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The secret of Munster's success

Mick Galwey celebrates after Munster beat Castres to reach the 2002 Heineken Cup final
Galwey was the heartbeat of the Munster side which reached two Heineken Cup finals

Former Ireland and Lions second row Mick Galwey is a Munster legend, having captained the Irish province 85 times.

Born in County Kerry in Munster, he won a senior All-Ireland Gaelic Football Championship with Kerry at the age of 19 before focusing on rugby union.

He captained the Munster sides that lost the 2000 and 2002 finals and here he tells BBC Sport just what makes Heineken Cup winners Munster so special.

Mick Galwey
By Mick Galwey

It is difficult to sum up what the Munster psyche is all about, but the one word that springs to mind is honesty.

Every player who puts on a Munster jersey has to be an honest player - about their strengths and weaknesses, and about working hard to make themselves and the team better.

They have to play for the jersey, they have to play for the team and they have to know what it means for the supporters.

Blues Brother
It is not a big corporate thing, it is something much deeper than that.

The great thing is that anybody can be a Munster fan. Obviously people who live in Cork, Kerry and Limerick support Munster.

But there are people living in Dublin who would rather support Munster than Leinster, which tells you all you need to know.

All over Ireland, people support Munster because they like what they see.

And what they see is an honest team who go out there and perform to the best of their ability every time.

Munster is in the southern part of Ireland and it is steeped in the Gaelic tradition - and in sport that means Gaelic football and hurling.

But rugby union, and the success of Munster, has really united the province.

The Heineken Cup has made Munster, but in a lot of ways they have made the Heineken Cup.

They are the best-supported team in Europe, there is no doubt about that.

Massed ranks of Munster fans
Galwey says Munster's travelling fans are "almost a 16th man"
The fans are a massive part of Munster's success. With the travelling army, it is almost a 16th man and there is a real bond between the fans and the players.

More people went to the Millennium Stadium for Munster than for Ireland and that is testament to what the people feel about them.

They always - absolutely always - get behind the team and they will travel anywhere to support them.

Everybody was desperate for a ticket to the match and for a way of getting over to Cardiff, because all the flights and ferries are full.

People travelled by plane, boat, even helicopters, to make sure they got to Cardiff for the game.

I know some fans flew to Belgium and France from Ireland so they can get another flight back to the UK. That kind of support is priceless and means a lot to the players.

There is a really experienced spine in the Munster team. Players like John Hayes, Ronan O'Gara, David Wallace and Peter Stringer have done so much for Munster and continuity and loyalty is very important.

But when Munster bring in new players, they always pay a lot of attention to his character as well as his skills on the pitch.

It is great to get big name players like Doug Howlett in the red jersey, and we have had them before with guys like Jim Williams and Christian Cullen.

Doug Howlett takes on the defence during the Heineken Cup semi-final win over Saracens
New Zealand's all-time leading tryscorer Doug Howlett is now with Munster
These guys have been fantastic but I think the key is they have really bought into the Munster way and psyche. Munster would never look at any individual player as a superstar - they are a true team.

The players from the outside are the X-factor but every player who plays for Munster wants to win and they all know there's something very special about wearing the jersey.

Long before the professional game came about it was the same, and they have managed to keep that special feeling going. It is legendary.

In 1978, Munster beat the All Blacks at Thomond Park. Anybody who played for Munster that day can walk down the street today and people will know who they are.

So now, anybody who plays for Munster knows they have to better the jersey after all that has gone on before.

I was there for the two finals we lost in 2000 and 2002 - but we learned from that.

We eventually came back a better and stronger team. Some of those same players came back and won the tournament in 2006 and that was very, very important for Munster and rugby in Ireland.

It was what Munster had been crying out for. They had to win that match against Biarritz, they did not want to be the bridesmaids again, and now it has gone further.

It is great to have won one Heineken Cup, but the Munster players will be of the opinion that great teams go on and win it again and again.

(Mick Galwey was talking to BBC Sport's Phil Harlow)

see also
Munster 16-13 Toulouse
24 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Saracens 16-18 Munster
27 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup photos
27 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 3-16 Munster
05 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Munster 23-19 Biarritz
20 May 06 |  European Club
Munster's mission
18 May 06 |  European Club
Tigers retain European Cup
25 May 02 |  European

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