Across the Laighin – The Team Behind The Team: Rugby Operations
May 18, 2022 2:41 pm Marcus Ó Buachalla
‘Across The Laighin’ is the magazine published exclusively for Season Ticket holders.
The fifth edition went live at the end of March and we will be giving Leinster Rugby supporters access to excerpts from some of the interviews and feature pieces.
The professional rugby side of Leinster Rugby is a big machine, with many moving parts. Ensuring its smooth running is Head of Rugby Operations, Guy Easterby, and Operations Manager, Ronan O’Donnell. They chat about their beginnings in Leinster Rugby and the progression of their positions since.
The Leinster Rugby Operations team is small in number, but vast in terms of the areas it covers.
And that is the first task faced when sitting down with Head of Rugby Operations, Guy Easterby, and with Rugby Operations Manager, Ronan O’Donnell.
Trying to define exactly what it is that they do.
Both pause when asked what they do for a living, not because they don’t know, but because they find it difficult to precisely sum up what it is their day-to-day entails.
In essence, between them they look after just about every off-field element relating to the professional team in Leinster Rugby.
Eventually O’Donnell sums it up rather perfectly.
“It’s a little and it’s a lot all at the same time! But to be honest I’ve been making it up the last 18 years!”
The last bit is of course said with a knowing smile because as he elaborates it is quite clear over the course of a wide-ranging conversation that both he and Easterby know only too well what’s going on.
With so much planning and precision required to operate a professional sporting organisation, they can’t afford not to.
Both Easterby and O’Donnell have a long association with Leinster Rugby and with each other and both started their professional association with the club in the same year, 2004.
But what got them there?
O’Donnell – “I wanted to be out and about”
O’Donnell grew up in Rathfarnham with parents, Ciarán and Mary, and brothers, Barry and Kevin, and went to St Mary’s College.
Their next-door neighbours were the Dempseys. Young Girvan Dempsey would eventually win 82 caps for Ireland.
Ahead of O’Donnell in school, and indeed behind him, were players that would reach the top of their game.
A few years ahead were Ronan McCormack and Denis Hickie.
In his own year were Kieran Lewis and James Norton, a year behind was Shane Jennings.
Johnny Sexton, Jack McGrath and Darren Hudson were next through the gates of the Rathmines school.
“I love sport. I’ve always loved sport but I was never good enough to play at a representative or elite level.
“During the last two years in college I was now at least working in sport with Paddy Power and that was great because I was getting paid to watch sport and answer the phone!
“But again, OK I was involved in sport now, but it was an office job and I suppose it reinforced that I didn’t want that. I wanted to be out and about. I had mates in school with me that had gone on to play at a high level or I had seen Girv and what he had achieved in his career at close quarters so I just wanted to see was there a way that I could work in and around a sporting environment.“
He knew the what, he just needed to find the how.
“There were actually two jobs that I saw.
“I applied for a job in sales and marketing with Leinster in 2004 which was really a job in ticketing. And then there was a job with the IRFU as a development officer over in Tallaght.
“I interviewed for both and had the interviews a day apart. I did the Leinster interview in the Leinster office above the MAO restaurant as it now is in Donnybrook and I was interviewed by Mick Dawson, Eleanor Ryan and Conor Hanratty and I thought it went really well!
“I walked out of there very happy but then I didn’t hear for ages so I started to worry. At this stage I hadn’t got the IRFU job so I rang the Leinster office pretending to enquire around the vacant position or if it was still available or being advertised.
“As it happens Mick (Dawson) answers the phone so I had to put on a different voice! So I’m there on the phone with my best Homer Simpson voice enquiring about the job that I had interviewed for and Mick says the job is filled.
“I couldn’t believe it. I can still remember it. It was a Friday morning, 10 o’clock or something, I was still in bed. And all I could think was, ‘F**k, I have to find a proper job now!’”
Of course, what O’Donnell didn’t realise at the time was that the offer had been sent by post – remember those days – and had yet to land in his letterbox.
By Monday of the week after, the offer was in his hand and an 18-year association with Leinster was about to begin.
“I did that ticketing role for a couple of years but I definitely wanted to change. I said I’d give it one more year and then I heard that there might be an opening.
