EVERYBODY dreams of pulling on the Munster jersey to take on Leinster, and it became a reality for 20 men and women with intellectual disabilities on Monday.
There was no quarter taken or given when a Daughters of Charity Munster selection played their first ever tag rugby match against a Leinster side.
John O’Callaghan, administrator with the Daughters of Charity in Lisnagry, started up the team six months ago.
“Coming up with the idea is the easy part. The staff and the lads have been fantastic and we have linked in with the Munster Branch, who have been brilliant.
“The plan to have a team came from the service users themselves. They are always following Munster and know all the players so we started training sessions. They absolutely love it,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
They train once a week in UL and have got visits and tips from many of the Munster players.
“A couple of weeks ago Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls came down and they couldn’t get over the standard of our lads,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
Everything was geared towards their first match on Monday when they took on a Daughters of Charity Leinster selection from Dublin.
Like the senior players, the rivalry between the two provinces was intense.
“They couldn’t wait. We were trying to hold them back!” said Mr O’Callaghan.
A large crowd of supporters, family and friends turned out to watch the match which ended in a hard fought seven all draw.
The Daughters of Charity mission statement is to enable each person with an intellectual disability within the service to take his or her place in society, and in turn to contribute in a meaningful way.
And this was certainly on show in UL. The panel of 20 men and women drawn from Limerick City and County are coached by Andy Brady, Munster Branch, who is backed up by Michael Casey, Michael Hennessy and Ashley Ryan, from the Daughters. “They love training with Andy and it is amazing how good they have become in a short of space of time,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
The Leinster side have been together for a couple of years but in their first game, the Munster side more than matched them.
After their first run-out went so well, they want to showcase their skills to an even bigger audience.
Donal Sherlock, manager of the training, enterprise and employment services, says there will be a return match in January.
“We are now affiliated with the Munster Branch and we’re hoping we’re going to play at half-time in Thomond Park during a Munster match early in the New Year.
“The senior Munster team have linked in with us as well and they are going to mentor the lads. We are hoping to link up with other clubs and play Ulster as well,” said Mr Sherlock.
Mike Sherry and Felix Jones, showed Munster’s commitment on Monday by watching the match and helping the team. The Munster stars and the Daughters of Charity players will be united in their goal to put Leinster to the sword when they next meet.