When Munster lifted the Heineken Cup in 2006 they had finally reached the holy grail.
The question for many people however was could Munster repeat that success.
Were they simply one-trick ponies? Could they reach the summit once again?
After a poor season the following year in 2007, the doubters were out, Munster were destined to once again become the nearly men.
In 2008 however, they silenced all the doubters and proved they were not a flash in the pan when they lifted their second European cup in two seasons against French giants Toulouse.
Alan Quinlan recalls the night before the final in his latest Irish Independent column and reveals how Ronan O’Gara played such a pivotal role in motivating players like himself before such a nervy game.
Time after time, he would talk about that responsibility and would get guys to believe in themselves – guys like me.
And that was where we were on this Friday evening in 2008, the night before the Heineken Cup final.
Two years earlier, Munster had finally got across the line and won a competition we had pushed hard in for seven seasons. Now we were back in another final but for me there was a difference.
This time I was starting. In 2006, I was a sub, coming back from injury.
And the extra responsibility freaked me out a bit. That and Thierry Dusautoir.
“Toulouse have this aura,” I said. “Dusautoir is an unbelievable player.”
“Fair enough,” he said, “he is good but so are you, you can dominate at this level and can dominate this match. This is where you can excel. We all have little doubts, pre-match nerves. I am nervous too.”
O’Gara’s nervousness however wasn’t in his own ability, he was nervous as to whether or not his teammates had the same hunger he had
But ROG’s nervousness was a little different to mine. He never worried about whether we were good enough.
He fretted over whether the same drive and hunger was in the team.
In the semi-final against Saracens at Coventry that year, we had escaped with murder. We all knew it. We nearly lost it late on which would have been the biggest underachievement ever and afterwards Declan Kidney gave it to us. And then ROG spoke up.
“If we don’t get our act together from Monday morning onwards, we won’t win the final,” he said.
Fascinating insight into the mindset of one of the world’s very best playmakers.