What a day to be in Edinburgh, What a day to be a Connacht fan, What a win

By planes, trains and automobiles they came. Places like Belfast airport and Larne ferry port have probably never had it so good as thousands availed of the northern transport services as well known travel paths had been booked out earlier in the week. By hook and by crook Connacht's clan made it to Edinburgh and by God, the journey was worth it.

Wondering around the streets of the old town last Saturday, you could have mistaken Scotland's capital for Eyre Square or Grafton Street in Dublin, such was the number of the green and blue shirts basking in the delightful sunshine outside the many pubs and restaurants that Edinburgh has to offer. There was also a sizable sprinkling of red and white added to the mix as disappointed Ulster fans made the trip despite the play-off defeat the week prior; the Irish invasion was in full flow.

Edinburgh itself or at least half of it, was still on an incredible high after Hibernian managed to secure their first Scottish Cup triumph in 114 years with victory of Rangers at Hampden Park the previous Saturday, combined with a big, excited, band of Irish rugby supporters, the atmosphere in Edinburgh was one that it was a pleasure to experience. One Hibs' fan said, "Today is the first day I've woken up without a sore head. Prepare yourselves; it is all ahead of you." Little did the Connacht hordes and I know that those words were to be prophetic.

Strolling towards Murrayfield which is slightly outside the hub of the city, it was clear that green jerseys outnumbered the blue counterparts. The thought process was, perhaps, Leinster's crowd had already descended on Scotland's rugby castle and that Connacht fans were taking their time to enjoy Guinness Pro 12 final day. After all, it was our first final in 131 years and Leinster's eighth since 2009.

The hotels which lined the road to the stadium were making the most of the influx as marquees were set up serving barbecues and beverages to cool off from the heat which increased as the day wore on.

As we entered the east stand at Murrayfield, contrary to our previous beliefs, a sea of green was already present. When it came to reading out the line-ups, Pat Lam's mens' names were met with roars as if it were a try. Leinster's cool dudes could barely muster a cheer; but they had seen it all before and today was a formality for those from the eastern province. This was the general consensus from most rugby experts, but in a sporting year where there have been plenty of scripts ripped up, Connacht were in no mood to simply show up, enjoy the day, lose and go home.

The game and atmosphere were thrilling, notwithstanding the fact Murrayfield was only half full. Excitement was engendered any time Connacht had possession and when Tiernan O'Halloran crossed the white wash, green fans exploded into delight. The Fields of Athenry was being sung loud and proud, and when Niyi Adeolokun chipped and fought his way for a second try, the fans started to dream. Bundee Aki drew probably the loudest roar of the day as he smashed Johnny Sexton in two which pretty much summed up the team's commitment to the cause on the day.

A 15-0 lead at the break had us in states of delirium. Leinster fans; very quiet indeed. However there was a nagging feeling of caution as Connacht had been here before and lost, most recently in Grenoble where they eventually succumbed.

The teams came back out and The Fields of Athenry was struck up again. Sexton closed the gap with a penalty and that nagging doubt started to grow before Aj MacGinty's delicate chip was collected by the magnificent Matt Healy for the try. Cue pandemonium.

But when ex-Connacntman Sean Cronin went over for a try with 14 minutes left, excitement turned to anxiety as Leinster's replacements began to take effect. Yet Connacht fans were not found wanting as they increased the noise levels, cheering every act of defiance as Leinster began to turn the screw. And when Connacht secured a penalty to take them deep into opposition territory, the reveal and joy among the clan was palpable.

As the Connacht forwards ran down the clock, we were on our feet, roaring the team forward and counting down the seconds. The clock went into the red and Leinster launched one last attack but Robbie Henshaw, in his last act in a green jersey, carried the ball into touch and it was over.

John Muldoon held aloft the trophy and the team went on a well deserved lap of honour to say thank you to the supporters as The Fields of Athenry was belted out for one last glorious rendition.


Page generated in 0.2263 seconds.