Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Ulster rule in Dublin, now for the All-Ireland crown

Stomach-churning, nail-biting, buttock-clenching, sweat-inducing and eventually breath-exhaling, the boys held on to book their place in the final of the Heineken Cup.

Yes, a big well done to Leinster who survived a scare in France to book their berth in the Twickenham showpiece but for the life of me, I can’t remember who they’re playing.

Only jesting, yes, little old Ulster are on their way to London and just think what this team could do with a decent coach?

The major shock before the game was the decision by Brian McLaughlin to bring in young Paddy Jackson in place of Ian Humphreys and, as the match was being shown on Sky, it gave them ample opportunity to crank the story up to 10.

“The baby-faced assassin, he looks about eight years old; he hasn’t even had a shave yet,” proclaimed Will Greenwood, the neutral in the studio between Scott Hastings and Tyrone Howe.

“It’s a big call,” said David Humphreys and there wasn’t even a flicker as out of shot his dropped sibling was threatening to tell his big brother on McLaughlin. The sooner they get rid of him the better, I mean what has he done for Ulster?

I’m not saying the organisers were struggling to find things for the pre-match entertainment but did they really think having people in bowler hats marching across a field was the appropriate choice?

Then again Stuart Barnes spoke later of Ulster’s ‘siege mentality’ so the stereotyping was in overdrive.

I can’t wait until the final although I don’t know what state the pitch will be in once the white horses and gaily dressed men called Billy with Anita Dobson-like hair have finished with it.

Edinburgh had their chances but found the ball like a greasy haggis but perhaps their preoccupation with classic TV shows was their real undoing as captain Greig Laidlaw was ‘to the manor born in this semi-final’ while ‘opportunity knocks for Edinburgh’ followed soon after. Perhaps a viewing of Crackerjack and how to hold onto things would have been a better choice.

But in Barnes they have a better class of summariser. There’s no ‘the boy’s done good’, or ‘at the end of the day we’re over the moon/sick as a parrot’ (delete as applicable). I mean when was the last time Alan Shearer used the word ‘discombobulated’ or talked about the ‘kaleidoscopic ambitions’ of a team?

Miles Harrison is a little more in touch with the common man, although there weren’t many of them at Lansdowne Road, but, not as everyone kept insisting, all from Belfast.

It is not the only place in Ulster. Even Tyrone Howe was at it, and with his name he should know there’s more than one county to choose from. Mind you, that’s not as easy as it seems. There could be six or nine and then do you wave a yellow flag or a white one. Is it any wonder there was trouble here?

“On the 19th of May, the lights will go out in Belfast again, everybody’s going to Twickenham,” said Miles on a happier note, while Stuart remained much more cerebral.

“Edinburgh were profligate. The precision of Ulster over the extrovert failure of Edinburgh,” he continued and inwardly I think there’s a part in all of us that longs to be an extrovert failure — a bit like Chico.

Over in France, the next day, Leinster held on and it was summed up in typically understated Sky fashion by Miles.

“It’s one game away now from European Cup immortality! To be the greatest of them all! That’s what Leinster can achieve!” Just mind that BOD and Co. watch their feet in the horse dung.

You scoff at my suggestion of equine frolics? Well, is it any more unlikely than Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness watching Ulster in the All-Ireland Final in London. Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

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