Well, that was a great weekend for Irish rugby, with Munster, Ulster and Leinster all winning and all safely installed in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, and the first two having home advantage there: only the second time that three Irish provinces have got out of their groups, the first having been 2012 – too late for Sean. Best of all is that Munster are playing really well.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Heineken Cup in our household from around 2002, when Sean first took a serious interest, onwards. Pauline and Susanna bought into it; for me it was very important and for Sean it was virtually a matter of life and death. He was a huge Munster fan; he also loved Leinster. Ulster never managed to get out of their group during the period of his fandom, and did not share in his adulation. (He actually died on a Heineken Cup weekend – after Munster and Leinster won, and before Ulster lost.) Continue reading
It was so great that on the day when the European football final was Germany v. England, the European rugby final was Ireland v. Ireland … something that would have been a dream come true for Sean.
Pauline, Susanna and I watched it at home and enjoyed it thoroughly, free of the awful suspense of Leinster’s semi-final win in Bordeaux, knowing that it was Ireland’s day whatever happened. But we were rooting for Leinster, just as Sean would have been, even though we live just on the Ulster side of the Leinster-Ulster border. The fact that Sean O’Brien was man of the match yesterday was a nice little bonus.
Kieron King would have loved it too … he lived on the Leinster side of the border and was a fanatical Leinster fan (although he was buried in Ulster … Timmy managed to make a joke about that in his funeral oration).
Sean and Kieron, I hope you enjoyed Leinster’s victory, somewhere, somehow.
Leinster v. Ulster in the Heineken Cup final … Sean would be thrilled. We always hoped that two Irish sides would meet in the final one day, although Ulster’s resurgence was unexpected … we would have expected Munster to be there.
Leinster’s victory in Bordeaux today was one of the true epics … Sean would have loved it, as would Kieron King, a Leinster fanatic. It seems fitting that Clermont’s final attack, when they laid siege to the Leinster line, was repelled by none other than Sean O’Brien.
Happy rugby days in these strange, often difficult but also rewarding times.
It’s been a great weekend for Irish rugby, starting with Connacht’s first Heineken Cup victory, 9–8 against English high-fliers Harlequins on Friday night. Yesterday Pauline and I watched the Leinster–Montpelier match in a pub in Virginia, and the Northampton–Munster match in our local.
Leinster comfortably beat Montpelier 25–3 to finish their group unbeaten, but we had no way of knowing what would follow – one of those stunning, gargantuan performances that Munster have produced regularly over the years, ever since they beat Toulouse 31–25, away, in the 2000 semi-final (clips from that match below).
To play Northampton (beaten finalists last year) away and score 51 points despite being crucified in the scrums was simply amazing, and the emergence of O’Mahony and Zebo this season augurs well for the future. This game summed up why Sean loved Munster so deeply. Continue reading
… as Leinster smash Northampton in the second half to win the Heineken Cup. One of the greatest performances ever by an Irish team, I think, and a truly epic match that never flagged and was a credit to both teams.
Sean watched Leinster beat Saracens in this competition on the last day of his life. How he would have loved today’s final. His namesake was terrific, and it was wonderful to see him in full flight as Leinster turned into an unstoppable force.
I often feel that Sean is still with us. I felt that today, and it was very emotional. Cheers, Sean. Love you.