MAYBE there was as much relief as joy as Leinster captain Leo Cullen faced the music after yesterday's triumph. In fact, there might even have been a hint of a smile as the second row rationalised his team's triumph.
"The win was really about hanging in there, about having a bit of belief. Going down to 14 men was pretty costly, but we hung tough and I think the period when Jamie Heaslip scored was crucial. It was a massive physical battle, and okay, it mightn't have been pretty, but it was a case of hanging in there."
Not surprisingly, Cullen admitted that this Heineken Cup victory has been a long time coming. "Eight or nine years ago when a few of the current squad joined as young players, there was quite a bit of expectation, but we never really delivered on that promise. When I went to England, we were in a bit of disarray but Michael Cheika came in, gave us more of an edge and more of a work ethic, so full credit to him. The organisation is at a different level now and this should be a stepping stone to go on and be more successful in years to come."
Man of the Match Rocky Elsom admitted there had been times during the season when the team's performance were below what had been expected. "I suppose we were long odds against getting to the final when we weren't playing that well," added the Australian who is now likely to head home, "but we got ourselves back on track and in the last three games there was a lot of clarity about what we were doing."
As for Leicester and their coach Richard Cockerill, there was no moaning and no excuses. "Of course we're disappointed to have lost but we couldn't have done any more, we played our hearts out. We have to be dignified in defeat, they put pressure on us and overall we probably weren't as accurate as we've been recently. Also, our line-out fell apart at times and we didn't take all our chances.
"We've had four massive games and we've had a bit of luck, but maybe our luck ran out this time. But I'm very proud of the team, we've worked very hard and we won the English championship and lost by three points in the Heineken Cup final. I don't feel we surrendered a seven-point lead or anything like that. The game could've gone either way, we came up short and there are nearly always small margins in big games."
As Leicester looked jaded yesterday in the final quarter and as they've played as many as 36 games, Cockerill did point out that he felt the Celtic teams had something of an advantage with their reduced schedule and Cullen wasn't for disagreeing.
"Yeah, 36 games, that's a really tough year, so Irish teams do have a slight advantage, but Leicester are a great club and they'll be back again. In a way I have mixed emotions because I know so many of their players, but I'm so delighted for Leinster. Ever since I played for the schools team at the age of 17, they've been part of my life."
Asked about Johnny Sexton, Cullen felt the number 10 did exactly what was expected of him. "He showed real maturity, and he's had to bide his time behind Felipe Contepomi, but his will to win is second to none."
For Leicester captain Geordan Murphy, who had to go off with a hip injury early in the second half, there was the disappointment of losing a second Heineken final in three seasons. "I'm gutted. It was hard to watch. Leinster played that little bit better. When it was 16-16, they were patient. It doesn't make it any easier that some of my friends now have winners medals, but I can appreciate what it means to them."
Appropriately enough the last word went to victorious coach, Michael Cheika. Coming to the end of his fourth season in charge this was a day he might not have believed would come. "Leinster took a gamble on me, but the players were eager, they were hungry. Winning instills more belief now and it strengthens the link with our supporters. In those tight games against Harlequins, Munster and this final, the crowd have been an important factor. It's been a great voyage."