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30th May 2023

Keith Earls and John Hodnett the star turns at Munster’s title homecoming

Patrick McCarry

Keith Earls

‘One more year, one more year!’

There were some great scenes at Thomond Park, on Monday, as Munster fans turned out in their rapturous droves to welcome back the newly minted United Rugby Championship winners. Keith Earls and John Hodnett were the star turns.

Munster supporters have been following their team all over Ireland, Europe and, more recently, South Africa to support their team. Over the past decade, as the province’s wait for a trophy stretched and stretched taut, many would have been forgiven for losing faith. Up the road, Leinster were piling up the silverware and routinely beating them in league encounters.

The tide started to turn on May 13th, in the URC semi-final, when Jack Crowley’s drop goal left Leinster stunned and beaten. That loss ached even more when La Rochelle, coached by Munster legend Ronan O’Gara, denied them in the Champions Cup for the third season on the spin.

Then, in Cape Town at a packed out DHL Stadium, Munster ended a 12-year title weight by beating Stormers 19-14. “I said it there, I didn’t think it was going to happen there for a few of us,” Munster captain Peter O’Mahony admitted. “We’ve been a long time at it. We’ve had a long road.”

The long road had a triumph waiting, just past before that finish line, and Munster careered headlong into it. As soon as the final whistle went, the parties could begin. There was a big night in Cape Town and the squad got a great send-off when they left their team hotel and headed for the airport:

Keith Earls brings the URC trophy to his old school

Back in Ireland, Munster legend Keith Earls made a beeline to his old school with the URC trophy.

Earls, who is only of only four Munster players in the current squad to have last won a league title, in 2011, got a rousing reception:

John Hodnett a popular man at Thomond celebrations

When Keith Earls was announced by former Munster man Barry Murphy at the Thomond Park celebrations, the fans cracked up a ‘One More Year’ chant, and the winger joined in, much to everyone’s delight.

While many have been quick to retire the 35-year-old, who just wrapped his 16th senior season, Earls has not made any official announcements. He is contracted up with Munster and the IRFU until November, when the World Cup wraps.

And then we had John Hodnett, the try-scoring hero from that win over the Stormers.

Merry and carrying over that Cape Town hue, the Cork native thought better of trying to leap over a sponsor’s hoarding board, after being introduced to the crowd. Asked for his take on the title win, he simply belted out, ‘MUNSTER, MUNSTER, MUNSTER!’ and handed back the microphone. Two wise moves.

 

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During the Thomond Park celebrations, there was a great reception for former All Blacks and current Tonga star Malakai Fekitoa.

The centre only ended up staying at the province one season but he struck up a superb partnership with Antoine Frisch and heads for Benetton Treviso as a URC champ:

And, of course, there was Graham Rowntree.

‘Wig’ has brought the glory days back to Munster and he got one of the biggest cheers of all when he declared, “The best is yet to come!”

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