Limerick, the ancestral home of Munster, is one of four Irish cities that will host the Guinness PRO14 in the new-look league’s first season.
Boasting the team that finished top of the league last season, even if they were defeated in the final, Limerick remains one of the best cities to watch rugby live – with the atmosphere at Thomond Park always electric.
Here’s everything PRO14 fans from South Africa, Italy, Wales and Scotland need to know when visiting Limerick…
Limerick is the third-largest city in the Republic of Ireland and is situated in the mid-west of the country, on the banks of the River Shannon.
The comical limerick poems are generally considered to be named after the city or county of Limerick.
In early medieval times Limerick was at the centre of the Kingdom of Thomond – the word Thomond is closely linked with the region and found in place names such as Thomondgate, Thomond Bridge and of course Thomond Park.
The city is only a 15-minute drive from Shannon Airport, which is served by flights from all around Europe.
Five things to see and do
Limerick’s Milk Market was established in 1852 and sells a variety of locally sourced, in-season products to the residents of the city. It’s situated in the city centre and is open Friday to Sunday.
Situated 21km from Limerick, Lough Gur is the centre of Irish history and contains artefacts from over 6,000 years of human presence there. You can visit the heritage centre or just take a walk around the horseshoe lake.
If you like the weird and wonderful, give the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum a visit. Its collection of flying machines will amuse the old and the young alike.
To really experience everything rugby-related, the museum at Thomond Park takes a look at the historic side of the stadium. You can also book a tour to look around places usually only accessible to players and officials.
And of course Ireland is famous for its pubs and bars and one of the best in Limerick is the historic Flannery’s Bar. It boasts a collection of over 100 Irish Whiskeys, one of the largest in the country, which can be tasted with help from the ‘Whiskey Bible’.
Many rugby players from Limerick have gone on to play for Ireland or the British & Irish Lions. Paul O’Connell captained both teams as well as Munster, and is the 18th most-capped international player in rugby union history.
Keith Earls, Paul and David Wallace, and Anthony Foley – all legends of Irish rugby – all also hail from Limerick.
Other famous sporting figures from Limerick include footballing right-back Steve Finnan, who played 52 international matches for the Republic of Ireland and was part of the Liverpool FC team that won the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final.
Boxer Andy Lee held the WBO middleweight title from 2014 to 2015 and grew up in Limerick, as did famous businessman and horse-owner JP McManus, and legendary broadcaster Terry Wogan.
Munster were formed in 1879, and in 1978 recorded one of their most famous victories with a 12-0 win over New Zealand in a packed Thomond Park.
Munster won their first Celtic League title in 2003, before being crowned champions again in 2009 and defeating Leinster in the final in 2011.
They have also been named European champions on two occasions – in 2005-06 and 2007-08 – after beating Biarritz Olympique and Toulouse in the respective finals.
Last season they finished top of the league, with 19 wins from 22 games, but defeat to Scarlets in the final saw them miss out on a fourth title.
There has been a pitch at Thomond Park since 1938, when Munster opened proceedings with a victory over arch-rivals Leinster.
The ground has recently been redeveloped and was re-opened with a Munster match against the All Blacks in 2008.
The 25,600-seater stadium is a 30-minute walk north-west of the city centre, and is an easy ten minute journey by bus or taxi.
Possibly the best stadium in the world for atmosphere, most Munster fans consider Thomond Park a second home – with just one visit, you’ll see why…