01/Sep/2014 - Last News Update: 12:02

Ulster and Leinster rugby fans begin Heineken Cup final exodus

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 17th May 2012 07:16:20

The mass exodus of more than 20,000 rugby fans from Belfast and Dublin heading to London has begun - with a long-distance cyclist leading the way.

With direct routes fully booked, some supporters are travelling to London via France and Holland, for the final of the Heineken Cup between Ulster and Leinster at Twickenham on Saturday evening.

Rugby fanatic Neil McConkey left his home in east Belfast on Tuesday and began cycling to the big game. The only long rest he will get on the 1,200-mile round-trip is the boat crossing to Liverpool.

Mr McConkey said he was expecting to be sore by the time he arrives at Twickenham on Saturday.

"I'm hoping some 'lubrication' will help ease the pain ahead of kick-off once I get to the match," he said.

With weekend flights to London from Northern Ireland - and the Republic of Ireland - fully booked, thousands of Ulster and Leinster supporters have been forced to travel to London by circuitous routes.

Sky-high prices - up to £500 return at the prime times - have also forced passengers to get out a map and look at destinations other than London.

The obvious alternatives were booked up quickly - flights to Luton, Birmingham and Southampton with connections by train, bus, coach or hire car.

Those flights soon became unavailable or too expensive for most fans.

They began looking elsewhere around Great Britain and snapped up flights to Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

More exotic alternatives were also booked - flights to Paris and Amsterdam, followed by a Eurotunnel trip to London.

One fan who booked to fly to Paris on Friday said: "I'm going straight from the airport to the Eurotunnel. I don't want to take any chances with too much French wine and miss the game."

Ferries to England, Scotland and Wales from Belfast, Dublin and Rosslare will also be busy.

The players appreciate the extraordinary lengths to which the fans are going.

Ulster hooker Rory Best told BBC News Online: "It's massive. It's incredible. Some people are even driving through the night.

"All of that happening in the current economic climate is very humbling," he said.

"These are our neighbours, our friends, our relatives that are making these journeys.

"It's a fantastic feeling to know we're going to have that support at the game on Saturday."

Leinster start as hot favourites against their closest rivals Ulster, but the Belfast-based team is injury-free and brimming with confidence.

For one set of fans, it is going to be a long journey home.

For updates on the big match build-up, follow @BBCMarkSimpson on Twitter.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Ulster and Leinster rugby fans begin Heineken Cup final exodus [Online] (Updated 17th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1429116/Ulster-and-Leinster-rugby-fans-begin-Heineken-Cup-final-exodus [Accessed 1st Sep 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • John Bercow to update MPs over Commons Clerk row

    John Bercow is expected to update Parliament on the situation regarding a new Clerk of the House of Commons amid a row with MPs over the appointment.
  • BBC World Service boss Peter Horrocks to step down

    The director of the BBC World Service, Peter Horrocks, is to leave the corporation in the New Year, it has been announced.
  • Westlink closed in city security alert

    The Westlink in Belfast has been closed in both directions due to a security alert.
  • Transfer deadline day: Crystal Palace to sign Wigan's McArthur

    Crystal Palace have agreed a club-record £7m fee with Wigan Athletic to sign midfielder James McArthur.
  • Woodford sells HSBC shares on 'fine inflation' fears

    One of the UK's most high-profile fund managers, has said he has decided to sell his holding in HSBC, because he is worried about "fine inflation".