Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Ulster rugby fans going that extra mile to see Heineken Cup final

Ulster's Rory Best walks with his son after the Heineken Cup semi final match between Ulster and Edinburgh at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Ulster's Rory Best walks with his son after the Heineken Cup semi final match between Ulster and Edinburgh at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Ulster fans at the semi-final against Edinburgh
Ulster fan Adam Brown from Saintfield at the Aviva Stadium
An Ulster fan during the Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster's Stefan Terblanche celebrates victory over Edinburgh after Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
An Ulster fan during Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Harry and Robbie Cooper, eight-year-old twins at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Fans at The Botanic Inn, Belfast cheer as Ulster win Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final match against Edinburgh. Brother and sister Joeseph and Catherine McTaggart
Fans at The Botanic Inn, Belfast cheer as Ulster win Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final match against Edinburgh. Johnny Farrell, Harry Cleland and Mark Branigan
Ulster fans Matthew Davis, Aaron Wilkinson, Chris Beacom and Dave Johnston ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Hannah McAdam and Rebecca Walker at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Sarah and Emma Lewis from Belfast
Ulster fans Adam Nathan Stewart and Matthew Thompson at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Johnny and Michelle Dodds from Armagh during Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Simon Corry with his six year-old son William before Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Rachel Irwin from Holywood outside the Aviva Stadium
Ella Killeen and Anna Wheeler from Belfast outside the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Simon Andrew and Stuart Crozier through the glasses of Rachel Craig from Londonderry
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Ross Dunning, Jamie Friel and Leo Cassidy from Saintfield at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans from Armagh at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Sam Owens and Jack Dickson at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Chloe McIlwaine and Jennifer Swann from Larne at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Chloe McIlwaine and Jennifer Swann from Larne at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans celebrate after the game
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar celebrates with fans after the game
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 28th April 2012 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Nearly 4500 Ulster rugby fans used TranslinkÕs special rugby train and coach services to travel to Dublin for the Heineken Cup semi-final today. It was a lively atmosphere at Belfast Central Station and Europa Buscentre as fans got ready to cheer on their team. Pictured are Kerry McDowell, Lynsey McDowell and Louise Topping from Glenoe in County Antrim at Central station in Belfast.
Ewan MacDonald and his daughter Elen with Ulster fans waiting on their train at Belfast Central Station
Ulster rugby fans Loraine and Sam Bell pictured in Belfast as they prepare to make the trip to watch Ulster clash with Edinburgh
Kathryn Graham and Neil McCullough at Central station in Belfast
Kerry McDowell, Lynsey McDowell and Louise Topping from Glenoe in County Antrim at Central Station in Belfast
Peter Croan, Chris McIlmurray and Glen Dugan from Newtownards at Central Station in Belfast
Kenny Calladine and Hilda Boyd from Belfast at Central Station
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 28th April 2012 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Nearly 4500 Ulster rugby fans used TranslinkÕs special rugby train and coach services to travel to Dublin for the Heineken Cup semi-final today. It was a lively atmosphere at Belfast Central Station and Europa Buscentre as fans got ready to cheer on their team. Pictured are Paula Clendinning, Julie Clendinning and Brian Clendinning from Crossgar at Central station in Belfast.
James Heyburn, Mathew Mitchell and Rory Cahoon from Helens Bay at Central Station in Belfast
Thomas Maxwell from Dungannon, Gavyn Anderson from Belfast and Andy Loughran from Belfast at Central Station
Paul and Jenny Irwin from Belfast at Central Station
Members of Ballynahinch Rugby Club at Central Station in Belfast
Brian McMaster, Karl Ludlow and Steven O'Connor at Central Station in Belfast.
Ulster rugby fans travelling to Dublin for today's Heineken Cup semi-final
Paul Cox from Newtownards at Central Station in Belfast.
Ulster fans wait on their train at Belfast Central train station as more than 2% of the population of Northern Ireland will be in Dublin this weekend to watch Ulster play in rugby's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster Rugby legend Simon Best with Ulster fans waiting on their train at Belfast Central train station
Ulster fans wait on their train at Belfast Central train station
Ulster Rugby legend Simon Best with Ulster fans Scott Shannon and Louis Lowry waiting on their train at Belfast Central Station
Carol Graham, Willie Graham, Hall Graham and Kate Graham from Parkgate in Antrim at Central Station in Belfast
Deborah Stringer and Graham McCormack from Belfast
Jane and Christopher Hughes from Belfast
John, Holly and Neill Carson from Belfast
Aaron Stewart and Catherine Bell from Belfast
Ryan Hogg, Stephen Craig,Sam Lindsay and Johny McCreish all from Newtownabbey
Carla Pearce from Newtownards
Alastair and Cameron Hooks from Belfast
Sam and Gerry Burns from Belfast
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Sharon and Alison Mairs from Lisburn
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Victoria Gibson and Claire Ogle from Dromore travel to the game on Saturday

How far do you have to go to prove your credentials as a loyal supporter of Ulster rugby?

This month, thousands of loyal fans are set to travel hundreds of miles across the water to see their side in action when Ulster take on Leinster in the Heineken Cup final which will be held at Twickenham stadium in London.

This has proved lucrative for airlines — but it will be something of a logistical nightmare for many fans unable or unwilling to pay over the odds on direct flights to get to the May 19 clash.

At Midas, an insurance underwriting firm based in Newtownards, employees are tweaking the final details of their trips.

David Balmer’s journey there should be easy enough. He hopes to fly from Belfast to Birmingham or Stansted in London two days before the big game — missing the hefty fees.

But the return journey is a different matter altogether. He has to be back in Belfast by Sunday (May 20), where he will join his parents for their 40th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Over a 12 hour period he intends to cover nearly 400 miles by car — as well as taking an early morning ferry trip from Wales to Dublin.

As Ulster fans raise their glasses in celebration or to drown their sorrows, David will set out from London to make the five-and-a-half-hour trip to Holyhead port in Wales — 290 miles away. He will board the ferry shortly after midnight on Sunday, spending three and a half hours at sea before the ship docks in Dublin.

From Dublin, he will drive up the motorway to join his family in his native Dundonald in east Belfast on Sunday morning.

“I know this sounds like it’s going to turn out a bit expensive, but going back direct was not affordable.

“Taking in accommodation and all the extras, the total probably would have been £700 or £800.

“I was there the last time we won. I have waited 13 years for this.”

He said he is not alone.

“Eight or nine guys from our office are flying into different airports within a 150-mile radius of London at different times,” he added.

David’s colleague, Alan Hunter (46), is also going the extra mile —but not for himself.

His son, Stephen (13), is a dedicated Ulster Rugby follower. He said: “A colleague is taking my son there. He is flying into East Midlands airport.”

On arrival at the airport on Saturday, the pair will travel 130 miles over nearly three hours to reach London.

Alan added: “The (flight) costs are horrendous — the cost from Belfast to London was (around) £400 for a flight both ways.”

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