“Dave McHugh, who is now doing very well in the commercial space and agency stuff with players, was in the operations role but was leaving. I popped into Mick (Dawson) and I put my hat in the ring for the job but I didn’t hear too much until a few weeks later and he said to meet Paul McNaughton who was Team Manager at the time and Cheiks (Michael Cheika) for a coffee just to discuss the job and see what would work.
“Up to Riverview I went for my coffee and instead of a coffee it was a full-on interview! Paul answered more questions than I did to be fair because I was completely caught out!
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Paul. I have a lot to thank him for. I rang him about 15 minutes later and just said sarcastically, ‘Well, that went well’.
“But he just said not to worry and that it would be fine and he was right.”
Easterby – “We gave it a go”
“It was quite late in my career the move to Leinster so I feel incredibly lucky to have got the chance to represent the province where my mum was born and grew up. I was 33 years of age when I came over and being honest, I didn’t expect it to come my way so late in my career.
“It was very special for me personally but also for my family. I think back to my childhood and school holidays spent with my grandparents who lived on Stradbrook Road in Blackrock, such great memories. It was an amazing opportunity.
“I had played for Ireland prior to signing for Leinster but being able to sign for Leinster, play with Leinster, to live in Dublin, it was so much more special because of our strong family ties to the area.“
However, as he looks back on those years, there is a sense of disappointment at how things played out on the pitch during his time as a player.
“It was an amazing experience as I said playing here but definitely tinged with disappointment that with the squad we had, we weren’t able to get across the line consistently in the big games.
“Munster in the semi-final, that quarter-final against Leicester in Lansdowne Road when we were well beaten. Those two games I think are a good snapshot for where we were as a team but also probably as an organisation.”
Retirement came in 2008 for Easterby but retirement wasn’t about staying in a tracksuit through coaching or finding a road back into professional sport.
Far from it.
For Easterby it was about returning home and home meant a return to the farm in Yorkshire.
“The plan was always to go back to the family farm and that was fairly straight forward in my head.
“After retiring I went home but my dad was very ill with cancer of the oesophagus and that was a hugely challenging time for us all. He had a big operation with a significant recuperation period post that.
“I’d been away from the farm for a long time while I was playing, gone maybe 10 years at that stage, so the changes in farming were huge and I was very reliant on my dad when I came back.
“But even for him it had changed. His passion was farming but now there was a lot of paperwork involved. What he enjoyed was being out on the land, out in the air, growing things, that’s what he loved.
“My brother, Simon, was also off playing rugby obviously and my sister was away as well so when we were all away, we sold a lot of machinery and had contractors in so again, the model had changed from what I knew.
“The plan after retirement was for me to go back and help him but then dad had his operation and I don’t know, he never really got his passion back. He spent maybe eight months recuperating and then around a year later he unfortunately passed away.”
Whatever plans Easterby might have had to steer clear of rugby, those back in Dublin – and Michael Cheika in particular who had been appointed in 2005 as head coach and had coached Easterby as a player – had other ideas.
“While this was all going on Cheiks rang me and asked would I go back.
“He had been thinking a little outside the box and wanted someone to do a chief scout role, almost ‘Moneyball’ sort of thing, and he had me in mind and firstly I was very grateful for that and secondly it worked on a number of other levels for me at that stage.
“It was part-time so it meant I could visit my girlfriend, now my wife, Laurie, who was still living in Dublin and it meant that I could still be on the farm and keeping an eye on things there as well and not leave it unoccupied I suppose as I saw it.
“So we gave it a go.”
The role of chief scout wasn’t around scouting opponents or the next team up, instead it was around looking at the players potentially available to Leinster to sign.
In those formative years he started building the experience that would stand to him as he progressed in his professional journey within Leinster Rugby.
Leinster also started to use him in other roles and quickly saw that he had an eye for detail.
“I remember being sent off to Castres before we played them and it was about checking out the location, the hotel, the planning around the trip, logistics.
“But the role itself, of chief scout, and what it was originally meant to be never really materialised.
“This was partly due to the fact that the number of non-Irish eligible players that the provinces could sign began to diminish and with it the chance to bring additional external players into the group on a consistent basis. Around that time the requirement for someone in more of a ‘Team Manager’ type role came up.”
The best laid plans and all that.
He now had a decision to make.
“Part of the process was my sister, Deborah, came back to the farm with her young family so that was brilliant because to have kids running around the farm again. It’s a playground really at that age for kids so it was brilliant.
“That made the decision easier and then Laurie was a huge part of it obviously and wanting to settle down and it all fell into place from there.”
