10,000 Munster fans to descend on Spain for clash

DESPITE the recession, up to 10,000 Munster supporters are expected to travel to San Sebastian in northern Spain for the Heineken Cup semi-final clash with French side Biarritz Olympique.

Heineken Cup organisers, European Rugby Cup, will confirm this week Munster’s allocation of tickets for the May 2 showdown at the 32,000 capacity Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian. No tickets will go on sale to the general public.

Both Munster and Biarritz will get an equal allocation of tickets. On its website, Munster Rugby indicated that “as with Heineken Cup Pool games, tickets will be distributed through the clubs and the Munster Rugby Supporters Club”.

San Sebastian can be reached from a range of airports in commuting distance. Within a radius of 100 kilometres are the international airports of Bilbao, Vitoria, Pamplona and Biarritz.

Scheduled flights to the region may not be suitable for Munster fans, though. Aer Lingus offer a Dublin to Bilbao flight but that operates outward on Saturdays and returns on Tuesdays. while Ryanair’s flights from Shannon and Cork to Biarritz do not begin until May 4. Wily fans have already begun booking flights from Cork and Shannon to London to take advantage of daily flights to airports close to San Sebastian from there.

Tour operators have been quick off the mark with Pat Dawson of Cork-based Dawson Travel securing two Monarch Airline jets for May Bank Holiday rugby specials from Cork to Bilbao, which is a short car journey from San Sebastian.

“We’re doing a one-day match special on Sunday May 2 that will come in around €399 (excluding ticket), and a two-night trip out Friday, home Sunday, from €599.”

The eagerly anticipated clash with Biarritz will be Munster’s ninth Heineken Cup semi-final appearance.

To date, they have won four and lost four semi-finals. Munster claimed the cup for the first time in 2006 thanks to a last-minute victory over Biarritz at the Millennium Stadium.

Munster also came out on top in the sides’ quarter-final meeting at Thomond Park in 2001, but Biarritz emerged victorious when the sides met at the quarter-final stage at the Estadio Anoeta in 2005.

Despite the absence of injured captain Paul O’Connell, Munster saw off the high-flying Northampton Saints in their quarter-final clash at Thomond Park on Saturday.

While Munster supporters cast one eye towards the semi-final clash with Biarritz in San Sebastian, the team is now looking to Sunday’s Magners League tie with Connacht at the Sportsground.

Kick-off in Galway is at 5.05pm.

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