CJ Stander with Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon Pictures: Adrian Butler
AS MUNSTER and Irish Lion CJ Stander faces into the final of the PRO12 in the Aviva Stadium this Saturday the top international player has been awarded a unique honour by the Mayor of Limerick.
Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon has bestowed the Castleconnell-based rugby star with the title of inaugural honorary international ambassador for Limerick. This is for his “outstanding commitment, support and encouragement of the people of Limerick” and for his promotion of the region.”
In an interview with the Leader on the balcony of the Mayor’s office, Stander paid tribute to his fans and the people of Limerick, adding that it was a “massive honour”.
“When I arrived here, the biggest thing that I felt that Limerick city is full of people who look after their own, and they pulled me in from the beginning, and looked after me and my family. They made us part of the city.”
In recent months, the 27-year-old purchased a bungalow in Castleconnell, with his wife Jean-Marie. And asked what the allure of the east Limerick village was, he said:
“I like a bit of quietness and a bit of the country. It is 10 minutes from training and 15 minutes from town. It is nice and quiet out there. It’s a bungalow, so it’s good for the knees – I don’t like a lot of stairs. I have got a nice big garden, and hopefully I can have some of my own chickens at some stage,” he enthused.
Asked if he thought it is a good place to raise a family, Stander said that the prospect is “in the framework”, and that they would like to first get settled down in the Castleconnell community.
“[Limerick] is a special city, and everyone looks after their own, and it’s a great town for me to, hopefully, one day raise a family.”
This Saturday, the Munster team will take on Scarlets in the PRO12 final at the Aviva, and CJ reckons that the big game will come down to the wire.
“Scarlets are a good team. They show that history doesn’t apply to them. They beat Leinster up in Dublin, and it was a big match. I think it is going to come down to physicality, and the last few minutes are going to be very important. And I think it is going to be a high-scoring game.”
Though, for some, it is the end of the season after this weekend’s clash, CJ will be heading to New Zealand as part of the Lions squad. Looking forward to the summer tour, Stander said that it's “not going to be easy”.
He is joined by Patrickswell's Conor Murray and Munster captain Peter O’Mahony on the Lions tour.
Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon said: “Since CJ and his wife Jean-Marie moved here nearly five years ago, they have made Limerick their home, becoming embedded in the local community.
“The Standers promote the city and county at every opportunity they get. Rugby supporters and those outside the sport have taken CJ to heart and he has become a Munster legend, proud to wear the red jersey and play in Thomond Park.”
Munster Rugby Supporters Club official, Mark Meehan told the Leader this week that there will be great support from all over the country at this weekend’s Aviva game.
He added that, thanks to the successful season and the rise in junior members, the supporters club subscription has increased by 31% since last season.