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Rob Kearney of Leinster in action during the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday. Photo by: Getty

Sports Digest: Ulster No Match for Powerful Leinster leading team to a third Heineken Cup win

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Rob Kearney of Leinster in action during the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday. Photo by: Getty

Brian O’Driscoll wants to claim a New Zealand scalp after helping Leinster to a third Heineken Cup win in four years.

The Ireland captain was back to his best just a week after knee surgery as Leinster hammered Ulster 42-12 in the All-Ireland final.

There was never any doubt that Leo Cullen would lift the European Cup at Twickenham last Saturday as Leinster’s inventiveness proved too much for Ulster.

Now O’Driscoll wants to build on this success with club and country.

“Having two provinces in the Heineken Cup final is great,” said O’Driscoll. “And we have to use that confidence and channel it in the best possible way for the tour down in New Zealand.

“We have one more game to focus on with Leinster in the Rabo 12 finals and then we will be in camp and switched on to the job of travelling down there and hopefully getting our first win against New Zealand.”

O’Driscoll also paid tribute to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt after the game. “We are encouraged to play -- that is a philosophy of Joe’s,” he said.

“He wants us to go out, express ourselves and play a good brand of running rugby. It has been a good fit since he’s been here. That is the way the lads want to play.”

Now 33, O’Driscoll is in no mood to take things easier. “Medals and trophies drive me on,” he said.

“It is about being selfish and wanting more now. The pleasure of being involved in this group is knowing how hungry they are, and we will go out to defend the title next season as we did this year.

“The feeling in the dressing room was one of elation, but it was different from the other two cup final wins because it was not so tense in the last 10 minutes.”

Now the Ireland skipper wants Leinster to surpass Toulouse as the greatest team in European rugby history.

He said, “When we won the Heineken Cup for the first time we talked about laying down a legacy and doing something for us to be remembered by.

“We are going some way to doing that and moving in the right direction, but I know this team is hungry for more success.

“It is enjoyable day in day out going into work because you know you are going to be pushed by the guy next to you. We play for each other and that showed out there.

“I only came in for the knockout stages,” he said. “But the hard graft was done in the pool stages by people like Eoin O’Malley, who is sitting at home having had a cruciate ligament operation on Friday.

“This medal will be part his and all the other guys who have played this season.”

Ireland hooker Rory Best wants Ulster to bounce back from their Heineken Cup final disappointment against Leinster.

“It was heartbreaking watching Leinster lift the trophy but that is what you learn from,” said Best.

“You have to watch that and that has to drive you for next year. Defeats like this and watching Leinster lift the trophy has to be in our minds now for the next 12 months.”
 
Kidney Waits

DECLAN Kidney will wait on Munster captain Paul O’Connell before finalizing his squad for the summer tour to New Zealand.

The Ireland coach has named 26 of his 29 man touring party, with call-ups for the uncapped Mike Sherry, Simon Zebo and Declan Fitzpatrick.

Brett Wilkinson, Chris Henry and Isaac Boss are also in contention for the remaining places if they prove their fitness, but there’s no place in the squad for Leinster’s Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings and Ulster’s Paddy Wallace.

Captain Brian O’Driscoll returns after injury kept him out of the Six Nations championship.

Ireland will play the world champions three times in the space of a fortnight in New Zealand, with Kidney adamant they must bounce back from a disappointing Six Nations campaign.

He stressed, “It’s about our attitude. If players are looking for their hands to be held then it’s going to be very difficult.

Kidney admits the schedule will be tough on his team.  “Going to New Zealand for a three-match tour has never been done before,” he said.

“This isn’t a place for the faint of heart when you look at the location of these games and the circumstances under which we will play them.

“It’s their first game since winning the World Cup and I’m sure there will be a celebratory atmosphere in Eden Park.

“It’s a fantastic place to go as a rugby person. It’s the equivalent in soccer of going to Brazil to play them three times in as many weeks. It’s a bit sadistic but you couldn’t wish for anything else.”
 
Taylor Qualifies

KATIE Taylor has set her sights on Olympic gold after a stunning fourth world title win in a row.

The Bray woman was a convincing winner at the World Championship final in China last weekend and received a hero’s welcome on her return to Dublin on Monday.

“It’s unbelievable, this is what I’ve been training for all year,” said Taylor. “To win the world title for the fourth time in a row and qualify for the Olympics is amazing.

“For the last couple of years people have been wishing me well for the Olympics and I have had to tell them that I hadn’t qualified yet.

“And there was so much pressure on me going into this competition and it’s just a big relief to finally qualify and to be going into the Olympics as the current world champion.”

Taylor will enjoy a short well earned rest before starting her preparations for London.

She said, “I have a week off now and then I’m back into training. It’s only seven weeks to the Olympics so it’s going to be a hectic few weeks.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent my country at the Games and come home with the gold.
“I just thank God that I’m there now and I’m going to prepare the best I can.”
 
Sports Shorts

ATHLETICS: Maria McCambridge will miss out on the London Olympics even though she made the qualifying time for the marathon after losing out to national champion Linda Byrne, Catriona Jennings and Ava Hutchinson in the selection process...

BOXING: World boxing officials have confirmed that it is now highly unlikely that Ireland’s Joe Ward will receive a wildcard entry to the boxing tournament at the London Olympics...

GOLF: Ireland’s Paul McGinley looks certain to be one of four vice captains when Jose Maria Olazabal names his back-room team for the Ryder Cup in Chicago this September...

GOLF: Graeme McDowell was beaten by Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts in the Volvo World Match Play championship final in Spain on Sunday...

RUGBY: Ireland and Leinster star Rob Kearney has been named the European Player of the Year for 2012...

RUGBY: Munster and Ireland forward Denis Leamy has been forced to retire from rugby due to injury.
 

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