As the Terenure team bus traveled up Baggot Street towards Aviva Stadium, it was greeted by plumes of purple smoke from a plethora of flares that had been set off by a group of excited supporters.
The bus stopped briefly. The players on board looked around and absorbed it all.
For Harrison Brewer, that unmistakable big game atmosphere on the final day of the Energia All-Ireland League (AIL) reminded him of why he had always wanted to return to his home club.
That day came sooner than he would have liked due to the pandemic. While Brewer hoped to qualify for Japan, Covid brought the league to a halt and left him with a dilemma.
In the end, his hand was forced, as he returned home to Dublin, knowing he still had unfinished business with Terenure.
“It was tough, I was kind of in limbo,” Brewer recalled (above).
“I went straight from New Zealand to Japan so at this point I just wanted to go home.
“Terenure has always been my home club so I was always going to go back there. It was just about relocating back home.
“I also created two cafes (UP @ Brews) so it was a bit different. We have rearranged shipping containers. It was fine during Covid when there were only takeaway coffees. It’s definitely good to be home and relax a bit.
After leaving a dressing room that included some of the best players in the world such as New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock, Australian full-back David Pocock and South African center Damian de Allende, Brewer could easily have called him on his return to Tenure.
He didn’t, however, and instead Brewer played a key role in leading ‘Nure to the AIL final, only to fall short against Clontarf in what was brilliant league advertising. .
“I can’t exceed the league standard,” he said.
“It helps with the ‘A’ games not being activated, more boys are being released. It’s a lot younger, those provincial boys are helping to push the norm.
“That connection between the provincial game and the club game has definitely improved, which is exciting, especially for the young guys. Even if you’re not in an academy, you can get a belt.
Brewer has experienced both sides of the coin. As a youngster coming out of school, he paved the way to such an extent that the hype machine went into overdrive.
By his own admission, he struggled with the demands of Leinster Academy, which led him to Manawatu in New Zealand, where he lived with his father Mike, the former 32-cap All Black manager and ex -Leinster coach.
“It was definitely a learning curve,” Brewer says.
“I went back to the back row there and then went to Japan. I played first year with my dad at the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes. It was the first time I was trained by him, it opened my eyes a bit. He was probably a little harder on me compared to the rest of the guys!
“I felt a year was enough there and then Robbie Deans called me and I went straight to Panasonic Wild Knights. I would have stayed longer but I just didn’t know what was going to happen with Covid so I just thought I should go home and settle in.”
The father and son duo helped NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes promote to the Premier League, with former Wallabies boss Deans making contact with Harrison. This is where he rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest.
“The lessons you take from these guys are just unreal,” he enthuses.
“Especially for me because I was just getting back into fullback rowing again. As for the roster, with Sam Whitelock and Pocock hitting for the breakdown, I was looking around, ‘what’s going on here? ‘
“It was weird, you think they just go there for the money, but they helped so much.
“To be completely honest, when I signed with Panasonic, the intention was to try and get the Japanese passport. The way it went down with Covid, there was so much uncertainty. In that sense , it was a bit of a disappointment.”
Bringing that experience back to Lakelands Park, Brewer has had such a positive impact that he has been selected to captain Terenure for the new AIL season, which begins next weekend. The guidance from Terenure College also allows her to give back to the school.
Time will tell what lies ahead, but at 27, Brewer isn’t obsessed with the professional game as much as he once was. Life is good in Dublin. His coffee business is doing well and with Terenure on the rise, Brewer is relishing the chance to do better in the league this season.
“At the minute, Terenure gives me enough (of a dose of rugby),” he adds.
“I have quite a few buddies in Leinster – Ross Byrne, Ross Molony – but I would never think I would ever go back. This pro dream has sailed a bit. That said, you never know, but I’m certainly being realistic.