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©INPHO/Presseye/Jonathan Porter Ulster fans Stephen Deyermond with his son Bruce( 13), wife Suzanne and daughter Martha (7) from Ballyclare.
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Heineken Cup 2012: Fans flock to London ahead of Leinster and Ulster clash
Camper vans, pre-flight drinks, convoys and trips through the Channel Tunnel are just some of the supporters’ tales before the big final.

DUBLIN AIRPORT WAS awash with blue this weekend as Leinster fans checked in for flights in the company of the very players they will be cheering on at Twickenham.

Gilly, Lorraine and Conor McCool clutched their Heineken Cup final tickets as they prepared to follow Leinster coach Joe Schmidt and his men through the departure gates.

“The lads were in great form at check-in,” said Lorraine. “Jamie Heaslip was in high spirits. He robbed Jonny Sexton’s bag and through it to the back of the queue.”

The McCools are booked into a hotel not too far from the famous London rugby venue and Gilly remarked that ‘the party will start the moment we get through those gates’.


Jim O’Connor and Owen Brooks marched proudly through the airport with Leinster scarves around their necks and suitcases in-tow.

The friends are travelling to the final as part of a package tour and were in Bordeaux in April for the province’s win over Clermont Auvergne. Brooks commented:

I’ve been to every European final involving and Irish side,” explained Owen, “apart from 2000, when Munster lost to Northampton.

Defeat was the last thing on the mind of Leinster fans Ian Finnegan and Damien Walsh as they posed with a cardboard cut-out of the Heineken Cup beside the departure gates.

The men booked their tickets for Twickenham back in January after witnessing Leinster’s menacing form and ‘the way the draw worked out’.

Ian added, “There would have been a bit more bite to the final if Munster made it but it should be a great game and a cracking atmosphere anyway. Hopefully we’ll get to hold the cup for real soon.”

Paddy Baird from Killester Travel Group was busy handing out match tickets to travelling supporters as they were given their boarding cards. He said:

We have trips organised for about 1,000 Leinster and Ulster fans. I’ve heard stories of some Ulster fans flying to Paris and getting the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel and up to London for the game.

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Down at Cork Airport, Barry Nugent from Derry was wearing his Ulster scarf and checking in with some new recruits for Brian McLaughlin’s men. “There are 15 of us,” he said. “Three Leinster fans, 11 Munster fans that will be cheering Ulster on and myself, the only true Ulsterman here.”


Away from the airports, Willy Kelly, a rugby coach and P.E teacher at Tullow Community School (former school of Sean O’Brien), was part of a camper van convoy that set off from Carlow on Friday evening.

The vans rolled onto a midnight ferry to Holyhead and will park up at a campsite in Llanelli around Saturday midday before Kelly and his colleagues take the train to London.

Kelly commented, “One of the bars in the town has organised three buses to head over and (Carlow) rugby club has at least two going over. Someone will have to turn off the lights on the way out.”

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