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'It was creeping up on me. It hurt and I don't want that to happen again'

Cian Healy suffered his first European final defeat in Newcastle. He’s determined to avoid the same pain this weekend.

TRY AS HE might to turn the page, the pain of a first European Cup final defeat would resurface unannounced in Cian Healy’s head. The what ifs, the regrets.

Even with three Champions Cup medals at home, the disappointment of Newcastle still lingers for the Leinster prop. 

Cian Healy Healy speaking to media at UCD yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It was tough,” he says. “We turned the page quickly in here and got moving on in the week but it was creeping up on me during some basic stuff.

“Cooking dinner thinking about the ‘what ifs,’ which you have to slap out of your head a bit to stay focused. It showed to myself that it did hurt. I don’t want it to happen again.”

Leo Cullen’s side have now put themselves in a position to end the season with silverware and ease the hurt in Glasgow this weekend, but even then, lifting the Pro14 title will not fully compensate for missing out on a fifth European star. It’s just the way the dressing room is wired.

Healy, who today signed a new two-year IRFU contract, is just one of three players to have featured in all five of Leinster’s European finals, and with the likes of Jack McGrath and Sean O’Brien leaving this summer, remains a key senior figure.

While he looks around the Leinster dressing room and sees the new generation take over, 31-year-old Healy — playing some of the best and most consistent rugby of his career — has shown no sign of slowing down.

“You have two ways of taking it, you sit there as the old boy or you shape up and go in and be one of the young lads,” he continues.

“And I love that, I love the craic you have with the lads and pretending that I’m 21 and living off them a bit.

So it’s such a good place to come into work and to train and play around, the buzz is deadly and a lot of that is coming from the young lads and they’re driving that on, and there’s no point sitting there thinking that you’re an oul boy in training, that’s not going to do you any good.

He adds: “We’ve had a few squad nights in houses where you don’t go out, you just all stay together and it’s not just the old boys turning, everyone turns up and it’s a good vibe to be a part of, that no-one feels singled out.”

There’s still plenty of life left in the old boys yet, as last weekend showed. Dealing with the physical and psychological toll of Newcastle, Leinster were able to pick themselves back off the canvas and conjure a big performance to see off Munster at the semi-final stage for the second year running.

Key to the 24-9 victory was Seán Cronin’s second-half try, a fluid and eye-catching move which, in truth, underlined the gulf between the two provinces as Cullen’s side displayed their clinical edge.

Starting on the right touchline with a powerful Leinster maul, the hosts moved it left through Ross Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and James Lowe, before Jack Conan and Dave Kearney continued the forward momentum.

With Munster, down to 14 men and scrambling, Leinster ruthlessly exposed the overlap on the right as Byrne and Ringrose were again involved, this time allowing the front row to finish off a try manufactured on the training ground.

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Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong celebrate Sean Cronin's try Leinster celebrate Cronin's try against Munster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

It was a front row special as Healy and Tadhg Furlong exhibited their excellent skillset in catching, drawing and passing to release Cronin, who stepped back inside Jean Kleyn to finish through Peter O’Mahony’s last-ditch tackle attempt. It was Leinster at their best.

“I enjoyed that,” Healy smiled. “I didn’t have the energy to celebrate like Tadhg but I enjoyed it.

“It’s a straight drill that we do in training. It’s pretty good to see it being directly transferred into a game. It hasn’t come off with the three of us before, so at least we are doing something there from training.”

The score pleased backs coach Felipe Contepomi, in particular.

“It was Leinster rugby at its best,” he enthused. “I’m not surprised as we trained that way and today I was telling the backs, that front row action is exactly the same exercise that Stuart [Lancaster] does with all the team of coming around the posts and squaring up.

“When you see it happening you realise and understand why we do things in training. It’s to actually do things on game day.”

As for this weekend, Leinster have one final task at hand before the season wraps up and the chance to go back-to-back in the Pro14, but Glasgow will provide a stiff challenge in their home city.

“The mood is pretty good,” Healy explains. “It was quite positive this morning, there was a fair bit of preparation that we have to go through and plan a few things that we have to fix up. For the most part, all the bodies are good.

I suppose going over there, yeah, it’s a different ground. I don’t think they’ve played there [Celtic Park], we haven’t played there so it’s kind of open territory there.

“Their support will be big enough but the travelling support we’ve had in the last while has been incredible, not the last while, always, at the moment, we get huge numbers.

“Going into that Champions Cup final was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, that’s something I’ll never forget. If we have any sort of support like that, as usual, it should nullify that.”

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Ryan Bailey

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