Former Preston Grasshopper Mike Haley was in action at the weekend as his Munster side took on The Stormers in the Final of the United Rugby Championship in Cape Town.
The Irish said ran out 19-14 winners to pick up their first trophy in 12 years.
Reflecting on the win, Mike said ” I’m absolutely over the moon with the win and the reception we got back at Thomond Park in Limerick from the amazing Munster supporters. I can’t thank Hoppers enough for their continued support and the experience from Mini Juniors all the way to through to my first men’s game at 17! It gave me the building blocks to help me achieve what I have so far. All my best wishes to everyone at Hoppers!”
Mike’s dad Tim, who is a well know face at the club, being a long time member and sponsor added “Thanks for asking me for a few words. My feet haven’t touched the ground since an astonishing victory for Munster over DHL Stormers 19 – 14 in Cape Town in front of 56,000 crowd of mostly very vocal SA supporters.”
“If I may give a bit of context – back in February a bad defeat against Glasgow at home left Munster with an uphill task to even qualify for European rugby next season and possibly not qualify for the knockout stages of the URC tournament. They had to go away to South Africa and play DHL Stormers in Cape Town who were unbeaten since January 2021 at home, and then play Cell C Sharks in Durban – who had beaten Munster convincingly in the European champions cup only a few weeks before.”
“Munster ended up beating the Stormers 26-24 in Cape Town and drew with the Sharks in Durban. That was enough finish 5th in the league and qualify for the knockout stages plus guaranteeing them a European championship rugby next season. Still plenty to do though!”
“Munster then beat Glasgow Warriors 14 – 5 in the quarter finals away in Glasgow in an epic clash with four of the best Munster players leaving the field for HIA’s – which they all failed, and which meant they were unavailable for the semi final against Leinster in the Aviva Stadium the following weekend. A dramatic last minute drop goal gave Munster a 16 – 15 win over Leinster and a final spot against the Stormers.”
“The Stormers were delighted as they thought they would be playing Leinster in the final in Dublin and ended up with a home final against Munster.”
“Munster clinched the title with a superb try with just minutes to go to win by 19 -14 and clinch their first title in 12 years. As finalists they already qualify as a seeded team in next seasons European championship.”
“The scenes of joy were amazing with great international players like Connor Murray, Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony winning their first silverware for the province they have played for their whole career.”
“I was watching the game in Santa Barbara, on my own, whilst visiting my daughter Laura and her family. Mike’s mum Siobhan gets too anxious watching the live games and went out for a walk wearing her red docs!”
“I have to say that watching Munster with my son playing is mainly agony – particularly as when they do win, it’s mostly in the closing stages. Obviously, I’ve watched nearly all Mike’s games and to see him play in the final was so special. To top it all I thought he had his finest game in the biggest game of his career.”
“One of the best days of my life and I haven’t stopped smiling since!”
“By the way, Mike started in the Mini/Juniors aged 8 and they put him in the B team. Some of my fondest memories are of those Mini/Junior years and the local derbies!”
Everyone at Hoppers is very proud of Mike and his achievements. We’d like to thank him and his Dad for giving us some time to write down their thoughts.