A despondent Toulouse fan shook his head sadly, a red beret perched upon it.
Hugues Launay had built a week long holiday around his team’s trip to Limerick in the Heineken Cup quarter-final, but they were simply eaten alive by a mesmeric Munster at lunchtime on Saturday.
Disappointment was etched all over his face, but he said it had been long a “dream” of his to visit the hallowed ground. Incredibly, despite this being Munster’s fifth meeting in the competition against the French aristocrats, it was their first encounter in Thomond Park.
“Yes I am disappointed but Munster were very good, much better. There was no match,” said Hugues.
“I dreamt to come to Thomond Park and it is fantastic. The sound, the atmosphere, the Red Army were fantastic. The fans are always very friendly, there is no problem.”
Toulouse had taken 3,200 tickets and there were plenty of their fans milling around before and after the game, most wearing elaborate costumes and carrying flags. A spirit of fraternity existed between both sets of fans, some 200 of which travelled with ex-Leinster international Trevor Brennan, who brought them to Clohessy’s Bar before the match.
Ronan O’Gara was in Thomond Park, as were Émile Ntamack, Mick Galwey, Michael Flately, even An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who celebrated after the game with Michael Noonan in Bobby Byrne’s.
A carnival atmosphere, created first from the 47-23 drubbing and then the victorious team taking a victory lap post-match, continued on into the city, with hotels, bars and restaurants full to the brim of elated fans.
Brian Murphy, who runs the Curragower Pub where Heineken erected a massive tent for the match, said it was “our best Heineken Cup day” in terms of trade.
“It was our most successful match day. The Saturday kick off is the key. There was loads of Toulouse fans mingling with Munster fans and there was a great atmosphere,” he said.
Munster’s reward is an 11th Heineken Cup semi-final in 15 years, away to Toulon in Marseille on Sunday, April 27 at 3.30pm. Game on.