Fans get ready to bask in the sun of San Sebastian

MUNSTER rugby fans are dusting down their maps, flicking through the phrase books and cranking up Google Earth as they prepare for another assault on mainland Europe.

Champions Leinster have a relatively straightforward (travel-wise) assignment against Toulouse while Tony McGahan’s side face another French outfit Biarritz, not on their home turf, but across the border in the Spanish city of San Sebastian on Sunday, May 2.

Without a direct air link, the venue presents a logistical nightmare for the Red Army, but few if any fans, are as qualified in surmounting travel obstacles as the province’s loyal band of followers. And one thing is for certain, they’ll be in good voice on the May Bank Holiday weekend.

“We just had a query from the Munster Rugby Choir – all 30 of them,” Killester Travel’s Sean Skehan reported last night. “There is phenomenal interest in the semi-finals.”

According to Skehan, rugby fans seem immune to recessionary times.

“There is definitely no indication of a downturn,” he continued. “There has been massive interest, more so from Munster than Leinster since their wins over the weekend.”

Skehan believes that the increased interest from fans following the exploits of Ronan O’Gara and co is down to two factors.

“First and foremost is the location, San Sebastian is such a beautiful part of the world. The second is that it is a bank holiday weekend. We are doing a two night trip there for €575 but the big attraction for many is that, though the game is on Sunday, they wouldn’t miss any work because people will have the Monday off.

“I would expect we have in the region of 900 people going to each semi-final. The Leinster flights will be from Dublin while the Munster supporters will travel from Shannon and Cork.”

Pat Dawson of Cork-based Dawson Travel was quick off the mark, 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).”

Munster fans were suggesting other options (through Bordeaux) on internet chat forums yesterday, while ironically Aer Lingus kick off their Dublin-Bilbao service on Saturday, May 1 with flights one way from €94.30 or €138.47 return (from May 4) available yesterday at 3pm.

Both are in relative close proximity to the match day venue, but according to Munster Supporters club vice chairman Ian Buckley, a dark horse has appeared on the travel itinerary.

He explained: “A lot of people are talking about flying to Santander in Spain and going that way (197km from San Sebastian). The feeling is that is easier to travel via Spain.

“If Ryanair put on a Biarritz flight that weekend it’ll be snapped up (the city is 40km from San Sebastian). It’d make perfect business sense.”

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