Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blue is the colour

In his latest piece for HoR2, Brendan Grehan is on about provincial jerseys again, only this time wearing them with pride.

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A CHAP I know works in a sports shop. Well, I suppose I must stress that Mark isn't "a chap".

A few weeks ago he was telling me that a young boy of 11 or 12 had come in all distraught. There had been a washing accident with his dad's prized Leinster jersey. It wasn't any old jersey though. It was the prized Canterbury Jersey back when Leinster were sponsored by ACC Bank. The boy and his mother thought that they could buy that jersey new and replace it without papa knowing. Maybe they were able to locate one on the internet and I know that Mark would have pointed them in the right direction.

Some of the Leinster faithful wear their first jersey as a badge of honour to prove that they have been supporting the Province since that particular season.

I am not going to grandstand about this but I have been going to Leinster matches since the mid-80’s and it has been a great trip.

If Leinster were playing in Donnybrook, one could make the quick 10 minute dash up the Merrion Road and park on Ailesbury Road. There might have been an odd blue scarf but back then one could not purchase replica jerseys. The players played for the clubs and may have got a day or a half-day to train with their province. As amateurs there was always more of a connect with the communities they represented. It is the same spirit that has driven the GAA to be the finest Amateur sporting body in the world.

Now more than ever Irish rugby, at club level, needs to take a few lessons from their sporting brothers and sisters in the GAA. As the GAA has got the edge on the oval ball in the realm of coaching and conditioning expertise. When a former International tells you that it is common at AIL level for training sessions to be cancelled because it is raining, one knows that there is a problem.

Would Brian Cody or Mick O'Dwyer ever cancel a session because of a few drops of rain, I doubt it. I have digressed but this isn't an issue with the professional game.

It is a source of great pride to this writer that I have seen Leinster transform themselves since our game went open in 1995.

There are few sure things in life - beer always tastes better from a glass or a bottle than from a can, An Irish TV personality of a certain age will always wears a red dress when she's launching some charity do (I hear loike she is actually quite boho in real life), a Fender telecaster will always sound best through a vibrolux turned up to ten, women are always right, and if you want to see a bloody good game of rugby football, then head down to the RDS or Lansdowne when Leinster are playing. After the game you might repair to Mary Mac's or toddle down to Stephen Cooney's fine hostelry, The Bath, and down foaming beakers of Irish craft beer or a MacIvors cider from the MacNeice's family’s orchards in the sainted county of Armagh.

The atmosphere may or may not be electric but the place will be full of parents and kids munching popcorn, eating burgers and enjoying the spectacle.

The hard work that Mick Dawson and his team in Leinster has put in over the last decade has paid off. There may have been a few false starts but the Leinster machine is now one of the new kingpins of World Rugby. Leinster Rugby is now a worldwide brand. The blue Canterbury jumper is now an iconic jersey, like the black of New Zealand, the sky blue and white hoops of Argentina and Williamstown, the light blue of the House of Savoy and Italy and the green of Ireland.

As the blue army gathers, credit must also to Peter Breen and his media team in Leinster HQ. The media match-up with the Evening Herald has been a win-win for both concerns. The Leinster coverage every Friday attracts new readers to a periodical which would not traditionally have a rugby readership but now it does.

So whatever happens on the weekend, Leinster Rugby are winners on every level and long may it continue.

Brendan Grehan is a journalist.

Twitter: @brendanxavier                

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