Oisín Gregorian is 21, and is a student and a freelance sports journalist/blogger. Supporting Leinster since age 10, when schoolboy tickets cost less than ?7! He’d like to name the blog, "Lions lair" and his best rugby moment is the sail-rail to Cardiff for the 2011 H Cup Final with a mate of his.
Prior to the start of the season, there was nothing but optimism brewing for not just me, but every Leinster fan. A third Heineken Cup in four seasons; an offense blessed with flair and creativity, complimented by one of the most solid defences in club rugby. Leinster’s golden generation had finally realised their potential, taking Europe by storm – with few on the continent capable of matching them.
The club’s successes in Europe over the last couple of years often tended to draw attention away from a somewhat underwhelming record domestically. Sure, their humbling of RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Ulster in last year’s Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham underlined their status as top Irish province, but with only two PRO12 titles since the competition’s inception in 2001, along with being runners up the last three years running, a lot is left to be desired.
The two most recent RaboDirect PRO12 final defeats, against the Ospreys and Munster respectively, have been unfortunate since both denied the province a chance of completing an impressive double. Now with a freshly-signed contract until 2014, Joe Schmidt will be desperate to finally get a hold of the one trophy to elude him.
After six games so far this season, is that August optimism still there? To be perfectly honest, it’s taken a beating, but still remains intact. An opening day defeat away to the Scarlets was far from the signal of intent that fans were hoping for. In truth, it was a disappointing anti-climax, but considering this was nowhere near the strongest XV Leinster could field, it quickly became a case of shrugging the shoulders and moving on.
Throughout September, injuries took their toll, ravaging the panel and giving Schmidt and co plenty of selection worries. The nightmare of Llanelli was quickly dispatched at home against the Dragons, only for the worries to return a week later by an indifferent performance away to Treviso – with Jonny Sexton’s last-gasp drop goal sparing many blushes.
Early season rust remained evident both in Italy and Dublin in Rounds 3 and 4, with many of Leinster’s Heineken Cup stars only beginning to make their first appearances. There was to be consolation with regards to injuries, with youngsters such as Andrew Conway, Fionn Carr, Damian Browne and Jordi Murphy having all seen plenty of priceless experience in the opening games – and I expect at least one of the above to be one of the rookies of the season.
The blend of experience and youth, however, meant a continuation of the early season see-sawing. A heavy defeat away to Connacht remains one of the shocks of the season, but just like the opening weekend, this particular performance was banished a week later with yet another impressive victory over our great Munster rivals – an eighth win in ten attempts
With the Heineken Cup now on the horizon, a performance of merit against an opposition like Munster may well have been the moment Leinster’s season really began. With the season now well underway, one can only hope that the cobwebs of the weeks gone by are now well and truly swept away.
Biggest surprise so far? Connacht's slaughter of Leinster
Most valuable player so far this season? Tommy Bowe – who's already added more than enough to the Ulster back line.
Overall season prediction for your side? Will make the Play-Offs, will not win it outright if they're still in H Cup contention come the end of the season.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12? Ulster, who continue to head onwards and upwards from last season.