Mean Munster held bragging rights over Connacht during worst winds

Veterans of the 15 previous clashes which Connacht have hosted against Munster will breathe a sigh of relief that the weather forecast for this evening in Galway is relatively good.

Mean Munster held bragging rights over Connacht during worst winds

Veterans of the 15 previous clashes which Connacht have hosted against Munster will breathe a sigh of relief that the weather forecast for this evening in Galway is relatively good.

There’s a 50% chance of some rain and winds of 20km/h are forecast, but those conditions are benign compared to what players and supporters have had to endure in this fixture down through the years.

Earlier this week, Munster centre Dan Goggin, a relative newcomer to this clash, said that when he played in the fixture the season before last, it was the worst weather he ever endured in a game.

Just as well he wasn’t around in 2004 when Munster twice made the trip to their neighbours and came away with a 3-0 win each time.

The first game was played in Dubarry Park in Athlone on January 2. It was the first time Connacht hosted Munster in the professional era, the only other meeting between them being a home victory for the Reds at Musgrave Park in a quarter-final of the Celtic League in the 2002-03 season.

Connacht, in the early years of the Celtic League, opted to play a couple of games each year at the Athlone venue in a bid to spread the game. Players and management disliked the practice and it was discontinued, with the result that Connacht have hosted the last 14 games between the sides at the Sportsground.

The initial meeting at the outset of 2004 was beset by a howling wind that made play almost impossible. Passes went forward, kicks either went too long or threatened to go back over the head of the kicker, and lineouts were a pure lottery.

Connacht had the gale in the opening half but Munster easily defended their line and the sides turned around level after Eric Elwood was unable to land either of a couple of penalties.

The decisive score came after 67 minutes when Ronan O’Gara, after earlier missing one, converted a penalty for what turned out to be the only score of the game.

The Connacht side that day contained current manager Tim Allnutt, Ulster coach Dan McFarland, and ex-Dragons coach Bernard Jackman, while Jim Williams, David Wallace, and the late Anthony Foley made up the Munster back row.

Remarkably, when the sides met later that calendar in a new season, the same weather prevailed at the Sportsground… with another 3-0 win to Munster.

“Those games were like soccer matches,” recalled John Muldoon some time later. “One score was enough to decide them. We had plenty of other days with bad weather but I don’t ever recall a game with just one score.” He was emerging at that time and started when they met at the Sportsground on December 27, 2004.

Current Munster forwards coach Jerry Flannery, born in Galway and raised in Limerick, had moved back to Munster from the Sportsground by then but not even a yellow card could give Connacht an opening.

Once more, a single penalty was enough to decide it, Paul Burke landing the decisive effort after nine minutes. A further 70-plus minutes failed to yield a score with Paul Warwick, later to join Munster, off target with a kick from 45m.

Another howling wind made a lottery of the set-piece and the loose, but Paul O’Connell thrived with six lineout steals for Alan Gaffney’s men, who had Christian Cullen at full-back and a pack of Marcus Horan, Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha

O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Stephen Keogh, Denis Leamy, and Anthony Foley.

In between those 3-0 thrillers, Connacht were unlucky not to get their first competitive win over Munster in the professional era but a kick from Paul Burke in the final play of the match secured a 27-27 draw at Musgrave Park.

Munster won on their next three visits to the Sportsground before Connacht finally defeated their neighbours when four kicks from current Munster out-half Ian Keatley was enough to seal a 12-6 win on December 28, 2008.

The next five meetings at the Sportsground all went Munster’s way but three of the last four meetings have been won by Connacht.

In their historic Pro12 title-winning season, Connacht won in Thomond Park for the first — and only — time in the professional era and followed that up with a first ever double over an Irish province when they defeated the Reds 35-14 at the Sportsground as they built momentum which took them all the way to their first silverware.

Munster gained revenge with a 16-9 win the following season before Connacht edged this encounter 20-16 a year ago.

A peculiar aspect of this fixture is that Munster have scored 16 points in six of the 15 contests — and on four occasions that has been enough for victory.

Connacht have scored 12 points on four occasions — winning once — and did not manage to get into double figures on five other occasions.

But, of course, this has been the fixture where one solitary score has been enough to secure the bragging rights.

Connacht at home to Munster in the league

  • 2003-04: Connacht 0-3 Munster (Dubarry Park)
  • 2004-05: Connacht 0-3 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2005-06: Connacht 19-44 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2006-07: Connacht 8-14 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2007-08: Connacht 5-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2008-09: Connacht 12-6 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2009-10: Connacht 12-18 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2010-11: Connacht 12-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2011-12: Connacht 16-20 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2012-13: Connacht 12-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2013-14: Connacht 23-32 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2014-15: Connacht 24-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2015-16: Connacht 35-14 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2016-17: Connacht 9-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2017-18: Connacht 20-16 Munster (Sportsground)
  • 2003-04: Connacht 0-3 Munster (Dubarry Park)

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