The Cheika Effect
Easterby and O’Donnell were now in their roles and finding their way under Cheika and evolving under CEO, Mick Dawson.
“At that time everything was evolving very quickly,” explains Easterby, “and the title Team Manager, well it’s an old title really. You still see it written on some team sheets! But the organisation was changing and my role was changing.
“Mick (Dawson) was also taking on more and more as CEO and therefore there were some responsibilities, that were closely associated to the professional team that were better done by someone closer to the action in that area so to speak.
“That Team Manager role as it was back then in 2010 is no longer relevant in most clubs. Most would have one or two or even three people in roles similar to what myself and Ronan are doing.”
O’Donnell remembers Guy Easterby, the player, well and laughs looking back on it now.
“Two different people for a start! Him as a player and him in his current role!
“I can understand what he means as he looks back on his time as a player… but Guy was a positive influence especially when keeping the younger lads involved.”
And here they both are, 18 years later, still working side by side trying to make as many things as possible tick and go unnoticed, most importantly, by the players.
Easterby was one of those very same players for over 60 occasions for Leinster but an elusive winner’s medal escaped his grasp.
As mentioned earlier, Easterby doesn’t try to hide some of his own disappointment but when did he start to see real change?
“I was here for a few years under Cheiks and it’s then that you started to feel a real sense that there was meaningful change afoot.”
Is there an example that stands out for him to encapsulate the difference between then and now?
“For me personally, I look at how I dealt with selection and disappointment.
“I see the behaviours displayed now and what is asked of the players by Leo and their ability to park their disappointment for the good of the team. They may play it out differently at home and be angry or frustrated or what have you, but in here, they all get on with it for the greater good.
“I know that I let myself and, more importantly, the team down during my time as a player in terms of how I conducted myself in this scenario.”
What changed? How did the culture and the behaviours evolve?
“Cheika,” says Easterby matter-of-factly.
“I even look at his own decision-making process to come in here. He was a young, inexperienced coach and apart from looking at the squad and thinking they need to be doing better, I’m not sure if he knew that much about us beyond that but he backed himself.
“His ability to win people over and that change of management piece was so impressive and how he went about selling his ideas and then bringing them to life and his ability to do that and not let things get in the way, to not take ‘no’ for an answer and for everything to be done with one aim in mind.”
“His aim wasn’t necessarily about winning a Heineken Cup.
“His aim was about making the most of everything we had in Leinster. The location, the population, the supporters, the players. They were all here but we weren’t making the most of the resources we had.
“He saw that and he just went after it like a dog with a bone! And yes he pissed some people off and he rubbed some people up the wrong way but it was never about him, it was always about the group.”
Easterby played under Cheika for the majority of his time in Leinster, whereas O’Donnell watched from afar initially in the ticket office before the trap was set for his appointment that fateful day in Riverview.
He experienced at first hand the edge that Cheika brought and how he drove the standards of those around him.
“Cheiks was there already by the time I started in my operations role but I could see some of the impact already.
“He moved a few lads on and put in place the minimum standards expected. Not only that, but he held people to account to those standards. This is a professional, winning environment.
“He was a tough guy to work for but he was a brilliant guy to work for. He was hard on a lot of the young guys when they were training but I think that made most of them and the guys that did step up had massive careers so I think for the most part, he was fair.
“You knew where you stood with him. He would call it and that was it. You’d have an issue, but then you’d move on. It was done with, nothing lingered because as much as he might have a go, he always had Leinster at the heart of it and he had everybody’s back.
“He got the best out of the team and a lot of the success that we have now is from the foundations that he laid.
“He didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer either and what I mean by that is from management in particular around getting players or facilities or getting things for the team. His attitude was ‘get it done’ and to be fair to management at the time, they got it done.
“And the same with Keira Kennedy and Conor Hanratty working in the commercial team. They did a great job because often they had to raise the cash to finance those requests and they facilitated his vision so a lot of credit due to those two.
“I learned so much working with Cheiks. A good character, a good guy and a really enjoyable time with him and of course we won the Celtic League and then the Heineken Cup under his watch which were special days.”
As Easterby now reflects, the Cheika years undoubtedly laid the foundation for all that followed.
“It is hard to look back on those initial years under Cheiks without a smile crossing your face. Yes, there were a few losses in big games, and yes there were times when you were wondering what the hell was going on, but it was really enjoyable in the main and you could feel things were changing.
“The losses were something that we almost needed to go through to enable the pain of them to kick us onto the next level. It was part of the process as much as it wasn’t very pleasant at the time.
“The club owes a great debt to Michael and how he went about his business.”
“A jack of all trades,” is how Easterby describes his role as Head of Rugby Operations.
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in terms of operations, logistics and all the things that assist the team being able to perform at the weekend and I think that is key to all our roles really.
“My role involves managing all those moving parts. Critical to this is trying to make sure we try to get the right people in the right positions from a coaching perspective but, as importantly, right throughout the backroom team, that they all feel valued, that they all genuinely feel part of something special in Leinster Rugby.”
Now O’Donnell’s turn.
How does he view his role as Operations Manager?
“I do what needs to be done basically,” he says rather succinctly.
“Scheduling, invoicing, booking hotels, planes, trains, automobiles! Chasing players up to do appearances. Lots of admin.
“Being organised and being ahead of yourself is the key element to it.”
That is all well and good, but there is very little organisation and getting ahead you can do when faced with a global pandemic.
Easterby and O’Donnell have had to remain agile and have had to keep the Leinster Rugby off-field machine moving.
Thankfully, things have improved hugely over the last few months but looking back on the last two years, they have managed to keep a fair degree of perspective.
“It’s been different for everybody and of course it’s been difficult, so many moving parts but we still have a job to go to every day,” explains O’Donnell.
“I get to go to work every day. I get to do a job that I love so you just get on with it.
“We had Damian Browne in with us before Christmas and we were chatting about playing in empty stadiums and that was the only element that was actually not enjoyable.
“Those games and standing on the sidelines – and I don’t know what it was like for the players – but for me it was like standing there watching a training session. The magnitude of the game was nullified without a crowd. Saracens in the Aviva doesn’t feel like a quarter-final without that sense of occasion.
“So that part of it I definitely didn’t enjoy, but we still got to go to work and what needed to be done was done but it’s not just me on my own obviously. Everyone chipped in and got stuck in.”
With supporters attending the RDS Arena and Aviva Stadium recently for URC games and Six Nations games, that sense of normality is certainly coming back.
Back to their roles, and one thing is very clear, for this to work there has to be a mutual appreciation and respect for what the other is doing but also trust.
It’s there in spades as O’Donnell continues.
“I think we work pretty well together. Guy looks after the bigger picture stuff and I look after the micro elements, the day-to-day stuff. He looks after the important stuff really!
“We get on well too which is important but I also feel he has relative confidence in me because he lets me get on with what needs to be done. He doesn’t micro-manage me.”
Easterby isn’t of a mind to disagree.
“So much of Ronan’s role is the unseen stuff. Buses being on time, planes, seating plans, hotels, ticketing, there is so much that goes into the role, and he is very efficient at it because he has been doing it to a high standard for so long.
“He also cares passionately about the organisation and the people and he takes huge pride in that.
“A place like this can’t operate without someone like Ronan doing their job well, it’s quite simple. We wouldn’t be operating at the level we are without his skillset.
“He doesn’t court attention – he had to be persuaded to do this! – and he just goes about his business but because he has been here so long, he knows what’s what and he holds people to account too which is important especially during Covid with so many protocols to follow.
“He is definitely at the coal face, far more than I am, demanding things from people and chasing people. It goes with the territory and he understands that and you need a degree of patience and understanding which he has.
“Ultimately though so much of what he does, goes unseen, but is a crucial element of our success and the organisation running as well as it does.
“A lot of it is on him and his work over many years now.”
In the trenches
O’Donnell has a very visible role on match days, where he is seen pitchside and is the link between the coaches box and the match day officials making sure the coaches’ wishes and changes are carried out.
“Down pitchside my role is to do what Leo needs at any given moment regarding changes or substitutions and then aside from that is to keep an eye on lads to make sure they are OK after a carry or a tackle.
“Everyone watches the game differently so our medics would be watching the ball continuously to see where the next issue is, whereas I will stay a play behind and see how the lads are after an incident just so we are on top of things.
“It’s not rocket science and it’s definitely not me telling Leo my thoughts on what strategy or structure a team is playing!”
That may well be the case but his role as an extra pair of eyes on the players is one that garnered much attention in 2009.
Twickenham Stoop. April 12, 2009 to be exact. The Heineken Cup quarter-final and Leinster Rugby are a point up against Harlequins late in the second half.
With time running out, the Harlequins winger, Tom Williams, is down with a blood injury and a replacement is brought on. The replacement is none other than former New Zealand out-half Nick Evans, who had been brought off earlier in the game injured.
His arrival and a successful shot at goal could mean the difference between a place in the semi-finals and being knocked out.
As it happens, Evans does get an opportunity for Quins with 45 seconds remaining and the drop-goal effort sails wide but O’Donnell is already animated on the sidelines and smells blood.
Or fake blood as it were.
“I think this story has been well told at this stage!
“We knew something was up when Nick Evans was being strapped up by the Quins physios and was put on the exercise bike. He had gone off just after half-time and was clearly injured.
“The only way he could return to the field was if there was a bad blood injury, which are rare enough.
“Unfortunately for Quins, Chris Malone, who had replaced Evans, suffered a bad knee injury and had to be replaced himself.
“This then left them without a recognised goal-kicker on the pitch.”
The scenario above all played out with Quins missing a penalty taken by inexperienced full-back Mike Brown eight minutes before the end.
If Quins were to have one more chance at three points, would they leave it to Brown again, or… or…
“Then the incident happened.”
The clock reads 75.06 as Evans gets ready to come on for Williams who is down with a ‘blood injury’.
“At this stage, Dean Richards, their head coach, had made his way down to the touchline to orchestrate the whole operation.
“We exchanged a few ‘pleasantries’ as they tried to get Nick Evans back on. As Tom Williams came off, he spat out an incredible amount of ‘blood’, so I went over to Nigel Owens the referee and asked him to check that it was real.
“Unfortunately, he declined my request so Evans got his shot at goal. But he missed, clearly limping and the rest is history!”
As we now know that year ended with a first ever Heineken Cup title for the club.
“A pint in his hand, happy out”
2004 to 2022. It’s a long time and a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
What are the memories that stand out for them both?
Not surprisingly for both O’Donnell and Easterby, it’s the journey and moments on the journey, some good, some bad, that stick out for them.
“Nobody likes losing and the PRO12 finals against Ospreys stick out but mostly on the lows, I think of some of the players and some of the stories and what they have gone through. I remember Eoin O’Malley having to retire through injury,” recalls O’Donnell.
“He probably had another 10 years in him only for the knee injury. Or I think to Matt O’Connor’s time, that was tough.
“I got on very well with Matt and he took over a team in transition with Shane Horgan retiring, Johnny and Isa leaving in 2013, Brian and Leo retiring after his first year and yet only for the width of a post we could have been in a Heineken Cup Final. He won a title as well in his first year but yeah, I got on well with Matt.
“That first trophy win in 2008, the Celtic League, that was special. That had taken Cheiks three years to win and we had some big moments that season too so it wasn’t just the trophy. It was winning away in Scarlets in the pissing rain with Mal (O’Kelly) and Ollie le Roux scoring tries.
“Back then winning on the road in Wales was a one-in-four shot but that season we had some big moments. The same with Munster and beating them in Musgrave Park and it was the first time we started beating teams that up until that point we had been flaky enough against and that taste of silverware, winning that league gave the lads the belief to go on.
“Winning then in 2009 was the best one for me. It’s still probably the most enjoyable one as a standalone win.”
For Easterby, it’s the collective realising their potential and like O’Donnell, it’s one or two moments in that journey.
“That Munster semi-final in 2009 was probably one of the biggest moments for me when you consider the journey to that point and the work that had been put in by so many people. To get over the line in a game of that magnitude and against that specific opposition was a very significant moment.
“Roll that then forward to Newcastle in 2019 and take away the fact that we lost the game, but I have never experienced anything like the wall of sound and colour as we drove into the ground. To see, and more importantly feel, the connection between our supporters and the players, made it a very emotional moment in time for all lucky enough to experience it.
“And then it’s the fruition of all the hard work for the group but moments within the madness like for Isa, having won two trophies, and gone out on his terms, finishing on a double. Sitting in the middle of the group of players with a pint in his hand, happy out.
“Do the trophies help? Of course, but seeing Isa there with his mates, pint of Guinness in hand, listening to the band and just a real sense of contentment. That is there regardless.
“Or winning in Bilbao and what that meant for the group but then for Girv (Dempsey) who was leaving at the end of the season and for that to end on a positive note for him after the journey he had been on with this club, the amount that he had invested both as a player and a member of the support staff, those moments are more meaningful than anything else for me.”
The power of connection
You get the sense that it’s not all about the trophy cabinet and that it can’t be?
“Exactly, because the real privilege in this role is seeing every day how hard people work, and then seeing the results of all that hard work for the players and the staff,” explains Easterby.
“Come in here at six in the morning and you will already see five or six people at their desks. Why? Because they are doing whatever it takes at that moment in time to ensure that they are giving the group the best chance of delivering excellence on that day.
“And that result isn’t always a trophy or a win because there are 15 other teams in the URC also trying to win. I think of nights out or nights in the InterContinental as a group and people just sitting back and enjoying each other’s company, with their families and partners all around.
“I think of all the work that goes in, throughout the whole organisation, and the role that people have in our domestic game, developing male and female players through the pathways and then the office staff and everyone. I have so much respect for that work.
“A CRO or a CCRO out on the road doing great work needs to feel part of the success as do the great people we have across all our administrative departments, whether that be HR, commercial, marketing, communications or finance because without them none of the success at the professional game level would be possible.
“The committee members, the referees, the volunteers, the parents. I think there is a growing sense of belonging now but it is definitely something we need to continue to drive because the power of that connection is critical to our continued success.
“I look at my own two girls or look at Emmet Farrell who has been here longer than any of us and listening to him talk about his girls and how they now love Leinster and I genuinely get a real buzz from that.
“My own two, Alice and Eliza, are getting to the stage of being interested in all things Leinster Rugby. Alice, who is eight can tell me the names of most of the players and the other night Eliza, who is five, asked me ‘Does somebody called Hugo Keenan play for Leinster?’ because she has a boy called Hugo in her Junior Infants class!
“I love that connection they feel now. Seeing the players with their kids on the pitch after games and enjoying those moments. They might not seem like much now but they are creating incredible memories.
“We all have to take something from this.
“I met an Academy player’s parents recently and it was brilliant because they are the ones that have driven him everywhere and supported him. It’s about them too and making sure they feel part of this because they have given so much to helping their child get to this point and their guidance in the future will be critical too.
“That is the journey. That is success. A young player coming through the pathway and hopefully having a long and successful career as a professional rugby player.
“That is why it’s so important to take something from the other moments and the special days because there are things that you can’t control.
“Whether that is a bounce of a ball or Covid or whatever. When it comes to the biggest games it’s such fine margins for all the teams.”
Easterby is in full flow now and his passion for the club and what the club has become is etched all over his face.
You can hear it in the conviction with which he delivers his words, but he checks himself at this point.
And he brings us, first, to the RDS Arena, and then to Bilbao.
“There is one photo that I think captures what this club is about now and how far we have come.
“In the RDS, in the players’ tunnel as they walk out, there are photos all over the wall. Some going back years to the first Leinster teams, others of this Leinster team, and plenty of other players and moments and celebrations along the way.
“There is one photo there from Bilbao that sticks out for me.
“It’s the last kick of the game in the Champions Cup final and Remi Tales, the Racing replacement out-half, is taking the drop-goal and you have Scott Fardy, Jack Conan, James Ryan all straining every sinew and using every ounce of energy they have to stop him and I think it captures perfectly where we are at now as a club and what people are willing to do for their ‘brothers/sisters’ and the team.
“We obviously know where that ball went and what happened but in that split second those lads didn’t know.
“That photo typifies for me everything that is good about the place and where we are at as a club. People caring and working to their limits for the benefit of the collective.”
Easterby finishes with more than a nod to his family and him now being settled in Dublin all these years later, to his wife Laurie, “the most amazing mum to our two girls and an incredible support to me,” and it’s fitting that we wrap on that note.
A club that took time to find its feet, to find its identity but that now cares deeply for those within and without the four walls of the training base in UCD.
It is now a club rooted in elite performance and in the pursuit of excellence, yes, but also in family, in community and looking out for each other, and taking pride in those special moments shared together.
That can’t be bought or indeed brought in.
It has to be nurtured over many years and by the right people.
And in Guy Easterby and Ronan O’Donnell, Leinster Rugby is a club with two custodians working tirelessly to ensure that it never falls back to the behaviours of old because life is too short for regrets.