Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Leinster’s failure compounds Ireland’s season of woe

Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll stands dejected following the Magners League Final at the RDS, Dublin

The fact that the RDS fortress, where Leinster had not lost a Magners League match since September 2008, was stormed on Saturday night means that unlike 2009 when Ireland swept the boards in terms of silverware there are no major prizes this time.

No Irish Grand Slam or the consolation of a Triple Crown. No Heineken Cup and no Magners League.

At the sponsors’ Saturday night post-Grand Final bash for the victorious and vanquished players and hand-picked guests, the Ospreys contingent made an admirable fist of not rubbing their victims’ noses in the figurative dirt.

The Leinster lads are equally deserving of credit for taking defeat so squarely on the chin.

Inside, though, they must have been hurting. A year ago they had just been crowned champions of Europe. Two months before that a number of them had contributed significantly to Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 61 years.

No such glory this time, however. The inaugural Magners League Final appeared to have been just one game too many.

As well as hurting, a few of them will have been wondering. And perhaps worrying.

Because it seems that a number of Ireland’s Golden Generation may have to accept significantly reduced wages if they are to continue playing on home soil.

The perilous state of the recession-hit Irish economy now is affecting rugby along with everything else and with the Aviva Stadium destined to bite deeply into resources for some time to come we may just have to get used to the fact that the Irish provinces can no longer afford to pay as much as some other clubs, notably those in France.

Saturday also marked the end of the road for a quintet of Leinster players — Malcolm O’Kelly, Girvan Dempsey, Bernard Jackman, CJ Van der Linde and Chris Keane. And it was the last match in charge for Stade Francais-bound coach Michael Cheika and his aides Alan Gaffney, Kurt McQuilkin and Chris Whitaker.

The loss of those key personnel will be massive hits for Leinster to absorb.

Outside, during the match, the home crowd had tried to raise their jaded players by singing Come On You Boys In Blues to the tune of Mary Hopkins’ Those Were The Days My Friend. A nice touch of Welsh-Irish togetherness.

The best example of that was provided by Tommy Bowe, scorer of the Ospreys’ opening try.

No-one held it against him. Indeed, the only things held against Bowe (pictured) were children whose parents wanted to photograph him alongside their youngsters.

A little blond-haired boy, no more than two years of age and togged out in the losers’ blue, stared star-struck at the stage where the band performed Credence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 hit Bad Moon Rising. Or maybe he was watching the big-screen re-run of the match we had just witnessed first-hand. I don’t know how far those musicians may end up going but they are unlikely to find themselves playing again against the backdrop of Lee Byrne threatening to decapitate Gordon D’Arcy. Bizarre circumstances.

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