JUST LIKE HIS team as, Paul O’Connell was home and hosed; showered, suited and booted by the time he arrived into the Thomond Park press room.
His overriding emotion was one of satisfaction. Six tries, just six points conceded; it all amounts to a job well done.
Having lost in Limerick to Ulster in 2012, Munster need no reminding that a home quarter-final guarantees nothing as far as Heineken Cup medals are concerned. However, it does promise another 26,500 full house in Thomond Park and a huge day for the city of Limerick.
In the run up to this game Rob Penney had call on supporters to show why they were so highly thought of and, despite the much-derided Sunday afternoon kick-off, they successfully had the volume up throughout.
As the final whistle blows on the pool stages and the makeup of the last eight is finally set in stone, it is the supporters who O’Connell seems to fell happiest for.
“It’s an expensive business travelling to watch the team,” says the Ireland captain, “I’ve no doubt that if we went away from home we’d have had great support, but it’s great for the supporters now to be able to enjoy the home comforts for the quarter-final.”
O’Connell wasn’t exactly giddy with when considering the other aspects of the achievement. But he did calmly credit his side with their finest performance of the season so far.
The opening day loss to Edinburgh meant that the southern province were never likely to show up over-confident today, but once they found themselves in possession and within Edinburgh territory, they were absolutely single-minded in their focus.
The 29 -23 loss in Murrayfield will be banished to become just a quirky footnote now, but it has been an important point in Munster’s season. Since that low point, they have won all bar one fixture.
“After that first round game where we played so poorly and gave up the win in a meagre way, to get that win away in Perpignan – this year, we’ve improved; we’ve taken steps forward most weeks whereas at times last season there was one step forward, two steps back. I think we’ve improved week on week this year which is great.”
All that improvement means that Munster today leapfrogged Toulouse into the top four seeds, forcing the kings of Europe to make their first Heineken Cup visit to Thomond Park in early April.
“There’s probably no bigger team in European rugby between themselves and Leinster at the moment,” O’Connell says of Guy Noves’ men.
“It’s gonna be a really tough game, one to focus the minds over the next few months.”