Gerry Thornley: Pro12 final fails to get venue it deserves

An Edinburgh marathon will coincide with the Pro12 showpiece at Murrayfield

Connacht’s Ultan Dillane and Sean O’Brien celebrate reaching the Pro12 decider. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht’s Ultan Dillane and Sean O’Brien celebrate reaching the Pro12 decider. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Guinness Pro12 will yet again have its most fitting final after Connacht preserved the 100 per cent record of all home sides in the semi-finals with Saturday’s win over Glasgow at the Sportsground to ensure another decider between the league’s first two sides. The pity is it won’t have the venue or the city it deserves.

Heaven knows how much a uniquely all-Ireland final between Leinster and Connacht would have filled out the Aviva Stadium, but even at a week’s notice it would have generated an altogether bigger crowd and sense of occasion than next Saturday’s final in Murrayfield.

In choosing the Edinburgh venue on the same weekend as the Edinburgh marathon, the organisers have saddled supporters of both Irish provinces with huge additional expense if they wish to attend the match. Flights and hotels (three of whom were charging between €500 and €900 as of last night) were already grossly over-priced, and are now in even shorter commodity.

Second Captains

Even one-day return trips at €425 have been snapped up, as have all Ryanair flights, with a limited supply of Friday-Sunday flights with Aer Lingus for in excess of €600. Flying to Glasgow or taking boat trips are other alternatives.

Not that Connacht will be complaining too loudly. “The texts are going crazy at the moment, everyone’s looking forward to getting over there,” said Pat Lam about an hour after the game.

Charter planes

Leinster have, unsurprisingly, been installed as 4/9 favourites yet in a curious way, history would suggest they are a better fit as opponents for Connacht’s underdog mentality (witness the 7-6 win at the end of March) than Ulster who, by comparison, are something of a bogey side.

In any event, Lam admitted that Leinster are hitting their straps. “Oh for sure, that’s what makes it exciting. That’s important that we know what we’re up against. We’ve always said that. Johnny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip just took control. Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, all the big guys.

“I know in Super Rugby when we’re playing fantasy rugby you start picking the All Black boys now because they’re getting ready for Test matches. Same when I was playing, you start building towards those internationals so they’re all peaking for Leinster but that’s because they’ve got a big tour to South Africa coming up and they want to get selected.”

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