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‘We had to win our way,’ but Glasgow took lessons from Irish sides along the way

‘I remember coming to places like this and we weren’t just second best, we were second best by a long way.’
Jun 1st 2015, 7:30 PM 6,538 12

AFTER RECORDING AN extremely impressive 31-13 victory over Munster in Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 final, Glasgow players speaking separately kept returning to a single theme.

Irish influence.

Al Kellock celebrates with the Guinness PRO12 trophy Captain Al Kellock gets doused as he celebrates Glasgow's Pro12 title. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Scots recorded the commanding victory with immense style, prompting captain Al Kellock to repeat what sounded like a week-long mission statement:

“We had to win that game our way. We couldn’t go out and try to out-Munster Munster.”

That is undeniably true, yet there is Irish influence within that too. Head coach Gregor Townsend has never hidden his admiration for Joe Schmidt’s Leinster, but the provinces in the north and south have also proved to be an inspiration for the new champions.

“The game I actually learned a lot from this year was Ulster away from home,” says 22-year-old out-half Finn Russell, looking back on a game that was settled by some errant kicks and a brilliant finish from Craig Gilroy.

“When we were beaten I learned loads from that game. So to come back here and get the win is quite good.”

Kellock is well and truly on the opposite side of the spectrum to Russell. The lock is now a retired lock after yesterday’s final win and he has a long overdue medal to show for his nine years of hard work with Glasgow.

Paul O'Connell dejected Paul O'Connell's dejection shows at the final whistle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Munster were European champions when he first pulled on a Warriors jersey, and so he was asked whether he dared to believe back then that Glasgow could ever get to a point where they were out-classing the southern province on the big stage.

“If you don’t think that you’re wasting your time,” Kellock says sternly, “but we were a while away.

“We’ve learned things from Munster and Ulster and Leinster. We had to, because they’ve done it.

They’ve produced things from the ground up and grown them. Even to look at the stadium we were playing in tonight. I’ve played here for a few years and I’ve seen it change – that is part of who we’ve got to be as well.

“It’s not just what you see on the park, it has to be organisation-wide.  You look at where we are and the quality we have, that’s from playing games against Munster.

“The one thing about being here for a long time is I remember coming to places like this and we weren’t just second best, we were second best by a long way.

“Then you look at guys like Finn Russell and all he’s known are semi-finals and finals. So when the pressure comes on he plays like he does because he’s just used to winning. That’s what we’ve got to produce as well, what Munster, Ulster and Leinster have, a belief in themselves that they are more than good enough.”

Niko Matawalu celebrates Niko Matawalu joins in the celebrations before heading for Bath. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The additional benefit, as Townsend points out, is that landing trophies and landmark successes does not tend to monopolise talent and cordon it off in to one region. Instead it makes everything that club touches feel a little bit closer to the top rung.

“When Ulster won the European Cup the other provinces thought, ‘this can happen, we can get bigger crowds that will follow a winning team’. Munster took on the mantle, Leinster took on the mantle and now the three Irish provinces are up there in the top 10 sides in Europe.

“Edinburgh have been in a European final, they’ve got some quality young Scottish players, so they should be given a boost by this too.”

One Scottish powerhouse is enough for now.

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Sean Farrell

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