7 Jun, 15h40
L'ERC confirme que la Fédération Française de Rugby a retiré sa demande d'accueil des finales 2014 de la H Cup et de l'Amlin Challenge Cup, en raison de l'incertitude quant à la disponibilité du Stade de France.
As I'm packing for a return to the old sod, I start thinking back to how it all started, eight months ago. A 28-23 win over London Irish, five wins out of six in the pool stages, a quarter-final at home to Northampton and then the biggest match of the season at home to Munster. A one point win. For me that match should have been the final.
We meet up in the club to pack the bags and have the breakfast and hit the road. I'd packed the usual and two extra items. A bottle of holy water from Lourdes and some grass from the pitch, a piece of which I intend to give all the boys before the match - French teams not being the best of performers away from home.
The scenes at the airport are funny as poor Jean Bouilhou, my fellow flanker, has forgotten his passport and has no identity card with him. Somebody has to arrange getting it for him and an hour later it is all sorted out. Along the side of our plane is a huge sticker 'Allez les Stade' which is perfectly done. This is how much it meant to somebody and we're all ushered onto the runway for photos.
I've been quite a few planes in my career but nothing I've come across has been worse than this. It was like being on a rollercoaster ride for two and a half hours. I wonder if the European final is ever going to be played or am I and the rest of the boys just going to be another headline.
When we land the boys start slagging me. 'This is your country Trev, you have to show us the way around.' At the passport and security check points the special branch lads say 'You're okay Brennan. We know who you are. You can come through' along with good wishes, which gets a few glares from the boys and is a nice touch.
I really enjoyed the 50 minute journey out to the Fitzpatrick Hotel, taking in all the sights I hadn't seen for nine months: Drumcondra, Croke Park, the Point Depot and then all along the coast road all the way out to Killiney.
The red carpet is rolled out. 'Is there a wedding on?' 'No, this is for you guys.' The staff at the Fitzpatrick were brilliant. Nothing was a hassle for them. I hit it off with the chef pretty quickly and get the spuds, veg and roast of the day. So while the lads are eating the usual pasta with just a little olive oil and dry chicken, I'm eating bacon and cabbage, with the butter melting down the spuds. The lads ask me: 'can we get some of that?'
I meet up with the brother Ronnie and sort him out with a few tickets. We get just one complimentary ticket per player, but I end up getting 14 from the rest of the players and the manager gives me their ten.
After the dinner the lads ask me where to go for a walk, so the staff tell me on the QT that the best walk is behind the hotel, through the forest and up to the coast, overlooking the city, in the Killiney Park. The guys are all very impressed with the view.
Guy Noves, our coach, says you'd pay anything for views and scenery like this - pity about the weather. And typical Ireland, then it started to lash rain.
Friday - Lansdowne revisited.
I didn't take part in the team run as the hamstring had flared up again last Tuesday - it's related to the torn quad I suffered in the quarter-final. Ten minutes into the session the heavens absolutely opened and the boys start cursing the Irish weather again. I tell the boys I'll make a call to the man above that night.
On Friday night I received a lot of class from family and friends wishing me well. I had a great night's sleep - slept like a baby. I was far more relaxed than before the semi-final, and I'm sure that if it had been Leinster I'd have been much more nervous.
Saturday - I've never seen so many good luck charms.
I'm one of the first up and it's raining again, so when the boys start arriving down for breakfast they all start asking me: 'I thought you were making that call?'
We never arrive too early to a ground and we don't leave the hotel until 1.25. Going through Ballsbridge and there aren't the usual crowds overflowing out on to the street outside Paddy Cullens and the other bars. You don't get the feeling that it's a European final.
When we get to Lansdowne Road about an hour before kick-off I felt pretty comfortable. Some of the usual old faces on security welcome me back and wish me well. We have the Irish home dressing-room. The last time I was there was for Ireland's win over England and the boys are happy to be in the home dressing room, because some of them were there earlier in the year when they lost to Ireland in the Six Nations.
All the boys throw their bags down in the middle of the room and say: 'where's your place?' Players tend to have their own, regular places and once I've picked my usual spot they all fill in around me.
All sorts of good luck charms are handed out by the manager and Guy Noves. One of them, which is handed out to everybody, has a four-leaf clover pasted on to a slip of paper with a Stade Toulousain symbol. Somebody went to an awful lot of trouble over that and we're pretty happy with it.
