Munster vs Northampton

14 Nov

The unexpected always seems to happen (to state the obvious) when you’re not expecting it. This past week I was working away on my studies when the international office at the University of Limerick sent out an email stating that the first four respondents with the correct answer to the question, “Who is Munster’s team captain?” would receive a pair of tickets to the first round of competition in the acclaimed Heineken Cup.

I have been dying to go to a rugby match since I first stepped foot on the soil of the Emerald Isle so I responded as quickly as possible, hoping that the luck of the Irish might be with me! “Paul O’ Connell”. Send. Moments later, I was notified that I had been one of the first four responders and would have the opportunity to attend the Munster match versus Northampton (UK). I could hardly believe my bout of luck!

The timing was right, I did not have weekend plans for Saturday yet. The place was right, downtown Limerick at the famous Thomond Park Stadium, the venue heavily responsible for making Limerick the 2011 European City of Sport. The competition was right, Northampton was in the final game of the European Cup last year and was guaranteed to give Munster all they could handle in the Heineken Cup (one of the favorite brews of Ireland). And of course, the price couldn’t be more right,

free!

The match did not disappoint to say the least. Our “seats” were standing on the concrete steps directly behind the goal in which Munster drove towards in the second half. The entire match was a grind. Neither team was ever more than seven points ahead of the other. At the half, Munster led 17-13. This lead was short-lived as the Northampton Saints scored a try soon after the commencement of the second half. The score eventually came to 21-20 Northampton.

Regular time expired with the score still at 21-20 Northampton. Approximately four minutes allotted for stoppage time was all that remained in the fixture, four minutes for Munster to produce points. It seemed as if every person held their breath for the next three and a half minutes. The referee signaled the final play of the match. After a series of pitches, a player on the back lines of the Munster team executed a drop kick from about forty yards out. It had the distance, but was off-center. The ball barely inched inside the left upright. Three points, Munster! The crowd went wild as the final score of the match came to 23-21 Munster.

The celebration continued in town after the match; it was great to share the experience with thousands of Munster fans! Catching one of the last buses out-of-town, we met six girls from Finland who were in town for the night. We struck up a conversation with the girls and quickly discovered how different schooling and the resulting tax codes were in our respective countries. The conversation was very natural although our backgrounds were noticeably different.

It’s been experiences such as these that I have cherished in my studies abroad. The unexpected conversations and the unexpected experiences are what have made the experience itself irreplaceable.

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