Shane is a 37 year old Secondary School teacher. He has three rugby mad kids, but the two girls (Aislinn and Saoirse) prefer watching to playing. Setanta, the boy, is different though. He lives for rugby. He has a blue room, with more flags, posters and jerseys than I can keep track of. He’s been coaching with Portlaoise RFC for the past two years and will be moving on to the Under 10s in September. He also coaches with the Under 9s in St Mary’s College RFC and coaches the Girls Rugby Team in St Mac Dara’s Community College in Templeogue in Dublin.
We follow Leinster, and we follow Leinster as a family. It’s great to head into the RDS or the Aviva Stadium with my wife, my two girls and my son. We’ve seen our heroes playing against Ulster, Connacht, Munster, Cardiff Blues, Treviso, the Ospreys and so many others. We’ve got our own little routines, calling in to Granny’s house before the match and having some chips, then calling in again on the way home for tea and toast and a chat about how the match went, who played well, who could have played a little better, and how amazing Isa Nacewa is! There really is nowhere as special as the RDS on a chilly winter’s evening when the opening chords of “Welcome to the Jungle” ring out.
The first weekend of September is coming on fast, and in our house it can’t come fast enough. Last season was great for Leinster in so many ways, but had such a tough ending. We watched the Heineken Cup final in a friend’s house, right on the edge of our seats, and then a week later sat in beautiful sunshine, surrounded by a sea of blue, with everything poised for an amazing triumph by the greatest rugby team in the Northern Hemisphere (ANY hemisphere I reckon!). Didn’t quite go to script though, did it? The RaboDirect PRO12 Final didn’t lack thrills, and again we were on the edge of our seats, when we weren’t jumping out of them that is! It was so hard walking out of the RDS that day in May, but before we were around the corner we were already chatting about next season. Next year. Next time. Our dream didn’t come true this year. But there’s always next year, the next game.
That first weekend of the season has everything in place to be one of the most interesting of the whole year. We’re away to the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets for the first time of two this season. We’ve got the Scarlets in our pool for the ERC, so we’re going to get really familiar with them between now and the end of January. There will be some great little battles too, but one that’s really going to be worth a look at is between two of the new signings. George Earle versus Tom Denton; the experienced former Super 15 player for the Cheetahs versus the rookie former RFU Championship player for Leeds Carnegie. The brunette versus the ginger!
There’s no point in being cocky about playing the Scarlets either. While Leinster won both fixtures last year, our largest margin was by five points. Nor can we forget that Leinster’s heaviest ever defeat in the Celtic League was to the Scarlets, back in 2004. We can take nothing for granted. That’s something we learned in the RDS last May 27th.
There’s so much to look forward to next season. So much drama, so much fun. We can’t wait to see McFadden, Healy, Reddan, O’Driscoll, Sexton, Kearney (Rob and Dave), Madigan, Toner, Cronin, the whole team in action again. We can’t wait to see Leo Cullen stand tall again. We can’t wait to see Joe Schmidt work magic again. We can’t wait because we follow Leinster. We are part of the Leinster family.
I thought about making a blog earlier in the summer to gather together some ideas to help me coach the mini teams and this competition from RaboDirect PRO12 has given me the dig I needed to start it. It's located at http://minirugbycoach.wordpress.com/ and it's very much a work in progress. In fact, like all coaches, it will probably always be a work in progress!