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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 April, 2019
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Heaslip 'not doing cartwheels' for Connacht, but can see a very bright side for Irish rugby

Ultan Dillane treated Jamie Heaslip to a sense of the wild western celebrations.

Jamie Heaslip in the depths of the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
Jamie Heaslip in the depths of the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LIKE MOST LEINSTER players, Jamie Heaslip was more than a little shell-shocked in the immediate aftermath of Connacht’s stunning Pro12 final victory on Saturday.

Along the post-match sideline, there was a row of white jerseys with thousand-yard stares as John Muldoon led Connacht’s delirium and claimed the prize for job that was perhaps done better than ever before.

Yet Heaslip was one of a handful of Leinster players who made the difficult stop-off into a raucous dressing room to congratulate the men he knew best; current internationals and former Leinster players.

“I was in just to congratulate some of the guys. I went in to see some of the lads I played and trained with and say fair play to you.”

Ultan Dillane wasn’t one of the backs slapped on Saturday, but Heaslip was placed square in front of one of Leinster’s chief tormentors when the lock was taken away from the Galway celebrations to launch a new Ireland jersey and a new four-year sponsorship deal.

“I went into the changing room afterwards and I didn’t see him. God knows what he was up to,” Heaslip says with a wry smile with the Aviva Stadium pitch behind him.

“It was good to see him this morning and congratulate him in person. He was looking… a little bit tired.

Like I said on the day, the better team won. Fair play to them. I’m not going to be doing cartwheels for them, like.”

Cartwheels were about the only thing missing from the Connacht celebrations (as far as we know anyway). Dillane was good enough to spend a few free minutes on Monday treating Heaslip to some of the scenes of celebration out west.

“He showed me some videos of the support he had,” Heaslip said with a disbelieving shake of the head.

“They landed after 2am at Knock airport and he said there was like 3,000 people there.

Bundee Aki with Jamie Heaslip Heaslip dragged down by Bundee Aki in Saturday's final. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Then he says there were bonfires the whole way into Galway along the road. They got in about 3am into Galway and the place is packed, thousands….”

With a literal Ireland jersey on his back and a metaphorical Ireland hat on his head after Leinster’s season concluded in another Pro12 final defeat, Heaslip was asked if he could see the positives of having Connacht join the winner’s circle. The cartwheels weren’t immediate, but on thinking about the issue he began to warm to it a little.

“In terms of getting more people engaged in the game, it’s fantastic. For their club, I thought it was brilliant for them. You can see what it meant to the fans and it’s always great to see more and more people love the game.”

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Sean Farrell

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