The teams warm-up in the Aviva Stadium before the match.

After Ireland’s success in the Six Nations (that’s rugby, for those that live under a rock, or certainly, not on this particular rock), there were high hopes for the two remaining Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Or H Cup, if you’re in France. Or perhaps even the European Rugby Cup. Whatever you’re havin’ yerself, like.

Munster’s task against the mighty Toulon was daunting, not least as this French side had a stranglehold on the cup for several seasons recently, and Munster were shorn of several players due to a long injury list. In typical Munster fashion, they carved out a one-point win with a most wonderful try in the dying minutes of a hard-fought game of attrition. I have always been a fan of Munster (perhaps if not quite a Munster fan. There is a difference. Indeed in the history of Irish rugby, such a strange beast gave rise to the term ‘Lunster’, which is to say, any of the Leinster counties outside of Dublin which chose to align themselves with the steely, gritty determination of Munster, rather than their own province of Leinster. It sounds improbable, but therein lies part of the unfathomable Irish psyche…)

That has changed now, in part due to the success of Leinster, who were often dismissed as being flashy but lacking in backbone. They went on in recent years to win three Heineken Cups, one more than their rivals, Munster. No doubt a sore point. But we’ll leave that there for now. Unless of course the unthinkable happens and the two Irish teams meet in the final… now there’s a prospect!

And if Munster had a job defeating Toulon, a team packed with bought-in talent from across the globe, then Leinster’s job would be no less easy, facing Saracens, who have won the thing for the last two years. Well, we were not to be disappointed, and we ran out 30-19 winners in what was a testing and hard-fought contest. So roll on the the semi-finals.

Above is the unironedman trying to go incognito. The one on the left is clearly heading off to the Leinster game, and on the right, prior to attending the Good Friday service in our local church. Despite having a Church of Ireland upbringing, and being the only Anglican in the crew, I get to represent the fire service in the afternoon Good Friday Easter service, along with other representatives from the local community such as guards, doctors, teachers and councillors, etc. not to mention a packed congregation. Anyway, it’s a nice thing to do (we all have a little reading), and there was the annual gag about the lapsed Anglican agnostic bursting into flames in a Catholic church. Which I didn’t. For the record. Fire brigade humour, and all that…

On the way to the Leinster game, we passed through the docklands of Dublin, which is having something of a rebirth. This is home to some of those much-maligned tech companies; you know, the ones that dodge tax and annoy Trump. Allegedly. As we were early for kick-off, we had tea and cake in a café beside the Grand Canal Docks. You know the place is posh when it has an Italian name, the staff do actually seem Italian, and the lady in front of you sends back her mocha-choca-latte because it was supposed to be made with almond milk. Which they have. Having said that, the tea was lovely, and made with actual tea leaves. See. I told you it was posh. But then the Facebook and Google staff would accept no less, I suspect.

Clearly the area is no longer on its uppers. You may pine for the days of red-brick Victoriana, cast iron and old cobblestones. And they do have their virtues. But overall, much of the hinterlands of the Dublin docks were a kip, to use the Irish vernacular. The current ‘signature’ offerings might suggest that the broad sweep of the mouth of the Liffey and the two canal basins have become something of a testing ground for modern architecture. And with mixed results. (On the Sunday, the easterly wind was whipping right up the river, and some of the buildings were doing a fine job of creating wind tunnels that would carve out your very soul… no doubt in Summer, the place will be idyllic, and heaving with tourists and locals alike). I suspect some of these buildings will date rather badly, as the place tries to establish an identity. But overall, it has to be a good thing. Having said that, I would not like to have to rent an apartment there; you would be short of limbs before too long.

This week we also celebrated my Dad’s 80th birthday with a hooley in the local pub. We had a nice meal with close family, then cake and cheese with the wider family and friends. A nice evening, and some old friends of Dad’s came over from England, and my brother also joined us from Italy. All told, a good night.


Training continues, and more swims in the pool and visits to the gym are adding to the overall fitness levels. There have been four runs since last week: 10k on Monday, 11+k on Wednesday, a slightly shorter 6.5k on Friday, and then a decent 22.75k on Sunday morning. This was a planned long run with Mark. We started out through the park as normal, then headed out along the canal before taking in a quick lap in Carton House before turning for home. It was a 5.44 pace, which is quite positive for both of us. It’s the first long run of the season (just over 2 hours and ten minutes), really, and it was pleasing to see that the pace didn’t drop off towards the end. In reality, from a programme point of view, it’s not really recommended pace for a marathon training session; certainly not for the estimated time we have in mind. We’ll dial it down as we go on.

Dublin in October will be Mark’s first marathon, and we will run it together. We will use the same regime I had for last year which got me over the line, sub-four. It may be ambitious to expect Mark to do likewise on his first outing, but I believe he has it in the legs. Or will have, if we do the bulk of the programme over Summer. For me, I need to get some long runs in for the Barrow Run in May.

And of course, it’s Easter, so there has been some mild chocolate consumption. Not that we told Holly, of course. Chocolate is not good for dogs; indeed, it can make them very ill, and possibly be fatal. Needless to say, we all know a few humans who seem to be hell-bent on trying that trick too…

* M.A.F.: Middle-Aged Fart

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