THURSDAY, 9am: Meet up for breakfast. We headed for Glasgow, but no, not direct. We flew to Gatwick, had lunch in the airport and then had a fewhours to kill. After that we flew to Glasgow and then had a one-and-a-half hour bus journey through traffic to the Hilton Hotel. By the time we arrived there at 6.00 we were wrecked. But the manager tellsus we have to drop our bags off in our rooms and get back on the bus in 20 minutes. It didn’t help either that the heavens had opened up and it was freezing cold.
Looking around the bus, I was thinking: ‘here we go, any excuse for these lads’. The forecast was for it to stay like this and there’d also been talk on the bus that the game might have to be moved to Edinburgh. We couldn’t train at Hughendon as they were sweeping water off the pitch, so we went to a nearby junior club ground. One of the lads said getting off the bus: ‘wait till you see, somebody will pull up injured here.’ Sure enough in the warm-up, Finau Maka felt a bit of a twinge in the leg, so it meant I had to step up from the bench for the team run. But it turned out he’d be okay for the match.
Back to the hotel, had the dinner and believe me I had the best sleep I had for weeks. Well, at least I did, until a fire alarm went off at about 6.30. Myself and Alfie (Gareth Thomas) didn’t budge for about 15 minutes and then when we heard the sirens of the fire brigade Alfie said: ‘Maybe it’s the real deal Trev.’ I’d experienced this before with Toulouse and Leinster, but half-way down the stairs we meet people coming back up. It turns out that one of our management staff, who had been up a bit earlier, put some toast on in the team room and had forgotten about it. Needless to say he got a lot of stick
throughout the day. I actually felt sorry for him.
FRIDAY: Nothing could have prepared the lads for what awaited us in Hughendon. The changing-rooms, showers, toilets, pitch all brought me back to the good old days with Barnhall about 15 years ago when I was a young fella. Toilets? No toilet rolls or doors. Showers? Cold water only, which sprayed everywhere. The pitch like a swamp. It wasn’t what the French were
used to. On the way out for the warm-up I hear a big shout: ‘Alright there horse?’ Big Willie Anderson wishing me a Happy New Year. Stopped, shook hands withhim and went off to do the warm-up with the team. It was good to see a familiar face in the crowd.
Glasgow threw the kitchen sink at the boys for the first 20 minutes. Two rows behind us were the partners of the Glasgow players. For 20 minutes all I heard was: “Where did you get hair done?’ ‘Where did you get your highlights?’ ‘Where did you get your nails done?’ What did your husband get for you Christmas?’ The ears were burnt off me. was glad when the coach told us to come down and do our first warm-up. Ididn’t return to the same seat.
We won 30-10, and myself, Isitoto Maka and William Servat played the last 20 or 25 minutes. It was one of those games we had been waiting for all year. Suddenly one turnover and it all clicked. Props, secondrows, backrows, backs; overhead throws, offloads in the tackle, they were just keeping the ball alive. We scored four tries but it could have been eight. Glasgow supporters around us were commenting: ‘Jesus, imagine what they’d do to us on a dry day!’ I think the break over Christmas did the lads a world of good.
After dropping the bags back to the hotel we went for a drink across the road. It was an old church converted into a bar, with a club downstairs. As we arrived into the club a bit early not many people were there, but Vincent Clerc was doing a John Travolta solo up on the dance floor. So that set the tune for a good night.
SATURDAY: A 4am wake-up call, as we had a 6am flight to Amsterdam for our connecting flight home. A few of us decided there was no point in going to bed for an hour or two, so we stayed up in the residents’ bar. All we needed was to be guided to the bus. I slept throughout both flights. Nothing like it. Got a bit of slagging over the snoring on both flights but I took it well.
On arrival in Toulouse the sun was shining. I made my way home and didn’t budge from the couch. The Leinster match first, a siesta, bits of the Munster match and then a cycle with the boys.
SUNDAY: I had been invited to the Sale du Fete by the town mayor in the community hall. I went out for a run at about 11.30 and on arriving home there was a strange car outside the house. The Mayor had turned up to say I was late for the presentation, where I was to receive a medal and everybody was waiting for me. It turned out some 200 people had been invited to an awards ceremony where
a 20-piece orchestra played. The mayor called up a man who had lived in Castelginest for 60 years, then guy a who’d fought in WW2 and then there was a girl who’d done huge work for local charities for ten years.
I was asking myself what I was doing here, and why the hell they were giving me an award, when “Trevor Brennan of Stade Toulousain” was called up to a huge cheer.
I’d run a few raffles and got jerseys signed, but nothing that I would see as meriting an award alongside a fella with 60 years’ service or a WW2 veteran. It’s the everyday stuff you’d do as a sportsperson. ‘So how long have you been here Trevor?’ ‘Eh, just over a year.’ I felt a bit embarrassed.
MONDAY: After some weights with Alfie, I was pretty taken aback during the video seesion by the way the coaches were having a go for the few mistakes and missed chances. Maybe they’re just trying to keep us on our toes for the Llanelli game on Friday. Guy Noves went through all the last eight possibilities and reminded us that nothing had been secured yet. The boys who only played the last 20 or 25 minutes were sent off to do ten 200 metre sprints, followed by ten 100 metre sprints.
I rushed into Toulouse to have lunch with Paula, Alfie and his wife Gemma, as they were looking to do a bit of house-hunting. Later I dropped off Daniel to judo, where he’d been upgraded from a white belt to a yellow belt. It was very funny when they were paired off, as no-one wanted to fight Danny. With the old weight difference he has a big advantage. Later I swapped the dishes for doing the homework with him. Two minutes into it he shouts out ‘ma, would you get in here, da hasn’t got a clue.’ Much to our surprise he’s leapfrogged both of us in the French reading and writing. And I thought I’d been making progress.
From an interview with Gerry Thornley of the Irish Times