IF a cardiologist had hooked a Munster supporter up to a heart monitor last Saturday evening, he’d have been able to tell what was happening in the Millennium Stadium without switching on the television.
In the first few minutes the monitor would have registered a normal up/down pattern. It mildly fluctuated when Elissalde kicked Toulouse into a 3-0 lead, went berserk when Leamy touched down, and then flatlined when Yves Donguy scored in the corner, followed by a conversion which brought the sides level at 13 each.
Resuscitation was needed for some of the Red Army, but others off the pitch, as well as on it, didn’t panic.
Noel McNamara, from Garryowen, admitted that he thought Munster might crumple. “I did think we were in trouble, especially when they drew level during a period when they were down to 14 men and without their captain. But Munster just wanted it more,” he said.
“I felt that during Pelous’ absence Toulouse upped their effort. However, even after they scored the try I felt we had more in the tank and would win,” said Ronan Enright, from Temple Hill, Cork.
Alan Harty, from Midleton, Co Cork, said that if Howlett’s try had been allowed it would have killed off the French challenge earlier.
John Hannon, from Ballysimon, Co Limerick, was of the same opinion.
“If Dougie got the try they’d have been buried there and then,” he said. Instead John and thousands of others had to sit agonisingly watching the clock tick down for the full-time whistle.
Kevin Prendergast, from Kilkenny, said that Munster were united like a “parish team” and when the going got tough they just knuckled down. “It was then that our forwards took control,” said Mr Prendergast.
The crowd cheered as though in a bull ring every time the Munster pack performed a series of relentless drives off the back of rucks within sight of the Toulouse line in the last quarter.
The clock kept ticking and ticking until the referee finally put the whistle in his mouth. Some say the roar could be clearly heard more than five miles away. Whether or which, it will become part of the legend.
Grainne Brady, a fashion student from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, said the amount of work done around the field by David Wallace was extraordinary and he was her man of the match.
She said the Toulouse fans were always trying to make themselves heard above the Munster din, though they were vastly outnumbered.
“They were very gracious in defeat,” she added.
Annette McNamara, from Garryowen, had more reasons than most to be thrilled at Denis Leamy’s try in the 32nd minute.
“On the way to the game I went into Ladbrookes and put £5 on Denis Leamy to be the first to score a try. I got him at 25/1. When he dropped the ball a few minutes earlier as he went over the line I thought I would lose my bet. I’m delighted he had a second go at it,” Annette said.
Aisling Whelan, from Gouldavoher, Co Limerick, thought Paul O’Connell was imperious.
She was there for the 2006 win. “I don’t think the emotion of winning the Heineken Cup was the quite the same this time, but it came pretty close. It was, nevertheless, a wonderful way for Declan Kidney to finish up with the province,” she said.
Mark Nolan, from Youghal, Co Cork, said it would simply have been unthinkable that the Munster team would have lost on Kidney’s last day in charge.
As the crowd spilled out into the Cardiff night thoughts began to stretch to life without Declan Kidney.
Will the heart still be beating in Munster when he’s gone? Munster is more than one man, it is a collective of thousands of beating hearts and every one of the supporters hope Kidney will turn Ireland’s fortunes around.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved