Details of Munster’s and Leinster’s Champions Cup semi-final fixtures were confirmed yesterday by the tournament organisers prompting the usual rush to book planes, trains, automobiles, and hotel rooms by supporters from both provinces.
Munster will, as had been expected, play on Sunday, April 22 at Bordeaux’s Stade Chaban-Delmas.
Kick-off has been pencilled in for 4.15pm local time (3.15pm, Irish) and the game will be shown in Ireland on BT Sport for those left behind. Leinster face Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin the day before. Kick-off there is set for 3.30pm and it will be aired on Sky Sports.
Dawson Travel and Lee Travel are currently working on securing aircraft and intend to have day and overnight (departing Saturday and returning Sunday) packages from Cork to Bordeaux. Demand is expected to be high — close to 400 people registered interest in packages on Facebook with Dawson Travel alone before the details were confirmed.
However, it appears that the hard work is only beginning now for the travel companies.
“It is very difficult to charter aircraft in this country, so Irish travel companies may have to source aircraft from anywhere in Europe,” an industry expert explained. “There is a huge cost involved as it is not like a scheduled flight where you have an outward and inward load. Say a plane is sourced in Paris, it comes to Cork empty then flies full to Bordeaux. It then returns to Paris empty and back to Bordeaux empty. And all the while the clock is running. It is only full again on its return to Cork. So it is a huge challenge to make it all financially viable.
“In terms of a day trip you will probably be looking at a very early start on Sunday and departing France around 10.30pm that night. “I’d guess the overnights will be more on a Saturday because most people will want to be back at work on Monday morning.
“But the one blessing is that Leinster secured a home semi-final. Securing aircraft would have been 10 times more difficult if you had two Irish provinces away the same weekend.”
And hotels are another issue for fans. “The majority of the Racing supporters will be overnighting in Bordeaux as well so you then had thousands of people booking up beds the moment the final whistle blew on their game against Clermont on Sunday. So that is another challenge for people going to support Munster.”
With all these issues to be addressed costings for such trips are hard to call. “I’d be saying around €400 inclusive of taxes and charges as a ballpark figure for a day trip while an overnight will be north of €500 — depending on the price of accommodation.”
Irish Travel Agents Association chief executive, Pat Dawson, last night admitted that the interest in the game, and rugby in general, is indicative of the upturn in the Irish economy.
“There is no doubt about it but the Celtic Tiger days are slowly coming back. There is a bigger tiger in Dublin and a smaller one in Cork.
“There is huge interest in this Munster game, the money is certainly there again. Many people who wouldn’t have considered such a trip in the bad old days of the recession are now back travelling again.”
And it’s not just about provincial pride according to Dawson. “In the past you’d struggle with some packages for the away matches in the Six Nations but we already have a good number of bookings for games. Long may it continue.”
Ryanair yesterday announced that they have added an extra flight to Bordeaux for the game. The special will depart Cork at 1.40pm on Friday, April 20 and return from Bordeaux at 10.05am on Monday, April 23.
Aer Lingus announced two flights to the French city at the weekend with one departing on Friday and one on matchday. Both of those flights are from Dublin.
- Leinster v Scarlets, Aviva Stadium, 3.30pm, (Sky Sports);
- Racing 92 v Munster, Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux, 3.15pm (BT Sport).