Reddan fires fresh volley of plaudits in phoney war
THE euphoria of the weekend has settled at this stage, allowing the preliminary stages of the phoney war to get under way.
David Humphreys kicked things off at the weekend by painting Leinster as "hot favourites" for the Heineken Cup final, but Eoin Reddan hit back yesterday with a salvo that had Ulster at the top of the tree, claiming that the northern province are somehow underestimated by the media.
The aim of the game, of course, is to avoid saying anything incendiary at any cost. It is the opposite approach to the one taken by boxers, who puff out their chest and declare themselves to be the greatest and their opponent an inferior man.
Unfortunately, we're unlikely to hear any brio from the media-trained participants in this first all-Irish European final and, by the time we reach May 19, we'll be convinced that these two teams are no-hopers -- who somehow found themselves in the final by some stroke of luck and are hoping to not let anybody down -- rather than the continent's form sides.
Reddan was happy to play the game, reckoning that Ulster have proven themselves a "great side" this season.
"Obviously it will be very tough," the Ireland scrum-half said yesterday at the launch of the annual Bloomsday Messenger Bike Rally in aid of Irish Youth Foundation. "Ulster have proven themselves over and over again this year, and probably more so to us than the media.
"The media say 'oh, they're up, they're down; will they lose to Edinburgh?' We always knew they would win that semi-final and we have massive respect for them. They have achieved a huge amount this year already. Fair play to them for that.
"They're a great side, they've proven that this year. They came very close to beating Clermont on their own patch, which is probably even a bigger feat than what we did, given that we played them in Bordeaux."
Leinster captain Leo Cullen admitted that Sunday's win over Clermont could be viewed as a "defining" result in his team's history, but Reddan does not want the side to dwell on their achievement.
"The thing with 'defining' matches is that once they're over there's another one coming along that will define you as well," he said. "The next task seems very tough as well. We're happy with the win, but we were lucky in the end if we're honest."
The scrum-half is in a battle of his own in the coming weeks after missing out on selection for the semi-final to rival Isaac Boss. Leinster play the Dragons this Saturday, before a home semi-final in the Pro12 in which the Limerick man can stake his claim.
"You've a job to do and you get on with it and try to get the team over the line," he said of missing out against Clermont. "It required everyone, all 23 men, to put in a massive effort that week, and the lads at home did as well.
"It's one of our massive strengths -- we have a very big squad of talented players who are all pulling in the same direction. That's key to being able to compete on two fronts."