Cian Healy the history maker wants Leinster to achieve more
Prop who is one of four Leinster players to win fourth Champions Cup eyes further glory
Leinster prop Cian Healy celebrates his fourth European Champions Cup victory at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
History won’t care how Leinster won a record-equalling fourth European Champions Cup, but having accumulated all four in the last decade it will assuredly mark them out as history makers. And at its core are a quartet of four-timers – Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy and Devin Toner – who are hereafter assured the status of Leinster legends. Nothing less.
Of them, Healy’s career perhaps mirrors Leinster’s story this past decade the most. A rampaging young bull in those first three triumphs, all achieved before his 25th birthday, Healy has rediscovered his vintage best after injuries which might have broken lesser men to coincide with Leinster’s own resurgence.
“This one probably felt a bit more like a long time coming,” he admitted. “It’s a strange feeling for me, I suppose. It felt like the squad deserved what we got and it would have been pretty tough to take if we didn’t get it for the effort that’s gone in. Not only this year, last year and everything has been huge. It’s a massive relief and a pretty raw feeling.”
Here his carrying game, like most of Leinster’s go-to men, was largely kept in check by Racing’s voracious tackling – not least by their frontrowers. So Healy, Seán Cronin and Tadhg Furlong went into the trenches, their tireless clearing out going some way to restricting Racing to a couple of turnovers at the breakdown, where before the Parisians had filleted Munster.
Hard yakka, but it had to be done.
“I don’t particularly want to watch it,” admitted Healy with refreshing candour. “I’ll keep a romantic view of it and not watch it over probably.”
“It was probably like winning a fight without throwing a punch. We didn’t really get to unleash anything we’d planned. Their defence was rock solid, savage, so we just had to grind our way through it. It’s not what we’re used to. We’ve been trying to play with a lot of flair, a lot of set plays and special moves but it’s nice to be able to do that as well.”
Leinster have a good mix of experienced, proven winners and a crop of raw, brilliant young players, each bringing the best out of each other. “It’s a bit of yin and yang,” said Healy. “We’ve got a team with high expectations, and expectations have to be high I suppose, but we just kind of have a bit of guidance and then it’s on us to step up to the energy that they’re bringing. That’s class. Like, training is deadly, and then it’s pretty fruitful when you get this sort of stuff.”
Healy repeatedly referred to the hard work and specifically the “extras” players have been doing every day on core skills. “Simple stuff like handling, and easy passing; that’s constant and it’s part of gym sessions now where it never was before. Simple stuff is getting touched on every single day.”
Despite everything he and Leinster had been through since 2012, Healy never doubted there could be a day like this again. “No. You don’t play rugby if you don’t think it’s going to come. You have to have a dream and a vision and the plan is to put a lot of stars on the shirt. Not four, not five, I want to see Leinster grow and be dominant in Europe for years. The crop that are coming through and long after I’m gone now, they’ll be holding that and hopefully doing that.”
Nor are he and Leinster sated then.