Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Ciarán Duffy’s Leinster Chronicles, Part 1: The Charlton Hat Returns

Friday 4th October 2019 was a long time coming. It felt like ages since I’d been to a Leinster game, having been unable to attend any of the preseason or Womens InterPros. I was at the Pro14 Semi against Munster back in May, which followed disappointment in the Champions Cup Final. It had been all football over the Summer so it was good to be back at a game of oval backward throwing ball. I’ll be covering all the Leinster home games I go to like this. I’ll be getting to hopefully all the games in the RDS, I’m a season ticket holder because the favourite uncle is high up there (I’ve been often known to use this fact to threaten food vendors with being canonised if they don’t turn a blind eye to me really piling on the napkins).
Got an up close and personal look at the Pro14 Trophy first off. It stood as a reminder of the success of the last two seasons. We seem to be in another golden era. I started going to Leinster games in the 08/09 season, my first was one of Leinster’s pool games in the victorious Heineken Cup campaign. The start of a run of 3 in 4 seasons, plus a Challenge Cup and a few leagues. Looking at the last two seasons it seems this Leinster squad is going to be able to achieve more silverware. Hopefully next year I’m back looking at another Pro14 trophy and a European Cup. But two seasons ago was very special, to win a double is incredible. And to have been one game away (although 2nd best in that game) from doing it again is amazing.
I also got a good look at this seasons Leinster jerseys. I was concerned the Home and European jerseys looked too similar but they actually are different shades of blue. The Purple ones great. I can’t remember the blurb for the purple jersey, something about the skyline of D4? I’m pretty sure the province of Leinster has more to it than D4, and it’s a shame outside of Dublin doesn’t come in to the thoughts of the people who make these decisions sometimes. I’m fortunate to only be on the DART line, but there’s a big province there. Nonetheless I like the purple jersey, and hopefully I’ll get to an away game to see it at some stage. I know what the big question is. And I’ll answer it. I got Garlic Cheese Chips rather than Curry this week. It just felt right. I’ll probably get Curry chips next week, but it wasn’t the time. I’ve learned it’s best not to force things and allow for great things to take their time. There will be a time.
I got to the seats and we were ready to go. I remember being at the Ospreys game last season. I was sitting next to an Ospreys fan, Leinster were over 50 points up and he was sinking into his seat more and more by the minute. I was actually a bit relieved when Ospreys got a late late try, so he hadn’t come over for nothing. That was during the November tests. I expected a similar outing as the internationals were once again away. My brother was at the game with me. He’s more into football, but watches Ireland and comes to the odd Leinster game. He asked me if Ospreys were good or not. It made me think about how they actually used to be one of the best in the league. There was a time they had won the most titles with 4 (Leinster now hold that record with 6). They used to be a team you’d fear and wouldn’t bet against. That feels like a long time ago now. Although last season they finished strong, so there is hope. Leinster dominated early on and breezed through the first half. There was a brief moment towards the 40 minute mark Ospreys had a scrum in an advantageous position, but Leinster turned it over. 3 tries and a penalty in the first half made the result seem inevitable. McFadden, Kelleher, and Tomane were the try scorers. It was good to see Tomane get a try after a difficult injury marred season last time round. Ospreys didn’t look like they had any answers. That theory was confirmed at the start of the 2nd half, Leinster ensured they’d take a bonus point away immediately. That was Kelleher with the 2nd, and moments later he’d get his 3rd try. He’d go on to be man of the match. I would look at it as the best debut I’ve seen in my years writing for this blog (still haven’t gotten a paycheck Jeff).
Going back to McFadden, it must be difficult for the likes of McFadden and Toner, and Lydiate for Ospreys, to be playing in Ireland and not in Japan. I imagine how it must be something players have to get their head around, that there was a time where they were looking to play a pivotal role in the World Cup. Dave Kearney too last week. I would wonder if it gets to them. It must be something that runs through your mind, especially towards the end of your career, is this it? It looked like over the last few weeks the Leinster players in that position were out to prove something, and this performance went a long way.
Leinster were on top throughout and got three more tries. Max Deegan first then Harry Byrne for his first home try in his RDS debut. Milne got over for another. Then came a misstep from Leinster. Ospreys took a quick lineout and Morgan got over. The ball should’ve been kicked away really. It’s no harm those lapses coming in big wins like this, because those mistakes would be punished against Glasgow or Munster. It was a long day for the Welsh side, and the conversion attempt really showed that.
In the end it was 5 points that may be crucial, particularly with Glasgow losing. I pointed out in my season preview that things get difficult for Leinster after the World Cup. It’s necessary that all these games are wins. Leinster only failed to win two home games last season in the league and Europe, the same form will be needed. Good home form wins leagues.
Aside from Kelleher, Jamison Gibson-Park (who hence forward will be known as Jami-GP) stood out. Ross Byrne was very solid, as was Harry. That was it for the first home game of the season, on now to another next Friday against Edinburgh. It’s gotta be another 5 points really, but I expect a more difficult game.

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Ciarán is the Producer and Presenter of Post to Post Sport (@PostToPostSport), a sports podcast that covers rugby, football, wrestling, and Irish Sport News. You can get their podcasts on MixCloud our Spotify (Search PostToPostSport) and PlayerFM (Post to Post Sport).

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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019