Leinster will have to settle for the Pro 14 title. Many other teams would be delighted with silverware, but the champions wanted to retain both titles.
Glasgow ran us close, with just three points between them at the finish. A clumsy challenge from Rob Kearney caused Hogg’s early departure and cost the Leinster full back ten minutes in the bin. With Glasgow closing the distance to the champions, you might have said that they could have done better with their full back on the pitch.
There was no malice in Rob’s challenge. He was a little blind sided by a retreating Glasgow forward, but should have known that unless he was sure to collect the football to let it go and be ready to defend on the ground.
There will be a few departures now. Sean O’Brien left the pitch with an injury that will need surgery. His injury crammed professional life at Leinster ended the same way it has been all through his career.
News that the Leinster celebrations went too far are worrying. Ex-Leinster player Stan Wright was in trouble, as was Sean O’Brien. Time will tell how this plays out, but there may be repercussions.
I can understand how tightly wound up professional players get during the season. They have hundreds of restrictions placed on them, what they can eat and drink, who they can talk to, what they write in social media, what they can do. It’s enough to drive anyone insane.
When they let off steam, they do it with vigour. It’s not just a few pints; they are packing a whole year’s worth of socialising into one or two nights out. Is it any wonder that things get out of hand?
I won’t go into the details of what happened at the season-end celebrations; enough has been spread all over social media about it by this stage. The newspapers have picked up on it and there may be cases filed and investigations are bound to follow.
Thankfully I was not present to witness the events, but the stories are not what you expect from seasoned professionals at the senior end of their career or into their retirement. They sound like plots from another Hangover movie.
Is it reasonable to say, “Boys will be boys” and let it go with a warning? Let them have their night or two of blowing off steam, a quick holiday and then back into some serious training before the World Cup.
Or should we expect the high standards of professional athletes to apply at all times? Can they never let their hair down?
It’s not the right question though. Yes, they have the right to some downtime, even with excess in areas where they are restricted during the season, but they must be bound by some higher code, a code not just for athletes, but everyone in the public domain. They are role models and should act accordingly.
What is this code? The answer is simple: it’s common sense.
How much alcohol (if that was the catalyst of choice) does one have to drink to act in the way we hear that particular Tuesday described? What were the so-called friends of those in the dog-house doing? Did no one say stop?
The ethos of Leinster is under question. The high standards that each player holds one another to at training is under attack. The events show a lack of respect for their colleagues, the club and professional rugby union. Without fellow players and coaches, you can win nothing. Without the club, your career has no focus. Without the professional game, you don’t get paid.
Has this behaviour always been a part of the make-up of the provinces and country? The likelihood is that this is not an isolated incidence, but that normally the story of the night before is confined to the locker room.
Ireland is not immune from the laddish behaviour that has caused problems for international stars. England and Lions star Manu Tuilagi had an incident with a ferry, the Welsh squad behaved badly in an incident with a golf cart, and Basteraud of France got himself in trouble on a New Zealand tour late night.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the events of a few weeks ago is that they took place locally, in Dublin. In our own backyard. Any chance of covering the issue up is impossible; people are far too connected by social media in Ireland. If there are six degrees of separation between any two people on Earth, then a lot fewer people are needed to connect Irish to each other.
Partying at the end of a tour is a consequence of the tight restrictions that players have to live up to. Similarly, over celebrating at the season’s close is another chance to vent. Is there any way we can restrict this or at least stop it becoming the public relations disaster that it has become?
The young academy player who was injured, now recovering after medical attention, got a lesson on what can happen when you unpack a year of celebration into a single night. A lesson learnt the hard way.
This new generation has an opportunity to do things differently. The early professional era of rugby union in Ireland was coloured with amateurism. It took at least ten years for the organisation to find its place and players to take their job seriously (and to get paid appropriately) and another ten years to catch up to the high standards of the other leading nations.
Two grand slam titles in nine years hints that we have reached the level of potential that we can get to, but I believe there are still the shades of the former times still buried in the squad, deeply in muscle memory, but there nonetheless. Like packs of domestic dogs and regress to their wolf ancestor state and ravage a flock of sheep, rugby players seem to regress when they consume too much alcohol, to a group of amateur players on tour.
Perhaps we are getting to another crest; another hurdle of professionalism to overcome. Can our players keep the high levels on discipline that they do during the season, but continue it year round? And is it right for us to even request such exacting standards?
Teaching old dogs new tricks may be difficult. Age can sometimes bring moderation, but professionals these days do not have the luxury of learning how not to behave the hard way. My hope is that the younger generation adopt a different attitude: take their career seriously on the pitch, off the pitch, on social media and during the close season.
The World Cup will bring with it the end for many of the Irish squad, at least at international level. There will soon be a new crop of players taking over the reins and building to the next one.
It is possible, even probable that we will look back at today’s professionals and think that if they had been more professional, taken their job more seriously, hard though that seems now, that they might have succeeded more. Only time will tell.