Everyone knows that heightened emotions helped do for Munster’s Heineken Cup hopes in 2000.
Ronan O’Gara, for one, has spoken in the past about how 38 grown men were “balling crying” at a team meeting the night before the final in Twickenham and how it left them drained for a game which they lost having played well below their best.
It happened again in 2014 when Glasgow eased to a 31-13 win in the PRO12 decider at Kingspan Stadium and there are similarities between then and now with Paul O’Connell playing his last game in Belfast and Donnacha Ryan and Francis Saili finishing up later this evening.
“Obviously, the fact that Paulie was leaving was a huge factor (against Glasgow). It was a big part of ... he’d been there so long,” said current captain Peter O’Mahony.
“You kind of run a similarity with Donners, not that we made it all about it being Paulie’s last game, but the emotion was flowing because it was.
“And I’m not saying that was the reason we didn’t perform well but I don’t think it helped us and all the talk about it during the week.
“This time around, Donners knows how important he is and how much he means to the club.
“But this week, he more than anyone drove the rugby side of things, drove our lineout and drove our detail, as he always does.”
There will, said O’Mahony, be no rousing speech as they gather in the dressing-room one last time before kick-off, no exhortations of: ‘Do it for Donners’.
They will surely want to do it for the departing second row, and for the absent Anthony Foley, but clear minds are being prioritised.
The skipper spoke about how it was things like accuracy that have taken Munster this far. That and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the new coaching ticket’s game plan, trust in one other and the buy-in from a squad that has its fair share of youth in the ranks.
O’Mahony is no rookie but it was striking to be reminded that he was still lapping about the fringes of the squad back in 2011 when Munster won what was then a Magners League title and, as it happens, the last piece of silverware claimed by the province.
Forget his upcoming duties with the Lions, this is big for him and for a squad which has only three players currently serving — Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Ryan — who played a part in winning that, or any other, final for the province.
“It would mean a huge amount,” said O’Mahony. “I was in the extended squad a few years ago when we won it and I’ve never been in a Munster jersey that’s won a trophy. It’s a huge goal of mine, personally and obviously for this group.
“It would be nice to finish this year off but people are talking about us deserving — you deserve nothing unless you play well and beat a quality side like Scarlets. You’ve got to go out and beat them, and it’s going to be very difficult, but we deserve nothing.”
Cold calculation has carried over into team selection where Saili has been given the nod in midfield at the expense of Jaco Taute despite the former’s impending departure and the South African’s tenure having been secured beyond the summer.
“On form. On form,” said Rassie Erasmus when asked why. “Francis has been excellent for us. Jaco is staying on, but that shouldn’t influence our team selection. It’s who is on form, who’s on song, who’s the best fit for this specific opposition as well.”
“I would say it’s form and also for the specific opposition, I think the amount of speed in the Scarlets backline from nine to 15, and also the reserves is exceptional. They have a really, really fast backline and I think we can benefit from Francis trying to fill the gaps there.”
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