Heineken Cup: Dedicated fans fly in from all over world for Ulster V Leinster ‘All Ireland’
IT takes dedication to be this blue.
While most of the thousands of fans who flooded into London for the 'All-Ireland' Heineken Cup final only had to endure a quick hop over the Irish sea, Bryan Gough was trying to recover from his 10-hour flight from Vancouver.
The 26-year-old from Ashbourne in Co Meath, who months ago squirrelled away a €1,000 'Cup fund' on the chance that Leinster would make it through, found himself fighting jet lag in the run-up to today's match.
Mr Gough, who works in banking in Canada, moved there just two-and-a-half months ago but said it would be "bad form" not to travel back for the game, his third final with Leinster.
"I left on Wednesday at 1pm and arrived in Thursday at 7.30am. I had put the money aside some time ago and then knew I had to go after the semi-final, when I woke up all of my housemates screaming at the laptop at 7am when Leinster won," he said after arriving in London.
Supporters arrived en masse in London yesterday for the crunch match between Leinster and Ulster.
In the Porterhouse pub in Covent Garden, the de facto headquarters for travelling Leinster supporters, a group from both sides were enjoying a lunchtime pint having met on the street earlier.
Arnold Stewart, from the Glens of Antrim, praised the fact that both sides were getting along so easily before the game.
Each team's allocation of 7,500 tickets were quickly snapped up after the semi-finals, while the remaining tickets have been gradually released over the past year.
For 12-year-old Hannah Barrett from Castleknock in Dublin, this will be her third final, along with her parents Tom and Cathy and brother Jack (16).
"In 2009 we were in Edinburgh, last year in Cardiff. I would say there are very few 12-year old-girls who have been to three Heineken Cup finals," Tom Barrett said.
Some of the early fliers exiting via Dublin Airport for London's six airports caught a glimpse of Leinster's boys in blue as they strolled out across the tarmacadam
"I think I'm going to stay, I'm emigrating, that's the way it was 50 years ago lads," said Leinster supporter Ben Traynor, as he wielded the miniature leather suitcase (pictured below) his uncle Joe McGovern used half-a-century ago when he emigrated to Coventry.
"It started as a joke to see how small of a bag he could bring," explained his friend John Dunne, who is living in Cavan.
"I've the essentials -- a jersey, cap, toiletries and a change of socks," joked Mr Traynor, from Donabate, Co Dublin, who was going to his second Heineken Cup Final.
"If we were away for a week I'd still bring the same thing. It depends on your roommates, sometimes you can swap clothes.
"It has been a lucky suitcase -- on one of the very few occasions we ever won in France it was there."
Brothers Cathal McKenna and Denis McKenna, from Suncroft, Co Kildare, revealed they booked everything as soon as the final whistle went in the semi-final against Clermont.
"The tickets were €380, flights €400 and the accommodation for the two of us was €450," Denis said. "It will be worth it," he added.
Leinster star Jamie Heaslip tweeted that he was listening to 'Top of the World' by Ace Hood en route to Terminal 1 yesterday.
Model Holly Carpenter, whose 'walking wounded' boyfriend Cian Healy was cleared from his ankle injury to take his place, tweeted that she had picked up her sterling and was "so excited" about Twickenham.
Around 17,000 passengers were travelling to London via Dublin Airport with an extra 7,000 seats and 25 additional departing flights put on.
Both teams arrived into London yesterday and are staying at undisclosed locations.
Win or lose, Leinster plan to travel back tonight, while Ulster are due to return tomorrow.