“This Is Up There With The Top Three or Four Occasions In Any Competition”

The 2009 Heineken Champions Cup semi-final clash between Leinster and Munster will forever be remembered for a plethora of reasons. 

Not only was the game held at the home of Gaelic Games, Croke Park, but the crowd of over 82,000 is still a world record for a club rugby match.

It was also viewed in many ways as the passing of the guard so to speak as Leinster finally got one over on the then champions and bitter rivals Munster when it really mattered.

Nigel Owens was the official in charge on that day 11 years ago, the esteemed referee remembers it fondly describing it one of the top three or four occasions in any competition.

“This match is up there with the top three or four occasions in any competition and that would be Leinster v Munster at Croke Park in 2009 in that semi-final,” said referee Nigel Owens on the Champions Rugby Show.

“Munster were the big European guns and Leinster had fallen short on so many occasions, particularly against Munster and they just turned up this day. 

“The stadium was packed out and it was a world record crowd for a club game, a wonderful atmosphere and a nice sunny day. 

“We had two teams packed with international class players all over it and I remember going to Croke Park and it was like an international matchday, full of blue and red and what a game it was. 

“That was the coming of Leinster and the turning point in them then becoming dominant over Munster and in Europe for that next decade. 

“So that was one of the best European occasions in the history of the competition I think.”

11 years on and the game is still talked about regularly, maybe due to the significance of the occasion and how that defeat signalled the end of Munster’s European dominance which was ultimately passed onto their biggest rivals.

Jesus, it’s Croke Park. Biggest crowd of all time. It’s why you play sport,” Ronan O’Gara told the Irish Independent.

“We were on a roll, by God the train got an almighty belt and unfortunately the train has never got back on from Munster’s point of view.”

From a Leinster perspective, Jamie Heaslip remembers fondly running out onto Croke Park to a loud sea of red and blue.

“If you recall back to ’06 [Leinster’s semi-final defeat to Munster], when we ran out on to the pitch [at Lansdowne Road] I would say 70/80 per cent of the crowd was red,” Heaslip told the Irish Times.

 

“Fast forward three years and coming out on to that [Croke Park] field it was 50-50. It was like a chequered flag of blue and red around the whole stadium, with 80-odd thousand people, and I remember thinking: ‘Holy s**t, this is mega’.

“We hadn’t gone into the game as favourites but the fan base were out there to support us, unlike in ’06, despite that wonder game against Toulouse. That filled me with a lot of pride.”

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Author: Michael Corry

Sports Journalist born in Armagh, based in Dublin. Interested in feature writing and listening to unique, engaging stories. Up for the craic too. Email: michael@punditarena.com Twitter: @MickCorryPA Instagram: @Corry_10 View all posts by Michael Corry