“He came crashing down the airwaves and into the car with such stunning, soaring passion that for safety reasons, I had to pull in to a Kildare by-road.”
At the end of a week when Munster’s victory over Gloucester in the Heineken Cup is still been spoken about and celebrated, RTE Radio Sport commentator, Michael Corcoran’s wins the plaudits for his narration of those closing moments. He was perched on a packed gantry beside guest commentator Tony Ward with Munster coach Alan Gaffney on his left, and Corcoran
somehow managed to hold his place and his professionalism in those final moments.
So moved was Irish Times journalist Kathy Sheridan by Corcoran’s performance that she sent the following to this site and we reproduce it by request.
“He came crashing down the airwaves and into the car with such stunning, soaring passion that for safety reasons, I had to pull in to a Kildare by-road.” was how Irish Times journalist Kathy Sheridan heard of Munster’s win in Thomond Park.
I intended to be there, purely with condolences in mind. A duty trip. The idea would have been to hit the road for Limerick, have social time with my other half (it’s the only way I get to see him nowadays), and afterwards soothe the stricken with a few well-chosen words, like : “Ah listen, it’s no harm, sure we all needed a rest. The girls and I still aren’t over that nasty business in Cardiff and that thieving Leicester git who did the dirty on that sweet little Stringer chap and that’s eight months ago for crying out loud. No, lads, you did us all a favour. Really. In fact I’m sure you did it on purpose so well done, much appreciated”.
I didn’t get to Limerick because of a long-standing agreement to adjudicate a girls’ public speaking competition. And that was unfortunate at two levels. Being a girlie occasion, it wasn’t the kind of place where you stumble across people armed with little ear-pieces listening surreptitiously to football commentaries. Also girls tend to chat on a bit more.
Anyway, like most of the western world (especially the Leinster bit of it), by the time I turned on the car radio, all I expected to hear were muted, stoical Munster voices intoning:
“Well, yeah, we’re out of the Heineken Cup but the lads did us proud Bounced back well from the disappointment of Perpignan Mighty Munster hearts Another day There is an isle blah, blah” That kind of thing.
Instead, there was mighty Michael Corcoran.
He came crashing down the airwaves and into the car with such stunning, soaring passion that for safety reasons, I had to pull in to a Kildare by-road. It seemed like a mega-dose of something highly illegal had been substituted for the time-slot marked funeral notices.
(Note to Seamus Brennan : Anyone who carried on driving on public roads while listening to Corcoran’s commentary should get 24 penalty points plus time in the slammer, with no time off for good behaviour. Unless it was Tom Humphries, they couldn’t possibly have been compos mentis).
With no warning, I had tuned in a minute before full-time. Jeremy Staunton was storming the line – then John Kelly was storming it again
And Corcoran was storming the senses of every radio listener lucky enough to be alive at that heavenly moment
Was I the only Leinster woman who hit her head off a car ceiling, while shrieking and laughing maniacally, all alone, with only Michael Corcoran for company ?
I think I know now – and this is something, coming from a non-sporty woman – how it feels to win the lottery.
And it was Michael Corcoran* who delivered the news, got hysterically excited while managing to stay articulate (how did he do that?), and stayed to pop the champagne corks. That five minutes of audio should become a collector’s item. It felt very like a dream, like that television ad where Jason McAteer scores against Brazil in the World Cup. Then I heard Tony Ward say this was bigger than the All Blacks in 1978 Does it get any better than that ?
With all due respect to my print-media colleagues, radio and television are a hard act to follow on occasions like this. For writing journalists, it’s easier to describe a calamity than a miracle. But for anyone looking for a Sunday and Monday morning anti-dote to the relentlessly depressing coverage of the Tim Allen/child porn case, the sports pages were your only man.
Suddenly Paidi O Se’s “winter talk” was eye-rolling trivia.
There is no Banner or Tipp or Waterford, not even a Limerick”, wrote Billy Keane in the Independent. “Just the biggest county in Ireland called Munster”.
And John B’s son described, how as Ronan O’Gara stepped up to attempt that final, heart-scorching conversion, “I said a little prayer to the man who brought me to my first All-Ireland “. Sound man, John B.
“Who does write these guys’ scripts anyway?”, asked Gerry Thornley in The Irish Times. “Harry Houdini has indeed relocated to Limerick No-one wants to go home. It’s the stuff of dreams If they can ever package it, Munster would make a packet. It can enliven the spirit and the mind. It can cure hangovers, it can make strangers embrace, it can bring tears to the eye, it could probably avert war in the Gulf”.
The big test though is to turn to the foreign journalists. Is it only us natives who think Munster is mighty special? Well, look no further than Mick Cleary in the Daily Telegraph. “The final whistle unleashed scenes of tumult – scenes that ought to bear repeating in many other venues around the sporting globe. It was terrific to see the crowds flood across the turf to acclaim their heroes. There was no prissy fool on the PA microphone ordering people to keep off the pitch. This was a shared experience. And all the better for it”.
His colleague Stuart Barnes tried to nail down the “X factor” that is Munster. In as neat, truthful and touching a tribute as you’ll ever read, he summed up what Munster is and is not and marked the lessons to be learned for clubs. He touched on the “simmering antagonism that brings you somewhere near to the inspirational heart of Munster. They don’t like Leinster and they are none too wild about the English”. But it is what they are NOT that is ultimately what makes them different, he decided. Jim Williams apart, it’s a side made up of men of Cork and Limerick, who have grown up in the province and are not just idols but also mates of the fanatical supporters.
It is little to do with branding, except of the raw and elemental type that faithfully represents the province and not some marketing man’s clever plan. The pre-match pumping up of the crowd is not some wannabe disc jockey slurring his words as he announces “Let’s hear it for whoever”, but a man with a microphone singing “Stand up and fight like a man”, from Carmen.
“Thomond Park is a special place”, Barnes continued.
“The atmosphere could peel the paint from the stand, if there was any paint. But the secret lies in the terracing. Tightly packed, both sets of fans indulged in a rip-roaring tribalism. It is a million miles from where many of the English clubs are heading: towards all-seat stadiums with lots of light entertainment to make for a good family day out”.
And at a time when whistling at kickers has become part of the professional game, “if the roars that greeted scores at Thomond Park were something, the silence that greeted the kickers of both teams was something else again. Antagonism might fuel the passion but it is controlled and in proportion and impeccable manners reign”.
“A lot of players learned a lot about themselves today”, said the hapless Nigel Melville,Gloucester’s director of rugby. And the lessons were grim ones, wrote Barnes. “Some of their players are going to wrestle with their egos. They could start by watching the Munster men at their best: heart and soul, heart and soul”.
Yes siree. Munster is different. They don’t need the endorsement of outsiders. But it’s nice to have it anyway.
(*Disclaimer : I’ve never even met Michael Corcoran. Honest.