For Novaerus by McGreals Health, the road to Marseille began last December when we became official clean air partner to Leinster Rugby. And by the time our ‘Magic Machine’ reached the Stade Velodrome on Saturday 28th of May, it felt as though we’d been driving for six months…

It all started at the RDS in December, when Novaerus by McGreals Health teamed up with Leinster Rugby. As part of our ground-breaking partnership – the first of its kind in the world of rugby – we installed Novaerus devices throughout Leinster’s high-performance centre in UCD as well as in the changing rooms at the RDS.

We are all huge Leinster supporters, and it was great fun – meeting the players at our official launch, going to Champions Cup matches, experiencing the atmosphere and the ‘sea of blue’, and just being involved with Irish rugby’s most successful team.

But there was a serious side too; an important reason we were chosen as official clean air partner. Like all professional sports teams, Leinster recognise the importance of maintaining a safe working environment. Protecting their indoor air with Novaerus technology would offer Leinster players and staff an additional safeguard, not just against COVID-19 but against all airborne viruses. Clean air – as is widely recognised – is as important to a world-class winning team as clean water and good nutrition, all improving cognitive and physical attributes on and off the pitch

Other top sports teams have also taken steps to protect their indoor air quality (IAQ). Both the PGA Tour and NBA league have taken steps to ensure clean indoor air for players and spectators, while in Ireland the National Indoor Arena and National Aquatic Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus have installed Novaerus devices for the additional protection and safety of staff and athletes.

Back to Leinster, and to give the brand some extra visibility around match days, we invested in a new VW Campervan and customised the vehicle with Novaerus by McGreals Health and Leinster branding, including the tagline ‘Nothing in the air but freedom’ to signify our technology’s role in protecting indoor air post-pandemic and supporting a return to a fun and normal life. We also equipped the ‘Magic Machine’ with Novaerus devices – naturally – so people could see how flexible these devices are.

The Magic Machine became a familiar sight to Leinster supporters as the team cruised past Bath, Montpellier and Connacht before dismantling Toulouse on a sun-kissed Saturday afternoon at the Aviva. Suddenly, the prospect of a trip to Marseille for the Champions Cup final was a reality. One thing was certain – we were going to be there, and we were going to make it special.

While most Leinster supporters scrambled to book flights to the south of France, we decided to go a different route… Vive la Machine Magique! What better way to show our support for the team, and spread the word about Novaerus technology, than to drive all the way down to Marseille in our trusty VW?

While Kilian McGreal (owner at McGreals) brushed up on French speed limits, Eamon De Burca of Leinster put us in touch with the Official Leinster Supporters Club to offer the rugby trip of a lifetime to one Leinster superfan. Quel surprise! We had a volunteer, or victim, and it was Clive who would get to be our ‘Fan in the Van’, with a VIP seat all the way to Marseille!

The rendezvous was set for the RDS on Thursday 26 May, where Kilian met Bebhinn Dunne, President of the OLSC, and collected Clive for the trip. With flags flying and spirits high, the lads set off for Rosslare port…

Seventeen hours later, Kilian and Clive drove off the ferry at Cherbourg and began the mammoth road trip south. The weather all along the west coast of France was magnificent – blue skies and sunshine – and our trusty VW ate up the kilometres, with plenty of supportive beeps and honks from fellow rugby supporters along the way.

After almost 12 hours of driving – with the non-driver unpacking 2,500 pairs of Leinster sunglasses at speed – the Magic Machine finally arrived on the outskirts of Marseille that afternoon. Negotiating through traffic towards the fabled Stade Velodrome, the scenes that greeted Kilian and Clive were incredible – more than 50,000 rugby supporters including a sea of blue flags as Leinster and La Rochelle fans took over the port city.

The atmosphere was loud, passionate and friendly, with supporters mingling as they made their way to the stadium. With the van safely parked, our intrepid duo joined the throng and took their places alongside their fellow supporters. Noise levels were off the scale as the teams ran out on the pitch, the stage set for one of world sport’s greatest occasions.

And then, unfortunately, the match happened! Early signs were good as Leinster took control of the game and edged in front thanks to Johnny Sexton’s boot. Gradually though, the heat, missed chances and the pressure from a huge French pack took their toll and La Rochelle inched their way back into the game before clinching the trophy with the last play of the game.

It was a heartbreaking end to an unforgettable day on the Mediterranean coast, but some good food, craic and camaraderie soothed the pain. Even in defeat, Leinster supporters know how to enjoy themselves and the celebrations/commiserations went on long into the night. Bravo to La Rochelle and their wonderful supporters.

The following morning, Clive high-tailed it home by plane whilst Kilian got back in the van and got on the road again, making a stop in La Rochelle to check out the celebrations. By the time Kilian and the Magic Machine arrived back in Dublin, they had covered more than 3,500 kilometres together by boat and land – some going!

Some great friendships were forged on the Road to Marseille, especially with the OLSC whose support was invaluable in making this trip happen, and with great memories banked, we are definitely looking forward to launching our ‘Fan in the Van’ competition next season providing some great days out as we deliver lucky winners to Leinster home matches in Dublin– stay tuned for that. We cannot wait to work on this concept with Bebhinn, the OLSC and Leinster Rugby.

We also look forward to keeping the spotlight on the importance of clean indoor air – in sport (we’ll be testing air quality in the Leinster changing rooms), in business, in offices, in shops, in every walk of life. As more workplaces get back to normal, it’s vital to recognise that the air we breathe is as important as the water we drink and the food we eat.

Until next season, nothing in the air but… optimism!