Kiernan's talk was so good they even stopped to listen."

Replacements: Larry Moloney was forced to cry off on the morning of the game with a pulled hamstring, resulting in Constitution's Declan Smith being called on to the replacements' bench. The other unused replacements that day were Mickey Sullivan of Con, Olan Kelleher of Dolphin, Barry McGann of Con, Gerry Hurley of Sunday's Well and Ted Mulcahy of Bohemians.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times