If Eddie O’Sullivan was looking for a quiet place, free from distractions and the glare of publicity, for his side to prepare for their three match tour, then Timaru was heaven sent.
When the Oceania coach carrying the Irish Squad left Christchurch Airport, the first serious directional sign indicated, left for Temuka/Timaru and right for Belfast ? Travelling on the two lane Cantebury Highway, the surrounding land was billiard-table level as far as the eye could see with the snow capped Southern Alps away to our right. Thousands of merino sheep, and the odd herd of Freisin cow, totally ignored our progress – obviously firm All-Black supporters – and our coffee stopover in Ashburton raised almost as much interest, from humans that is. In fairness, Monday was Bank Holiday and there were precious few people about.
Continuing south through Rangitata, Orari Winchester and Temuka, the party arrived at the Grosvenor Hotel at one o’clock.
Now it would be fair to say that nothing much happened in Timaru on Monday (and we look forward in anticipation to Tuesday). It’s the largest urban area in South Cantebury, a town dominated by it’s port and the business it brings in, a town that has it’s own Botanic Gardens, the Aigantighe Art Gallery, Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden on Caroline Bay and the South Cantebury Museum.
On Monday, it definitely fell under the sleepy little town’ category, with pubs and restaraunts eerily empty and the silence broken only by the odd Cadillac or Hillman Hunter bombing through the deserted streets.
Quiet as Monday was, next Saturday afternoon in town will be even quieter. Because everyone will be in the Alpine Energy Stadium when Ireland open their tour with a game against a New Zealand Divisional side and a week later it’ll be the same story as the residents of Timaru and surrounding areas make the journey south to see what pain the Blicks’ have in mind for Eddie O’Sullivan’s side.