Planes, trains and automobiles . . . fans flock to continent in hope of dream final
THOUSANDS of rugby supporters from Leinster and Munster flew out to France and Spain yesterday with hope in their hearts ahead of the Heineken Cup semi-finals.
In Dublin, there were streams of supporters bedecked in blue flying to Toulouse in the hope Leinster will come out successful against the French side today.
Munster supporters took off from Shannon Airport bound for the Basque country, also praying for a victory against Biarritz in tomorrow's game, which is taking place in the Spanish city of San Sebastian.
The two sides are hoping to set up a dream all-Ireland final in Paris on May 22.
Toulouse was swathed in blue by yesterday afternoon.
At the De Danu pub -- owned by former Leinster and Toulouse flanker Trevor Brennan -- the atmosphere was building.
Darragh Brennan (no relation) (33), his father George (64) and brother Gareth (31), all from Ballinteer in Dublin, said they were "having a ball" as they warmed up for today's showdown by watching Connacht square up to Toulon.
"We're just hoping for the best really," said Darragh. "Hope is the only word at the moment. I don't think Leinster have much chance, but then it was the same in 2006 -- nobody was too confident and we managed to pull it out of the bag."
On that famous occasion Leinster triumphed 41-35.
Bar manager Tracey Culloty (29), from Kerry, is a Munster fan and she said she and Trevor Brennan would be shouting for the French.
"It'll be a really great atmosphere because the place will be spilt between Leinster and Toulouse supporters," she said.
"A lot of us have been living here for years, so I'll be rooting for Toulouse -- but then I'm from Munster. I'd love a Toulouse-Munster final. Trevor won't mind who wins on the day -- he'll be happy for both teams."
Some 7,000 Munster fans are making the pilgrimage to San Sebastian.
Friends Kevin Tobin (29) and Adrian Kirby (29) -- both from Boher, Co Limerick -- were literally travelling by planes, trains and automobiles.
"We drive to Shannon Airport and fly to Stansted. From there we have to get a connection to Biarritz," Kevin said.
"It gets intricate after that. We get a train to Hendaye on the border and have to switch there for another train to San Sebastian. Four countries, three nights, one game -- hopefully it'll go like clockwork. We're prepared for all eventualities."
Departing on a flight to Biarritz was Munster and Irish legend Peter Clohessy and his wife Anna. Also boarding were Mary Quinlan -- mother of current Munster star Alan -- as well as Brendan and Sheila Foley -- parents of former Munster captain Anthony Foley.
All were enthusiastic of another Munster success on foreign soil ahead.
RUGBY SPECIAL: SPORT