Then Guy Noves gives us each a piece of paper with an angel on one side and a scene from an old battle on the other, featuring a horse reared up on its hind legs and a soldier waving a sword in the air. I couldn't really understand the coach's explanation so afterwards Emile Ntamack explains to me that the head priest in the basilica in Toulouse had phoned Guy Noves to tell him he'd had a bad vision about the match.
So Guy Noves had spent an hour and a half with him earlier in the week, and that this guardian angel of Toulouse, St Sernin, and this famous battle which took place there were traditional ways of giving us the power on the day to fend off bad visions and help us to win. About 30 or 40 A4 size, headed pieces of paper from Toulouse church are handed out and we put them into our socks. Guy Noves must be a religious man because when he came out of the tunnel he literally bent down on two knees.
Knowing that holy water is another pre-match custom for big games, I take out my bottle and splash a little on each player, which some are happy about and some aren't. I get a few funny looks. The manager and some of the senior players also do it for finals, and during the warm-up the manager sprinkles the water along the goal-lines, try-lines and half-way lines, from one side of the pitch to the other.
During the warm-up, Fabien Pelous tells me I'll be leading the team out. 'We know this moment is special for you so we want you to do it. I have to say that standing in the tunnel at the bottom of the steps waiting for two minutes for Perpignan to come out is one of the most emotional of my career.
Emile Ntmack comes up to me. 'Bon chance Trevor. Nous gagnerons pour toi aujourd'hui,' and he gives me a kiss. When I run out I turn to shout at the boys behind me but there's no-one there and I'm shouting at nobody, so I have to make out I'm saluting the crowd. But that one moment is one of the highlights of my career to date. Just that one moment.
It's another game of two halves, we're 19-0 up at half-time but the second-half is Perpignan's and we run out 22-17 winners. Champions of Europe. I was happy enough with my contribution. I didn't get a chance for some ball carries out amongst the backs, which I normally do, just driving the ball on in mauls or close in, and otherwise just making my tackles.
I don't how many I made myself in the first-half but I'd say it was around 15. They seemed to have more of the ball. Our coach slated us at half-time for kicking too much and not keeping the ball through the hands. But I knew we'd won when Yann Delaigue kicked that late penalty. He was our match-winner on the day.
After the match I met up with all the family. Myself and David Gerard were given permission to skip the post-match meal and we slipped off to Kielys in Donnybrook, where I had two absolutely fantastic hours. The owner Pat Cremin had 20 bottles of champagne on ice. The place was crammed to the walls with Barnhall people, a sea of blue with a few old Bective and St Mary's faces thrown in amongst them.
Gerry Grant, Johnny O'Brien, John O'Shaughnessy and the rest of the staff ensured there were quite a few Die Hard Brennans being passed around. Time passed quickly. I could have filled the entire paper with all the little things that happened over the weekend, it was so eventful, never mind a column.
I'd like to thank all those who did turn up, it was great to see so many people there with Munster jerseys who had block booked tickets in advance.
The return flight wasn't much better than the journey out but the few beers help settle the old nerves. When we get back at 1.30 in the morning, there were 2,000 supporters waiting for us, with drums beating. I turned around to Christian Labit and we stood up on chairs with the trophy. One supporter presented me with an 8' by 4' flag with the Irish flag in the middle of the Toulouse colours and the words 'Allez Trevor' which was a lovely gesture.
Hundreds of cars provided a convoy to the club brasserie, which was kept open for an all-night party. About 1,000 people turned up for that and some stayed until 7am. Or so I'm told.
Sunday - A Civic Reception.
There were about 10,000 out on the main square when we were introduced individually and displayed the trophy from the main balcony of the 'The Capitol'.
After 'We are the Champions' was played, Emile Ntamack went onto the balcony and kept saying 'I can't hear you' as they chanted 'Tou-lou-sain' louder and louder. For me it was an amazing sight and I thought it was brilliant, but one or two of the players reckoned we shouldn't have the celebration now, that it should wait until the end of the season.
That night I ended up playing pool with Iron Maiden and getting free passes to their concert the next night. But I can't go. It's back to work the next morning.
Monday - Agen on our minds.
Guy Noves tells us how proud he is of us, and what a memorable weekend it was. But it's over now. No more mentions of Perpignan and the European Cup. We're playing Agen next Saturday in the French Championship in a repeat of the semi-final last year which we lost.
He shows us the tape of last season's match and berates lads for mistakes, getting really angry. He's dressed me down a few times but I'm safe this time as I wasn't here then. He explains he still has a lump in my throat from that game last year and he has to get rid of it.
(Trevor Brennan's regular Heineken Cup column can also be read on the ERC website, which is at www.ercrugby.com)(In an interview with Gerry Thornley).