IT'S just not the same.
Rugby, soccer, snooker, golf or table tennis... watching a sporting contest with no fans is woeful. Like eating a cup cake with no toppings.
Thomond Park needs the enthusiastic and knowledgeable locals who pack the terraces; Hill 16 would not have the same aura without the sporting mad Dubs. At this moment in time we have no choice, but the two games that took place in the abyss of the Aviva last weekend were furious on the field but soulless.
I realise there is nothing we can do about it at this point albeit, what last Saturday and Sunday did confirm is that rugby football is doomed unless Covid-19 is conquered.
The sight of the chicken-sandwich eating Munster supporter and the Brown Thomas bag-holder Leinster fan was especially missed. The banter and slagging between both sets of fans is normally worth the admission fee alone.
Anyhow for now we’ll just have to put up with fake audibles and hope that the play is good enough to keep us entertained. Can I recommend listening to Sunday’s game on the radio and watching it on the box as Donal Lenihan and Michael Corcoran are brilliant at painting a picture and creating an atmosphere.
I don’t want to harp on about the string of injuries Munster picked up but to lose new signing RJ Snyman with only seven minutes elapsed in his Munster career is a cruel and costly blow.
Snyman would have been expected by van Graan to take the Munster forwards by the scruff of the neck and re-educate them in what they need to do in order to beat teams like Leinster and some of the more physical French and English sides.
Anyhow, unfortunate as Snyman’s injury is the show must go on and just because one man is out, it doesn’t mean that Munster’s fate is sealed.
The most important thing for van Graan and his players now is that they don’t use it as an excuse for poor performances. His absence will allow for some of the home-grown talent to stake their claim and gain priceless game time in what is now a bloodthirsty arena.
Selection over the next few weeks is going to be very hotly debated topic and one position that has to be seriously mulled over is the number nine jersey.
When the diminutive figure of Craig Case assumed control of the corridor between nine and 10 during last Saturday’s game there was a very notable change to the areas where the Munster backs went looking for gaps to exploit.
Instead of having to set up close in runners, JJ Hanrahan found himself with loads of time because of the speed of Casey’s distribution thus allowing him to get the ball wide to the likes of Conway and Earls.
Conor Murray has not had a good commanding game for Munster for some time now and at 31 years of age some are suggesting that his best years are behind him.
I’m not suggesting that Murray is a spent force however, young Casey (21) certainly has a very bright future and it would do no harm if Casey swapped jerseys with Murray for the next few games.
Munster’s opponents for Sunday’s clash had a notable victory over Ulster over the weekend and trust me when I tell you there is no harder side to play against then a Connacht team who have confidence powering their sails.
The news that Connacht will field a much-changed side to what took to the field on Sunday last will be a very welcome gift for van Graan however, should they manage to play anything like they did against Ulster, Munster could be in trouble.
Central to everything the Westerner’s do is the powerful figure of Irish international Bundee Aki.
When Bundee plays well, Connacht invariably do too, and while putting an out-of-sorts Ulster away certainly wasn’t a one-man job, the Ireland centre was pivotal to everything good about their impressive performance.
Another player that needs mentioning is the recently transferred, Alex Wootton who moved from Munster to Connacht to get more game time.
Wootton who probably didn’t want to leave Munster only has gears that propel him in a forwardly direction and his contributions throughout the contest were very beneficial towards the game’s final outcome.
This is yet another game that Munster must win albeit, I guess you could have said that about last week also.