February 13th 1993 revisited
Arguably, the greatest day in Young Munster history, we cannot let the anniversary pass without some comment. In this article, we re-live some of the comments and memories of those who were there. Colm Kinsella's excellent 2013 Limerick Leader article, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the victory provides some great insights to the win itself and other games throughout the season.
You can also watch the game again, on line, courtesy of RTE Player
Limerick Rugby - Remembering Young Munster’s famous ‘93 success
Originally published 26 Feb 2013
Colm Kinsella talks to some of the major figures in Young Munster’s unforgettable 1993 All Ireland League success
THE advent of the All-Ireland League at the start of the 1990s fundamentally changed the face of Irish club rugby.
Young Munster initially began life in Division 2, with Michael Benson’s dramatic drop goal securing their place in the second tier after a play-off with Highfield in Cork.
Munsters’ duly secured promotion to the top Division at the first time of asking, keen to show their Limerick, Cork and Dublin rivals that they were worthy of their place at the top table in the club game.
Following a season of consolidation in the top flight, Munsters’ band of brothers were primed for an assault on the top prize in club rugby as the 1992-1993 campaign dawned.
Three key members of that unforgettable AIL campaign, prop John ‘Paco’ Fitzgerald, centre Francis Brosnihan and scrum-half Derek Tobin shared their memories of an epic season.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
FRANCIS BROSNIHAN: “In 1989-90 we had to qualify for the AIL. You qualified in the Munster Senior League over two or three seasons. There was a lock of jockeying for positions, which team would qualify for which Division. We made the Second Division after a play-off with Highfield.
PACO FITZGERALD: “The advent of the AIL brought the club game into a whole new world in terms of taking it seriously. “The supporters were driven mad by the AIL. They had exposure to a whole new life in terms of rugby.”
DEREK TOBIN: “At the time, it was the pinnacle of Irish rugby. You were now up against the best clubs from around the country week in and week out. You were playing against current internationals, competing at that level.”
SUCCESSFUL CON JOB
MUNSTERS’ win over inaugural AIL winners Cork Constitution and the then unbeaten League leaders at Temple Hill is widely regarded as a hugely significant day in their march to ultimate AIL glory.
On a filthy wet and windy day, Munsters’ trailed by four points deep in the final quarter, but were battering away at the Con line.
DEREK TOBIN: “The weather in Con was horrendous that day. We had a very good pack, so did they with the likes of Donal Lenihan, Pat O’Hara, Paul McCarthy, guys like that, playing. We felt we were good at working the conditions.
“For those crucial last few phases, we knew we had sucked Con in a lot off their players because of the pressure they were under. At that point, Aidan O’Halloran made the call to move it and we scored a try off of it. It was a great way to win it. Many of the guys believe that was the winning of the League for us.”
THE GARDEN OF GET SOMEBODY!
YOUNG Munster’s success that season was built around their dominant pack. Their style of play wasn’t to everyone’s liking, however, and sections of the national media regularly accused the team of being over physical. Clifford Park was dubbed ‘The Garden of Get Somebody’ by one scribe. It is an accusation strongly rejected by Munsters players of the time.
PACO FITZGERALD: “We were a very physical side, but we were not a dirty side. That reflected in the amount of sendings off we have had over the years. You could count them on one hand. At times, we got as got as good as we gave. Rugby is a physical game.
“It was man’s stuff up front. It was physical. But it was very fair. There was no illegal, no dirty play involved.
DEREK TOBIN: “There may have been a perception it was over-physical, but really it wasn’t. It was standard Munster rugby, good line out and scrum. We played to our strengths. It was an exceptional pack with a solid backline. Three of that pack played on the Munster side which beat Australia in 1992 and another player was on the bench. Four out of eight is 50%.”
CLAMOUR FOR CHANGE
Tony Grant’s Young Munster side followed up on their win over Cork Con by downing Garryowen 13-6. On the same afternoon Con crashed at home to St Mary’s. Munsters and the Saints would meet in a winner take all fixture on the final day of the season in Dublin. Well, not quite winner-take-all, a draw would do for St Mary’s to lift the title. The game was moved from St Mary’s Templeville Road ground to Lansdowne Road to cater for the enormous crowd wishing to see it.
FRANCIS BROSNIHAN: The pressure was put on Mary’s to move the game. There was a belief that, due to health and safety grounds, the match should go elsewhere. It was transferred to Lansdowne Road.
“Mary’s got their clubhouse built over it, they made so much money from the fixture. Mary’s thank us every time we go up there to play them!.”
UP FOR THE MATCH
FRANCIS BROSNIHAN: “We went up on Friday night and stayed in the Tara Towers Hotel. Some of lads went off to see Niall Toibin and some of us went to bar around the corner and had a few pints and came back then.
DEREK TOBIN: “RTE did pre-match coverage of the game on the news in the days leading up to it and someone from St Mary’s famously said they could see a star on the trophy! Ger Clohessy, in his acceptance speech, after the final whistle went, said he didn’t see any star on the trophy today! There was more hype and bravado coming out of Dublin. We got on with our job.”
FLOORED BY A POPE
In front of the largest attendance to ever watch a club game, 17,000, Munsters took the field. They lost team captain Ger Clohessy to a niggling hamstring injury in the opening minutes. However, the Limerick side held their composure and led 6-3 when centre Francis Brosnihan was floored by a blow from St Mary’s Kiwi number eight, Brent Pope.
FRANCIS BROSNIHAN: “Brent Pope was their main guy for picking the ball from a ruck or in the maul and running at the out-half. Aidan O’Halloran was only up to my hip in size, so I stepped in, defence wise, for the out-half. Earlsie would come across and take him low and I, being 6’ 4” would take him high. That was what we did most of the day. He couldn’t take it any more . Niall Mc went in to tackle him and he just clobbered me. He lost his cool.
“I don’t remember anything of the day of the match, only what I have seen on TV. I woke up in St Vincent’s Hospital. I was over there for a few hours. Mickey Griffin came over and said he would look after me and bring me back to Limerick. He signed me out. I togged off in the dressing room. I couldn’t go back in the bus and had to get the train back.” Pope was duly sent off by match referee Dave McHugh.
Despite Munsters’ having a one-man advantage, the sides were tied 14-14. with six minutes remaining. Then referee McHugh awarded a penalty to the Greenfields side, 40 metres from goal, but into the wind.
PACO FITZGERALD: “I remember we got the penalty. Our kicker Aidan O’Halloran looked at me and I just said; ‘Knock it over, Gazza, for Christ’s sake will you.’ We nicknamed him Gazza after Paul Gascoigne because he was a brilliant soccer player. He duly obliged. “After that, Noel O’Meara was deemed to have handled the ball at the wrong side of a ruck and Mary’s had a penalty.
“Noel was distraught, the misfortune. 25,000 people were blowing the ball to one side when Aidan White struck it and it flew outside the upright. It never had a chance of going over.”
The final whistle sounded soon after and thousands of Young Munster supporters flooded onto the field to acclaim their heroes. The ghost of 1928 when Young Munster had also been crowned national champions by winning the Bateman Cup was finally laid to rest.