Thomond Park has been referred to as possibly the best stadium in the world for atmosphere. Memories have been made and hearts have been broken there. A lot of us even call it our second home. However, there’s a bit more than just rugby that makes the whole Thomond Park experience. This can be for the better or for worse, but either way we wouldn’t want it any different. Therefore, we’ve written out our top five (love-hate) things that only true Thomond Park goers will understand
5. Stadium Announcer / Entertainer
Checking your match program against Castres for example and seeing the name ‘Piula Fa’asalele’ is a very exciting prospect for any Munster fan as the announcer guy shakes in his boots before the team announcements. The infamous droll voice of Thomond Park has got a bit of a reputation for cocking up with such tropical names on the loud speaker – much to the entertainment of the Munster fans, as the initial tame attempt, the pause and eventually the skip of the name, is always a certainty to inspire a loud ironic cheer around the ground
Perhaps it isn’t that funny but Irish people love to laugh at others expense anyway and to be honest, in Thomond any little bit of comedy is enough to make us giggle after suffering through the choir and their latest ingenious plan to sing Christmas Carols on a Heineken Cup evening.
There’s also the inevitable “Please remain silent during a kick, this is a long standing tradition of Munster Rugby…” but we’ll forgive him for this one as it’s probably the cub scouts fault in the corner rather than his, even though it does get funnier with repetition each time. After all, it does sound like it tortures him more than it bores us, but we wouldn’t want it any differently, the man’s a legend.
4. Battling the Beverages
If you’ve got plans to drive home and you’re basically freezing your arse off, getting a cup of tea is definitely a good idea (sort of). Run in during half time, while your mate ‘keeps your space’, get the cuppa, stir the tea bag and drop it in the bin with your stick and return with a very satisfying and warming paper cup grasped in your hands. Unfortunately folks, drinking the thing is probably the worst part of the operation. Thomond tea for some reason stings your tongue and that sour milk is just top notch altogether. For being unique it fits the stadium perfectly but my recent purchases of this tea have definitely been based upon tradition rather than taste.
And then there’s the hot chocolate experiment. Tastes grand, perhaps a bit dry for some but it warms you up which is all good…but brace yourselves. Suddenly, just as you finish up the liquid, you arrive at what resembles the sticky wet sand at the bottom of a bucket. The chocolate mix is all dried up and clings to the base in all of it’s powdery greatness and makes you cough as though you had just entered a perfume department whilst being surrounded by cigarette smokers.
We’re no food and drink critics/snobs however and continue to get the stuff, purely for the fact that we would never be organised enough to wear hats, scarves or gloves against Connacht in a December clash. Therefore, we would still recommend the consumption of tea or hot chocolate, but only if you’re into avoiding pneumonia and hypothermia.
3. North Terrace Nightmare
Where you can’t see the big screen, score board, most of the game and where children get their entertainment by running after the ball following conversions – it could only be Thomond Park’s north terrace.
2. The Simple Switcharoo
While the steward at the entrance to the terrace is checking other peoples tickets, about 10 people can always just walk in behind his back. Not that we’ve ever done this or anything but based on experience from having the required ticket, it’s always less hassle to walk in without an inspection from the man in the luminous jacket anyway.
1. No Matter Where You Stand…
In Thomond Park, everyone’s a rugby expert…well at least in their own heads.
The problem is, as a result of this mindset there’s always going to be a few people who tend to be a little too loud. Sometimes you will encounter a couple of know-it-alls who will complain about Ian Keatley’s decision to kick the ball away over and over again, or perhaps you will encounter a middle aged man or two who prefer to abuse Wayne Barnes more than they like to support their team, and then of course, the silver haired die-hard who gets his kicks by telling everyone to shut up during penalties & conversions.
Unfortunately, these voices are the least of our worries as they’ve become pretty much immune to our match day ears. However, the same couldn’t be said about others as certain attendants are simply impossible to get used to.
Some of my unfortunate Thomond park experiences include standing beside a 70 year old man frantically shouting on Tony Buckley, Lifiemi Mafi and even Mossie Lawlor in 2013 against Edinburgh. Not only was he loud and stuck in three different time periods but it was also questionable whether he had the required mental health to be allowed on his own in a public ground.
That same season, I was forced to put up with a younger man in the terrace whom appeared to have great confidence in his pronunciation of our new signing Casey Laulala.
“Gwan Lualula! Yes Lualula!”
This went on for the entire game much to everyone’s frustration around me and pretty much spoiled the whole experience.
The most recent case of this Munster madness was against Ospreys on the north side, a 60 year old with grey hair took his jacket off, placed it on the steps and cleared the space around him. For the following 80 minutes, he would dance around on the edge of his nerves, freaking out to every pass, kick and tackle like a lunatic and was particularly enthusiastic about insulting Ian Keatley.
I’m sure he was a nice gentlemen really, but like 50% of the crowd, he had that mental streak that makes the Thomond Park atmosphere so special.
Oh Thomond, never change.
Ronan Calvert of Munster Haka