This week turns our focus to the H-Cup quarter finals. International debates are slowly leaving the back pages and our minds for now. With three Irish clubs involved and two of three set for a cracking derby in Limerick there is more to play for than just a victory.
Having previously discussed the value of reaching the final eight has for each team and the IRFU, the extent this weekend action has on Limerick’s and Dublin trade over the two days could reach €10m in earnings.
This Saturday brings a return of Leinster Rugby to The Aviva Stadium against an underperforming Cardiff Blues. Another sell out at The Aviva for the two times Champions will bring huge numbers to Dublin and extra pocket money on top of already qualifying for the final eight. Added to this cash injection Leinster has won all four games played at The Aviva and with the win in Thomond against Munster the week prior momentum is surely in favour of the Irish men in Blue. What is even more of an incentive is the day before Leinster A line out in the B&I Cup semi-final against Munster A in the RDS.
The fact that it’s Good Friday and most people have the day off it will surely be a full house. Entry is free to season ticket holders whilst it’s €10 for adults and €5 children. Taking both games into account nearly 80,000 could be expected in a 30 hour period through the gates of both games in Dublin.
Down the M7 Munster & Ulster Supporters will be having an early lunch as this derby games kicks off at 1:45pm and over 20,000 fans will swap roast lamb for 100% Irish Beef. Do the ERC not know the importance of Sunday dinner in the south of Ireland!
Munster have played in twelve H-Cup quarter finals and have won nine of them. Ulster have played in two and have won one. On paper Munster always stand out in the H-Cup however have yet to show a win against a convincing opposition this season. Ulster are a growing side and have performed well however will need this win to be taken seriously as a top side. This game was never an issue to sell-out and the fact that its bank holiday weekend Limerick will entice the Ulster crowd to savour what they hope will be a historic visit to Limerick.
Further to this, whichever team is successful will have home advantage and another big pay day. The pen pushers will be conscious of this as Munster have a new manager and players to invest whilst Ulster having the same requirements also would be grateful for extra cash for Ravenhills development. If Leinster are successful they must travel either to England or France to contest the semi-final.
Regardless of who wins it will look like the semi-final will be moved to IRFU HQ in The Aviva stadium something due to stadium capacity the IRFU will be delighted with and also the Dublin economy which by default get another H-Cup semi-final. It is a pity Munster and Ulster can’t keep it local but the Cup is the focus for these men and supporters.
We have seen figures recorded in 2010 quarter final in Limerick raise in excess of up to €10m revenue earned to local businesses. So for dramatic effect this weekend alone for three games may see over 100,000 supporters attend top provincial games spending over €20m in the surrounding amenities not to mention pub supporters.
It looks set to be a cracking weekend for Irish Rugby on and off the field yet again however one Irish side will certainly come away defeated. For one it may be the end of their European rule over the last decade and for another a step in the right direction. Finally as Connacht have the weekend off they will be wary that two Irish teams in semi-finals keeps their dream of staying the H-Cup alive.