For those whose two sporting passions in life are the Leinster rugby team and Liverpool FC – and an abundance of these persons actually exist – the only thing that could have made their weekend any worse, really, apart from also supporting Kildare, was is if they had to catch a flight out of Dublin Airport come Sunday morning.
The toughest of Saturdays for them then, not least because Leinster and Liverpool had fallen into the “highly fancied” category ahead of their respective finals following seasons of rather exceptional quality.
Indeed, Lawrence Dallaglio had suggested to BT Sport viewers pre-match that Leinster would do unto La Rochelle much as Dublin were doing unto Kildare over at Croke Park.
Dallaglio didn’t actually cite Dublin v Kildare – there’s a chance he might not even have been aware that this non-contest was occurring – but it’s just a handy way of demonstrating the scale of his certainty that Johnny Sexton would have some trophy-lifting to do come full-time.
Michael Owen, meanwhile, was no less confident that Jordan Henderson would conclude his evening by thrusting the Champions League cup into the Parisian skies. “I think Liverpool will win it comfortably,” he beamed.
The Irish channels showing the two games – Virgin Media bringing us the rugby, RTÉ looking after the football – gave a touch more respect to the opponents in both contests, the BT football folk in particular coming perilously close to dismissing any notion that plucky Real Madrid, like they were Dorking Wanderers, would even cause Liverpool to perspire in the course of the evening.
Come half time in Marseille, Lawrence conceded that it was “far from the one-sided contest we painted beforehand”, the “we” of the royal kind, ROG Rochelle trailing by five points, but having enjoyed 60 per cent of the possession while rendering Leinster try-less.
“Leinster are like a Ferrari that hasn’t had diesel put in before the game,” said Austin Healey who, you can only guess, had lost a bet, thus explaining that creamy white suit.
Over on Virgin, though, Matt Williams wasn’t fretting, sure-ish that La ROGhelle would run out of steam in the second half. “One thing to keep an eye on: their forwards – they’re puffing so hard they’re sucking in seagulls.”
As it proved they were sucking diesel in those closing moments during which they scored the try that left Leinster hearts in smithereens, Vinicius Jr’s goal having much the same impact on the Liverpool-loving faithful over in Paris.
They’d had extra hope in their hearts too after Thiago was deemed fit enough to play in the game, having initially looked likely to be ruled out after struggling in the warm-up, his appearance in the starting XI rendering Glenn Hoddle even more confident that Liverpool would prevail: “He’s a vital clog, isn’t he, for Liverpool, the way he makes that midfield tick,” he noted.
The most vital clog of the evening, though, proved to be Thibaut Courtois and his net-minding, his busyness convincing Michael Owen that the wrong team won.
“With the season they’ve had, I still think they’re the team to beat,” he said of Liverpool who had just got beat. “I still think they’re the best team in Europe, I really do. On other occasions they would be having their name etched on the trophy this time.”
Rio Ferdinand’s face said “what”?
“Yeah, Real Madrid have got past them today,” Michael continued, “but you know as well as anyone, a one-off game is, you know, a one-off game. Just because you win the trophy, I still think there’s a lot more to be said for who’s the best team.”
Folk pay a hefty subscription fee for this, Michael being one of BT’s vital clogs.
No matter, doff your collective caps to Ronan O’Gara and Carlo Ancelotti, drown your sorrows for Leo Cullen and Jurgen Klopp, while insisting that the latter pair still deserve to be saluted because one-off games are only one-off games. There’s truth in that, if not quite how Michael emoted it. But come full-time in Paris, he was sucking in seagulls, Dorking Wanderers having just slain LFC. So, forgive him.