The latest trip down Leinster’s memory lane by Catherine Kavanagh takes us to the Rec…
18th January 2005 – Bath vs Leinster
13.00 Kick off at The Rec.
Friday 7th January
0600 am Dublin airport
The early morning Ryanair flight to Bristol is unusually lively. I see a school friend of mine with a briefcase and a business meeting to attend just ahead of me in the boarding queue. We exchange waves before she spots the people I’m travelling with and moves away hastily.
Most are on their second pint of the day. All are wearing their jerseys.
We get to Bath and are stunned by the grace of the ancient limestone city. Few of us have been here before. The Rec really is in the dead centre of the city. Surrounded by those Dublin-esque Georgian buildings where Sky Sports have always trained their cameras on the residents leaning dangerously close to their window ledges to catch a glimpse of the game. Bordered on one side by the freezing River Avon and its rapids, the other by the steep hills of the West Country.
The restaurants are excellent. The Wife of Bath (sadly no longer with us!) welcomes 26 Leinster fans that night and sees a version of Father Abraham that they will no doubt rather forget.
Saturday 8th January
Howling Gale in Dublin. Texts from the family coming in for the day to say that flights doubtful. The rabble descend on the Pulteney Arms above the Avon, for sustenance and song practice. St Patrick appears in full beard, crozier and also appears to have spent rather longer than the rest of us in Duty Free. Sure why not. Family arrives, ashen and gibbering about the Ryanair slam dunk landing. Family repairs to the Rec for game and takes seats for the 1pm kick off.
David Holwell and his unerring sense of direction keep us focused. Jenno has grabbed an early try. Things look positive. St Patrick delighted.
Second half begins. Bath rediscover their Roman origins and start giving the Celts something to think about.
This is a nightmare. We can’t get anything right. St Patrick waves his crozier valiantly and captures the imagination of the Sky Sports commentary team. Appears as often on tv as it takes for them to say “And even St Patrick can’t help the Luck of the Irish today”. St Patrick exhorts the crowd around him not to give up. St Patrick also gets a barrage of text messages from “home” telling him to pipe down, that he’s making a show of himself on the box. St Patrick is rather pleased by this.
Meanwhile, on the frozen ground of the Rec, Olly Barkley continues his flapping. We respectfully catcall under our breath. We are rugby after all. This isn’t in the bloody script. The points mount up. The West Country crowd sense an easy victory and thoroughly enjoy St Patrick by now.
Finally , 9 minutes from the end, one of our party stands up in disgust and announces he’ll go get the seats organised in the Pulteney Arms. He can watch no more.
And then in a heartbeat, as only rugby games seem to do, the whole scenario changes.
Holwell (remember him!) grabs a beautiful try on the stroke of the 76th minute. He converts. We might just be in with a sniff of a losing bonus point. We cheer lustily.
But suddenly it’s Mal O’Kelly, ungainly, tripping slightly over the upturned frozen sods of muck in midfield, who has the ball. He seems to take forever to get up the field, through a hapless defender or two, and finally, unbelievably, touches down for us in minute 78.
Holly scores. We’ve won by 4 points in the 79th minute.
Bath players and their fans are magnificent. Shocked beyond speech, they simply wave and acknowledge St Patrick who has now lost his crozier and is shouting words that his predecessor probably only said to the snakes.
And we march on into the freezing chill of a Somerset night. We coast into the last 8 not quite believing what we’ve witnessed.
Bath will always hold a fond memory for those of us who visited that ancient, beautiful city that weekend. Some of us go back there still and say “do you remember”... and remember we do!
Catherine [@KavanaghCK] is a Dubliner with a strong sense of outrage and blind loyalty to all things Blue. She attributes these faults sorry qualities to her role as the instigator of the Leinster Supporters' movement. Serious Family involvement in Irish Rugby over the generations and being the son her father never had, has left her with Oval-Ball dementia. This is an incurable condition.
When Catherine isn't at the RDS supporting Leinster she works in London & enjoys visits to Rosslyn Park RFC where she is a non-playing member. These afternoons remind her of the amateur days, when the beer was cheap & the talk was cheaper.