Saturday 7 December 2019

Blue army toasts victory as Leinster heroes take Heineken Cup win in stride

Fans mob Brian O'Driscoll on the pitch after victory
Fans mob Brian O'Driscoll on the pitch after victory
Leinster's Gordon D'Arcy gets a kiss from his fiance, former Miss Ireland Aoife Cogan, as he celebrates the Heineken Cup victory at Twickenham on Saturday
Sean O'Brien and his partner
Jonny Sexton and Shane Horgan with the trophy
Leinster's (left to right) Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip celebrate with the trophy after victory over Ulster during the Heinken Cup Final at Twickenham, London. Photo: PA

Paul Melia and Shane Hickey in London

THEY may have won European rugby's top prize for the third time in four years -- but Leinster players took it easy on Saturday night, choosing sober celebrations over an all-night party.

And now it's all about securing the double. The Heineken Cup winners face the Ospreys next Sunday in the final of the RaboDirect Pro12 league at the RDS in Dublin, and celebrating in advance of the match could have proved premature, a spokesman said.

Last year they held a Heineken Cup celebration at the RDS, only to be beaten in the league final by Munster the following week. The spokesman said a decision was taken by the players not to lose the run of themselves.

"We've a final next week and we don't want to damage the pitch (at the RDS) ahead of that," a spokesman said.

"There was a celebration in the RDS last year but a lot of supporters were away so they missed out on it. We took the view not to pre-empt anything. We just decided to wait and see how it goes next week.

"We just made a judgment that given the importance of the game next week at home, the lads aren't overly keen to lose the run of themselves. There's a real opportunity to do the double -- it's only been done once in the professional age by Wasps who won the Heineken and Premiership titles."

Instead, players had a meal after their game before flying into Dublin on a chartered aircraft, arriving at 2.30am. Many then made their way to the Burlington Hotel where a reception for family and friends was held.

"There's nothing happening today, the lads are banjaxed," the spokesman added. "It's been a long season and they'll take a long-earned rest.


"Thankfully we've an extra day to recover. There's a few very happy but tired people today. I don't think it's going to be a case of going bananas. There was a reception in the Burlington Hotel last night and they went back there but it wasn't a big session.

"They're pretty grounded. They loved last night, there were great celebrations in Luton and in Dublin Airport. But next week is a great opportunity and they want to push on and get that league title.

"It would be a shame to not give themselves the best opportunity after all the hard work this year."

The players can expect to receive a bonus for their win, but details were not available yesterday on how much they could be worth. One report suggested they would be small, up to €3,000, as about 50 players and staff helped the team to their title win.

While demand for the remaining 3,000 tickets for next Sunday's final at the RDS has reached fever pitch, any hopes of pushing for a switch to the bigger Aviva Stadium are hindered by the Republic of Ireland's friendly soccer match against Bosnia & Herzegovina which takes place next Saturday at 3pm.

Meanwhile, there were many hangovers to be nursed yesterday by the 82,000 supporters who packed Twickenham.

Up to 50,000 Leinster fans were estimated to have made it to the final, and in the Porterhouse pub in Covent Garden some continued on the celebrations before returning home.

All agreed that Leinster's record third win in four years will act as a massive boost for the club on and off the pitch in the future. Richard Tynan, from Cabinteely in Dublin, said rugby jerseys would now be more popular among children, replacing Premier League shirts.

Ciaran Donnelly, from Shankill in Dublin, added: "Ulster fans, they had an idea of what would happen. The score probably reflected what was going on," he said.

Ulster supporter Alison Mayne from Newtownards said the underdogs did go in with expectations of winning, however.

"We thought we had a reasonable chance but we did accept that Leinster are a very good team," she said.

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