Munster fans travel by plane, train and bike to the Stoop

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Paul O'Connell making his return to action in an 'A' game at UL recently - he plays on Sunday in London. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
TWO avid Munster fans left Limerick this Wednesday morning bound for London and the Harlequins’ game on Sunday, travelling the 800km or so by bicycle and ferry.

TWO avid Munster fans left Limerick this Wednesday morning bound for London and the Harlequins’ game on Sunday, travelling the 800km or so by bicycle and ferry.

The fans, from Limerick and Tipperary, are cycling enthusiasts as well as keen Munster supporters, and took the decision to make their way by bike to London for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter final against Harlequins.

Munster fans are legendary for their fervour and passion in supporting their team, travelling by any and all means possible and this crunch clash is no different, according to Munster Rugby Supporters Club secretary Ian Buckley.

“I know of two lads who left very early this Wednesday morning, they are cycling over because they are mad keen into the cycling,” he laughed.

“They are getting the ferry today and will then cycle from Holyhead down to London. That is a first on me, I have heard of motorbikes and yachts, but cycling is a first,” he added.

Tickets for the match are incredibly scarce, owing to the English Aviva Premiership team’s decision to keep the intimate 15,000 capacity Twickenham Stoop as the venue, despite pressure to move it to a bigger venue.

Munster Rugby confirmed that the province had received its allocation of 25% of the ground’s capacity - 3,750 tickets - and they had been distributed through clubs in the province and the supporters’ club.

However, such is the massive expatriate population in and around London that it appears more than that have got their hands on tickets by using ingenious methods, with up to 5,000 fans expected to be in the ground on Sunday afternoon.

Ian Buckley said there had been a “scramble” for tickets for the ground, which is renowned for its intimidating and hostile nature for visiting teams.

“I know there are lot of lads who have managed to hold away a few tickets over there as well,” he explained.

“There are a good few who have bought tickets through club community schemes and have bought from Harlequins. I think we will have near enough to 5,000 in the ground, which, considering it is 15,000 capacity is huge.”

He also noted that Harlequins had done their best to distribute the Munster fans around the ground.

“They have split the tickets all over the place in an effort to try and negate the fans’ influence, but it is their advantage, it is for them to do as they wish. I doubt that we would do anything different if it was here.”

Flights have not reached the excessive levels of years gone by however, with Ryanair flights still available at the time of going to press at around €220 from Shannon to London-Stansted leaving Saturday and back Sunday evening, and €120 to fly back on Monday morning.

Ryanair flights to Gatwick clock in at around €150, with limited availability.

Aer Lingus flights to Heathrow were in excess of €260 at the time of going to print.

Munster Sports Travel - part of the Killester Travel Group - had limited availability on the overnight package it was offering, with match ticket and accommodation, for €644 in total, which included flights with the Munster team.

There was also availability on the flight from Dublin, which is a two-night package, leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday.

Munster coach Rob Penney is to conduct a Q&A on the eve of the clash at the Chiswick Moran Hotel in London, while Limerick band Hermitage Green will play after the match in the Cabbage Patch pub on London Road in Twickenham. Kick off is 2pm and it will be broadcast on Sky Sports 2.

See the Limerick Leader for an eight-page big-match preview of Harlequins v Munster