By David Raleigh
Limerick paid homage to its Munster warriors today ahead of their European Cup semi-final showdown in France on Sunday.
Red-coloured water in the historic 19th century O’Connell fountain monument splashed onto the streets, in a scene reminiscent of Spain’s famous La Tomatina tomato-throwing festival.
The hum of excitement continued along O’Connell Street which has been transformed into a red highway of Munster bunting and flags.
Answering the call of their beloved rugby club, natives swapped their suits and uniforms for red jerseys, as a real Friday feeling kicked off a three-day festival of red.
Schools crèches and workplaces were also transformed into a sea of red.
Busy Bees pre-school in Corbally was a hive of red, where 19 potential future Munster stars, led by four-year-old Daniel Doore, paid personal homage to their rugby heroes.
“We are red, we are white, we are super dynamite… Go Munster!” they shouted.
“The Munster lads have the prep done now and if Conway can pull off another try like he did in Toulon, we’ll be in the final for sure,” Campbell said.
“I hope it won't be (Simon) Zebo’s last game and that Keith Earls, our Limerick legend, makes it through unscathed.”
She added: “The Busy Bees crew will be part of the 16th man joining the Munster team, cheering them on, and, no matter what, they have done us proud.”
St Patrick’s Girl’s National School, Dublin Rd, also proudly flew Munster flags.
Die-hard Munster fans travelling to the match also left a red trail as they descended on French ports and airports in their droves.
Dedicated Red Army recruits Tony and Imelda O’Grady left their home beneath the shadow of Thomond Park at midnight last Friday, to sample the French hospitality a week early.
After travelling by bus to Dublin Airport the couple flew into Carcassonne on their way.
Tony said: “I've hired a car because there is a French rail strike. I'm going to drive to Toulouse, bypassing Agen, and up to Bordeaux, before going back to Carcassonne on Monday evening for the flight home.”
“There’ll be a four-hour stopover in London before arriving back in Dublin, and getting the bus back home beside Thomond Park around 1.15am (Tuesday).”
Thousands more are making similar mammoth strides hoping to see their team reach the final.
“We are Red Army foot soldiers and we know all the tricks of the trade,” Tony joked.
“At 10am (Saturday) I'm heading I'm heading out onto the motorway on the right-hand driving lane. I'm looking forward to putting up a Munster flag up on the car so the French nationals will give me leeway as I progress along the way,” he laughed.
The torch is lit; the journey has begun; and a host of Munster monuments including, Cork City Hall and Limerick’s King John’s Castle, have become beacons of red as Munster fans everywhere pray for victory.