Shannon's Charlie Carmody looks for a gap in the Young Munster defence during their All Ireland meeting at Thomond Park
THEY can’t live with each other, but they can’t live without each other either!
Friday night at Thomond Park clearly demonstrated that Limerick derbies in the All-Ireland League mean a hell of a lot to grass roots rugby supporters.
A bumper attendance turned out for Shannon’s first All-Ireland League Division 1A derby with great rivals Young Munster at HQ.
Thankfully, Storm Callum relented for the occasion and the Thomond Park floodlights – shining brightly – illuminated a memorable rugby occasion.
Shannon’s promotion back to the top flight this season after five years plying their trade in Division 1B has added to the interest in the club game locally this season.
Starved off regular top flight AIL fixtures in recent times, the Parish side was especially well supported on Friday night. The guard of honour formed by the club’s under-age team before kick-off as the teams entered the playing pitch added to the occasion.
Young Munster are traditionally one of the very best – if not the best – supported Limerick clubs in the AIL and a large number of travelling supporters of the black and amber made their way to Thomond Park for the game.
The passion and enthusiasm of both sets of supporters made for a cracking atmosphere and those who turned down the opportunity to sit at home and watch Leinster’s demolition of Wasps in the Champions Cup on TV will be glad they made the effort to get out and watch live rugby.
Friday night club games certainly have an attraction for players and most supporters alike. The staging of floodlight fixtures certainly adds to the size of gates.
However, on a personal note, I’m not sure the advent of 8pm kick-off times is a positive switch for supporters in the case of clubs which are located in the same area.
I can understand delaying the start time to 8pm in the case of fixtures where one team has to travel a distance to get to the match venue. However, an 8pm start where competing teams are located close together makes for a late finish when it comes to children attending.
Reverting back to 7.30pm for local derbies might well be a better way to go.
It still gives players a chance to look after their work and college commitments and be at the match venue in good time to prepare for kick-off.
It might have gotten lost in all the excitement of last weekend’s thrilling Champions Cup opening round fixtures, but Munster ‘A’ and Leinster ‘A’ locked horns in a ‘winner-take-all’ Celtic Cup game at Energia Park on Friday last.
Munster ‘A’s hopes of reaching the inaugural Celtic Cup final were dashed by arch rivals Leinster A who ran out impressive 46-25 winners in their crucial, high octane, fixture.
The one bright note for Munster ‘A’ in the interprovincial clash was the return to action of their New Zealand out-half Tyler Bleyendaal.
The talented playmaker was sprung from the replacements bench in the 55th minute to make his first appearance for Munster since suffering a neck injury last February.
Munster’s defeat will ‘free’ up the province’s Academy players and some senior squad members to play in the All-Ireland League over the coming months.
The availability of these players will add to the quality of the AIL still further. Club coaches will face the dilemma of whether to play the squad members who are with them the whole season or the Munster players who are available on a less regular basis.
A fascinating AIL season lies ahead in the top flight. Take in a game if you don’t do so already.