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Munster win over Leinster can make fans believe again.

There comes a point when hope is nothing but a source of pain. When your continued emotional investment in something that has left you down so many times before is becoming borderline insanity.

You learn to lower expectations. You understand that the greater the anticipation, the greater the frustration. So you become neutralised. You detach yourself. But never fully.

Never fully when that thing is Munster, at least.

Fans of the province could be forgiven for going into yesterday’s URC semi-final at the Aviva Stadium without the fiery anticipation of yesteryear. Munster have suffered eighteen knock-out defeats since their last trophy in 2011, and all but one of their previous thirteen visits to the Aviva Stadium ended in bitter disappointment.

A twelve year trophy-less run – nearly five of which were spent under the morale sapping stewardship of Johann Van Graan – should be enough to erode big-time dreams, but the imagery of 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011, remains etched in the back of Munster minds. The finger wagging of drop-kicking Corkman Jack Crowley tells us as much.

Munster take a step towards league glory.

Peter O’Mahony, Stephen Archer, Keith Earls. Simon Zebo and Conor Murray were on Munster’s books when they claimed the league title in 2011 and they haven’t experienced anything like it in a Munster jersey since. For experienced players like David Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Jean Kleyn, Rory Scannell and Mike Haley, success is yet to even be tasted.

Through those years of shortcomings, young Munster fans like Craig Casey, Jack Crowley and Gavin Coombes were experiencing the highs and lows from their sofas, wishing, praying, that Munster would one year reclaim their place on the podium.

Then yesterday, they played starring roles to give heroes like Keith Earls one last chance to heal a dozen scars.

A Stringer-like pass platformed an O’Gara-esque drop-goal and the celebrations said it all. A barrier broken, a trophy in reach.

Career defining final

The experienced faces in this Munster squad have become synonymous with hard luck stories and disappointment after years of drought. In sharp contrast to the previous generation, their provincial careers are currently defined by ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’.

But in two week’s time the complexion of those faces could suddenly change.

A crowning moment against the Stormers would leave a legacy of champions. History would be written and all that preceded re-written.

Careers framed not by shortcomings, but by resilience and progression towards an affirming finale.

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